Teamwork: The first youth weekend in Senegal

Three Apostles, three languages: the first youth weekend in Senegal placed high demands on others besides the organizers. Even the confirmation represented a challenge that could only be mastered through teamwork. The Apostle responsible for the work of the Church in this country reports for

After some intensive preparations by a team of young people from the regions of Casamance and Dakar, the capital of Senegal, the first youth weekend in Senegal took place from Friday, 27 March to Sunday, 29 March 2015. The city of Sedhiou was specifically chosen as the venue of the event because the local authorities have often helped the New Apostolic Church in the past, not least of all by making a piece of land available free of charge for the construction of the church at the time.

The young members were supported in their preparation efforts by Apostle Francisco Gomis, the Senegalese Bishops Bidane and Mané, as well as a small group of other ministers and a number of sisters. The logistics were difficult, as the group was tasked with finding overnight accommodations for some 2,000 young people, providing their meals over the space of three days, and crafting an appealing programme for the weekend.

Muslim mayor and Christian prefect as guests

Both the Muslim mayor, Mr. Sédious, and the Christian prefect took part in the opening ceremonies. This gesture also emphasised the success of interreligious dialogue in Senegal. For example, it has been a long-held tradition for Muslim believers and officials to participate in special divine services of the New Apostolic Church.

Some 2,200 members and guests joined in the divine service, which was conducted by Apostle Gert Opdenplatz, and supported by the serving of Apostles Gomis, Alphonse Traoré (Mali), Bishop M'Bana Nyassi (Gambia), and a young Priest. Among the young people there was also a youth group from Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Together with their District Evangelist, they covered a distance of over 3,000 kilometres there and back by bush taxi.

Where will I find Jesus? – The Master is here!

The Saturday was characterized by fellowship among the young people and their blessing bearers. In the evening there was a concert that stretched well into the night. The young members performed traditional songs and dances from their respective regions. Despite the late hour, the divine service began punctually the next morning.

The divine service was translated at the altar from the French language into Créole and Balanta. The following motto was chosen as the main theme connecting the numerous events over their days together: "Where will I find Jesus?" This was the best match to the Bible text in the French language: "Le maître est ici..." (= "The Master is here..."). In the NKJV: "The Teacher has come and is calling for you" (John 11: 28 b). The message of the service centred on Jesus' call to follow and help along in His cause as the highest personal and individual appeal for each and every one to decide for Jesus, and work along actively in the Church and in love for one's neighbour.

Apostolic teamwork during confirmation

The highlights of the service included the confirmation of 128 confirmands, Holy Communion, and the retirement of Bishop Oumar Diarra from Mali, whom the Apostle gave a festive discharge after over 20 years of activity as a Bishop, by commission of District Apostle Bernd Koberstein and Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider. The Bishop had been responsible for 126 congregations and had exercised his ministerial commission in exemplary humbleness. In the year 2013, he had suffered a motorcycle accident. The doctors who treated him were only partially successful in alleviating the serious consequences that followed, however.

Owing to the linguistic differences, it was a particular challenge to dispense the confirmation blessing through laying on of hands, and at the same time make these words of blessing comprehensible to all the confirmands and the congregation. The three Apostles thus decided that Apostle Opdenplatz would speak these words at the altar and that his words would continue to be translated into the two other languages, while the Apostles Gomis and Traoré made their way through the ranks of the confirmands and laid their hands upon them in holy reverence.

The divine service came to a close with emotionally performed hymns from the New Apostolic repertoire. Thereafter several musical groups gave an impromptu performance of other hymns and dances from their local traditions. The successful event drew to its conclusion in a joyful atmosphere.

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Gert Opdenplatz
Senegal, youth service, Congregational life

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