Youth convention on a large scale

How far has the organisation of the International Youth Convention 2019 progressed? No one is better informed than Apostle Franz-Wilhelm Otten. He was already involved with the European Youth Day 2009 and is involved this time too.

What are your fondest memories of the European Youth Day (EYD) 2009?

The joy that the youth were able to come together in such a large circle, the atmosphere, and the celebration of Holy Communion with 40,000 other people.

Is that why another youth convention is being planned now?

In the time that District Apostle Leber was responsible both for Northern Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia a close relationship developed between the two District Churches. It was during this time that the idea for the European Youth Day was born. A few years later we sat down to think about what we could come up with for the youth in the coming years. The result was another pan-European youth convention. Chief Apostle Schneider liked the idea, but exchanged the “E” for an “I”, because he wanted an international event.

Is this expansion to an international scale causing you headaches?

Basically not, only the practical implementation is forcing us to stretch our minds a little. “I” means greater distances, higher costs. Not every District Apostle Area is financially viable to allow young people to participate. The District Apostles will give serious thought whether and to what extent they will actually be able to implement the “I”. We who are responsible for the organisation will do everything possible to make this youth convention international.

The International Youth Convention (IYC) will take place in Düsseldorf, just like the EYD did. What are the arguments in favour of this location?

We shopped around and compared offers from European trade fair cities. The Düsseldorf trade fair and exhibition grounds made significant concessions, because the decision-makers said, “We have never had such an emotional event as your Day of the Youth.” I could hardly believe my ears. After all, they regularly stage concerts and shows. But the staff said, “We are still talking about your Day of the Youth.”

You were already managing director of the charitable company established to run the European Youth Day. What is its role?

We founded a limited company of a special kind, a charitable company. Since such a company serves the greater public good the state waives part of the sales tax that is generated. This way we will likely be able to save an estimated one million euros.

What are the planned total costs for the International Youth Convention?

The costs for the grounds and the stadium will amount to four million euros. That is about the same as in 2009. But this time we are getting more for our money. In 2019 we will be using the stadium for four days. During the EYD we only rented it for two. In 2019 we also have all the exhibition halls and the Congress Centre, which we were not able to use in 2009. We have a total budget of nine million euros.

What will the other five million euros be for?

We need the money, among other things, to equip the exhibition halls, for catering, for the events, and the welcome package. In addition to this, the safety of the participants will play a key role.

For the EYD 3.6 million euros in donations and sponsorships were received. That was almost half of the entire budget. Are you counting on the same kind of generosity of the members this time too?

The District Churches will make contributions, as will NACI, but that will not be enough. In 2009 many brothers and sisters were focused on this event and were happy for the youth and donated generously. I hope this will be the case this time too. We absolutely depend on it.

Despite this the youth will be required to pay a fee of 125 euros.

Yes, that is also necessary. But remember, this includes accommodation, meals, and admission to all events in the stadium.

Will there be financial support for young people from abroad?

The charitable company is responsible for the organisation in Düsseldorf. How the young people will get there will be the responsibility of the District Churches. Whether there will be financial support will be decided by the responsible District Apostles, because the situation is different from country to country.

Could young people from Germany make donations so that young people from other countries can participate?

One has to be careful with pursuing this officially on the part of the Church because it quickly becomes unfair. In Angola there would probably be 50,000 young people who would love to come. Whom do you pick? The youth can do this in local initiatives, of course. That’s fine.

Will those who will not be able to travel to Düsseldorf at least be able to participate via live stream?

As the Chief Apostle announced on Pentecost, we cannot promise anything, but we are working on broadcasting the divine service and, possibly, some of the other events.

By far the most New Apostolic young people live in Africa. Did you ever consider having the International Youth Convention there?

We thought about other countries in Europe. In many places in Africa there is a lack of infrastructure. It is precisely the number of young people would have made the organisation of such a youth convention practically impossible.

How can young people get involved in the 2019 Youth Convention?

There will be additional surveys, in which people can submit their wishes and ideas, and register projects—whether in terms of music or other content.

The International Youth Convention means an enormous investment in terms of energy and money. Is this really worth it from your point of view?

And how! The youth are our future. These young people really excite me. Their joy and how they identify with our faith and promote our Church are incredibly motivating. The goose-bump feeling, the sense of belonging, and the friends that were made at the European Youth Day did not fizzle out on the way home already, but have endured in the ranks of the youth. I am sure that we will make the same experience again in 2019.

Photo: Frank Schuldt

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