Individuals who have left their mark

The past year was marked by changes in the governing body of the Church. Four District Apostles retired in 2018. A brief retrospective on men full of generosity and energy.

His wide open and outgoing attitude is what distinguished District Apostle Bernd Koberstein who retired in February 2018. The members of the youth orchestra of his district in Germany gave him the nickname “Orchestra Bishop” because he always spent the traditional rehearsal weekends in the run-up to the annual Day of the Youth with the young musicians. And above all because he had an ear for them for nights on end and discussed God and the world with them—and the Church in between.

His organisational talent, his balancing nature, and his positive and emotionally charged Christ-centred sermons: Bernd Koberstein was convincing and captivated the brothers and sisters of his district. Where others had long lost their patience, his patience and leniency seemed inexhaustible. But when he saw boundaries being overstepped, Bernd Koberstein could take the reins with a noticeably firm hand, but never with a hard hand.

Doggedly harmonious is how District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum of Switzerland was characterised by colleagues and companions. He retired in June 2018. As Church president he was anything but a technocrat. Sometimes ideas gushed out of him in an e-mail at half past five in the morning. He was a real workhorse, demanding a lot from his staff in trying to keep up with him.

He loved to be in the middle of things. Even in a concert of which he was the host, he would sit right among the audience instead of in the first row. And in pictures showing him with members he was always found right in the middle. He was also right in there when it came to the world of social media: hardly any other District Apostle was as active on Facebook as he was. Even there he was himself. He did not present a neatly polished image of himself, but his natural profile—a person like you and me.

Large, generous, and cheerful. With the retirement of District Apostle Andrew Andersen of Australia in September 2018 an era ended. Anyone who travels for 30 years as an Apostle as he has will cover thousands of miles in an airplane. But the frequent flyer did not have his head in the clouds: his feet were firmly on the ground.

District Apostle Andersen gave a part of his big heart to the congregations in New Guinea. What inspired him was the vitality and genuine faith he found there. “His service has been characterised by true love, genuine humbleness, and divine wisdom,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider wrote as he described the retiring District Apostle. He went on to state that he experienced him as a true friend with a big heart and a subtle sense of humour.

A globetrotter full of love and creativity. This is District Apostle Urs Hebeisen of the Philippines. But it takes more than a few words to describe him. You have to experience him. “He has an incredible range of life experience. He has Swiss precision, Canadian open-mindedness, and Asian friendliness,” a friend says.

Urs Hebeisen is a very communicative person, spontaneous, and precise, on all channels. “He is a good listener and an adviser with a sense of humour,” one of his companions confirms. However, just talking isn’t his thing. He is a man of action. He is not a lone fighter who pushes things through, but a team player. There is no such thing as taking it easy around him, one of his staff says. He always pushed you to your limits with the aim to bring out the best in everyone.

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Andreas Rother
District Apostle, retirements