There are young people who are public-spirited and like to reach out. And then there are countries where New Apostolic Christians urgently need one or the other thing. So why not bring the two together?
This is what young people and ministers in the western part of Germany thought in 2002 and founded an initiative they called Youth Helps Youth. At first, mainly smaller fundraising projects ran under this name. Later, benefit concerts by the youth concert choir and the youth symphony orchestra of the New Apostolic Church Western Germany helped raise funds. To date, both ensembles have donated a total of well over half a million euros to social projects. For example, the establishment of an orchestra and the expansion of a New Apostolic school in Angola or the construction and operation of a kindergarten in Kosovo were supported. Because the funding and the projects did not only benefit young people, the initiative gave itself a new name for its 15th birthday in 2017: #jugendbewegt (#youthmoves).
April 2022, Essen, Germany. The youth service had just come to an end, the choir had just sung the closing strains of the final song. But it was not time to go home just yet. After the divine service, Apostle Franz-Wilhelm Otten, who is responsible for the pastoral care of young people in the Regional Church Western Germany, had a message for the young people. He said that he would like them to start on a mission that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider had addressed in the closing service of the International Youth Convention in 2019. The Chief Apostle had illustrated that Jesus gave concrete help to the people who needed it. “Words and prayers are not enough. We have to act,” was his appeal. However, following the IYD, the young people had little opportunity to actually implement this wish of the Chief Apostle, as the Covid pandemic put a stop to most plans for several years.
The divine service of 2019 must now finally produce concrete effects, Apostle Otten said in Essen. Now that the peak of the pandemic has passed, he said, “we have to implement this,” he called to the young people. And he mentioned two possible courses of action: young people could give active help in their own congregation. “During the Covid pandemic, a lot of practical assistance was offered, which could be continued,” Apostle Otten suggested.
And then he went on to encourage the youth to support congregations and people in disadvantaged countries financially. He suggested that they come up with campaigns to collect donations. “Sit down together in the congregations and think about what you could do,” Apostle Otten suggested. “Everyone can do something. Please think of specific ways you can help. I am very excited to see what you come up with.”
Concert for Guinea-Bissau
October 2022, Wuppertal, Germany. Over a thousand people flocked to City Hall to hear the youth concert choir live again. In a two-hour concert, the choristers thrilled their audience with classical and popular music.
Since its establishment, the choir and the youth symphony orchestra have given annual benefit concerts, at which they have now collected well over half a million euros, money which has been donated to charity.
In Wuppertal, the audience thanked the young singers with loud applause and donated 16,250 euros to #jugendbewegt. The money will be used to build another youth centre, this time in Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world. Local young people are to be able to use the hall for recreational purposes, but there will also be basic and advanced training for them and help to build up their lives.
There is so much to do
The young people took the appeals of the Chief Apostle and Apostle Otten to heart and did not stop with the successful benefit concert. There is more than enough to do. In fact, they have planned numerous projects or have resumed them after the forced Covid break.
Among other things, the New Apostolic church in Achalcheni in Georgia is to be converted into a meeting-place for the young people from the region. They will be able to meet there for several days, for example over weekends, and spend time together. A meeting room, bedrooms, and a bathroom are to be set up in the currently empty attic of the church. In an unused room on the ground floor, a kitchen will be installed. And on top of all that, the 3,000 square metre church property is to be planted with fruit trees. The members will look after the trees and see to the property and can in turn keep the fruit they harvest. The youth initiative is collecting donations to help fund the 30,000 euros that the construction will cost.
#jugendbewegt has also committed itself to help get projects underway in Africa. In Niger, many children are unable to attend school regularly or at all and then have little prospects of finding a job that provides them with a sufficient income later on. For this reason, the New Apostolic Church is financing a project there in which 75 New Apostolic children whose parents cannot pay the school fees, as well as ministers who cannot read and write, will receive a two-year education at a school. For this, too, #jugendbewegt is collecting donations.
This article was originally published in the German magazine spirit, issue 01/2023 .