A globetrotter full of love and creativity

Urs Hebeisen is always on the go—across geographical, technical, and sometimes even mental barriers. As District Apostle he has left his mark on many people, congregations, and the international Church. On Sunday, the Chief Apostle will be retiring a man who has a heart of gold.

“I had invited Urs Hebeisen and his wife to dinner in a restaurant. Unfortunately, as the waiter was bringing our drinks he stumbled, spilling our drinks all over the District Apostle’s suit. I told the waiter off and asked him for the address of the restaurant so that I could send him the bill for the dry cleaning. The District Apostle told me that something like this could happen to anyone and that I should stop. The waiter should not lose face. The fact that his carelessness had brought on the whole situation was already punishment enough,” a long-time friend recalls as he describes the evening.

A cosmopolitan and a perfectionist emotionally

Pastor, family man, global player, humorist, perfectionist, patron, visionary, father figure … and District Apostle. It takes more than a few words to describe Urs Hebeisen. You have to experience him. Tomorrow, Sunday 18 November 2018, this cheerful and open-minded District Apostle from the Philippines will be going into retirement. After decades of service, an era is coming to an end.

Urs was born in 1952 in Eggilwil/Basle in Switzerland. He was baptised and sealed by District Apostle Ernst Eschmann. In 1977 he married Lucienne. The couple have two sons. This is the family man, whose family is spread across three countries and lives in different cultures. These circumstances have widened his perspective, his understanding already from a young age. In 1976 he emigrated to Japan, later he lived in Hong Kong. The Philippines have been his home for many years now. Urs Hebeisen lives in many cultures and moves easily between them.

“He has an incredible range of life experience. He is known for his Swiss precision, Canadian open-mindedness, and Asian friendliness,” a friend says. Another one adds, “Urs is Urs and true to himself; but not only to himself, also to God and the Chief Apostle. Urs always keeps a cool head, even in times of distress.”

Inspiring and impulsive

In 1975 Urs Hebeisen was ordained a Sub-Deacon in Switzerland, in 1978 he became Priest in Japan, and in 1982 he was ordained an Apostle. Since 2009 he has been leading the District Apostle Area South-East Asia, which was established at the time: 18 countries and more than 80,000 members in two thousand congregations.

District Apostle Hebeisen has attended 45 sessions of the International District Apostle Meeting. For many years, he was also a member of the Co-ordination Group—a body that advises the Chief Apostle—bringing his wisdom and expertise to bear, providing impulses, and taking others along. Discussions about apparent trifles could occasionally make him fly off the handle. One of his long-time companions smiles and gratefully remembers: “Urs could and can be very persistent, even when it comes to seemingly unimportant aspects.”

Communicative and kind

He spent much of his time travelling and serving the members in many countries. For the longest time, he spent two thirds of the year in hotels, always on the road, always close to people. Whether in big churches or under a tree—for District Apostle Hebeisen it was the people who mattered.

He sometimes sought this closeness also across continents. Urs Hebeisen is a very communicative person, spontaneous, precise, on all channels. That was the case already in the past. In 1998 he sent a telefax to a German youth hostel. He had somehow heard about the gathering. It was a long letter in which the Apostle sent greetings from the Philippines to the youth group who had come together at the hostel for an activity, and wished them much blessing. He did not know any of them. Being in touch with people was and is important to him. “He is a good listener and an adviser with a sense of humour,” one of his companions confirms.

Demanding and encouraging

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. And sometimes even a little more than that. “For me, District Apostle Hebeisen is like a father,” one of his staff says. “He always gives us the chance to develop. He never judges, but always supports.” However, there is no such thing as taking it easy around him. “Working with the District Apostle always means keeping an eye on the clock.” He pushes you to your limits with the aim of bringing out the best in you.

And when it is not about the individual then it is about the Church. In Chennai in India, for example, communion cups have been manufactured since 2013 in a small workshop and supplied to congregations in various parts of the world. This is called global sourcing, when there is cross-border co-operation between the various District Churches. On behalf of the New Apostolic Church International, the district of South-East Asia is in charge of the logistics. For its leader, who studied international freight logistics, this comes naturally to him.

Leave-taking and permanence

In the past week, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider and the District Apostles were together for their fall conference in Zurich (Switzerland). At the end of the meeting, the Chief Apostle said goodbye to District Apostle Urs Hebeisen on behalf of the District Apostles and wished him all the best. “May I …,” the District Apostle asked and switched on his microphone. In a short personal address, he took a nostalgic look back on the many years of their work together and thanked the Chief Apostle and his fellow Apostles. After a short pause he bent over his microphone again and, looking into the ranks of the assembled District Apostles, said in a firm voice, “God bless you!”

Article info