The International Youth Convention 2019 is truly meant to be international: not only through displays and presentations by the district churches worldwide but also by the many young visitors from as many countries as possible. The Spirit magazine asked what challenges had to be overcome in order to meet this aim and what projects have already been planned?
”Get ready and let’s all meet together in Düsseldorf. You will discover many great things there – we’ve never had such an event as the International Youth Convention 2019 and it will be an unforgettable occasion!” said District Apostle Edy Isnugrohu (Indonesia), calling on the youth of South East Asia to come to the International Youth Convention 2019 (IYC) in Düsseldorf. Similarly, many other District Apostles and District Apostle Helpers have addressed the youth of their respective district churches in video messages to awaken eager anticipation of the forthcoming Youth Convention (to be seen under www.ijt2019.org).
Possibilities and limitations
Of course, the majority of the New Apostolic youth would like to be there but, for many, the chance to visit Germany for several days will remain an unfulfillable dream. Money is one of the problems – the cost of travelling from Africa, Asia or Australia could easily reach a four-figure sum. However, it became clear that finance is not the only obstacle in travelling when District Apostle Rainer Storck invited a number of the youth last year from his working area in Angola to come to the Iberian Youth Convention in Spain’s Alicante. He explained in an interview just how many difficulties had to be overcome then:
How many New Apostolic youth are there in Angola?
The average age of our brothers and sisters in Africa is significantly lower than here; particularly because of the demographic situation there. In all the provinces which I visited I met large active numbers of the youth. District Apostle Helper João Uanuque Misselo told me that in Angola it is the youth who are intensively involved in the church. They serve as ministers, are active in the choirs, bring their offerings, lead in family visits, support the work amongst the seniors and organise the teaching sessions. I estimate that around 60 per cent of the active members come from the youth: that is more than 150,000.
How many of them were invited to come to the Youth Convention in Spain?
We invited eleven youngsters to come to the Iberian Youth Convention in 2017 – bearing in mind the International Youth Convention 2019.
What was the criteria used in selecting them?
There were many points which we considered. For instance, the church had to be certain that the youth would return home afterwards. Then, we wanted to choose those who were engaged in the work within their congregation and who could form a homogeneous group. We had many discussions with their youth counsellors for this purpose. At the end, some of the youth who had been chosen didn’t have valid passports, so we had to find others. Finally, we had formed a very nice group who were joyful and enthusiastic in representing Angola in Spain.
Were there any problems with their arrival?
First of all we had to apply for their visas. The Portuguese consulate didn’t want to issue them, because landing in Lisbon meant that Portugal was only a transit country toward their final destination, although the Schengen Agreement states otherwise. Then, the Spanish authorities wanted police clearance certification from Spain for each person. That would have taken weeks to organise. We could be thankful for the kind action of an official in the Spanish consulate that the visas were finally issued in Spain. In Luanda there were problems with customs clearance: the officials didn’t want to allow the youngsters to leave the country, until a higher customs official used his authority and made the way free. Further problems arose in Lisbon with the customs. The officials there presumed that the youth were travelling illegally. It was only after lengthy discussion that our young brothers and sisters were able to leave the airport. They finally arrived in Spain after many hours delay. The Youth Convention was already half way through, but they were overjoyed that they could experience the divine service with our Chief Apostle.
Could the problems you experienced here apply similarly to other countries?
Most definitely, yes. I am concerned that some countries would be even more critical than Angola in issuing visas; particularly when they concern young persons. It isn’t unusual for the European authorities to learn, for example, that athletes vanish after their arrival and fail to return to their homeland. The consulates want to prevent that, which is why they look critically at visa applications. It doesn’t help either when we, as a church organisation, make the applications.
How can the arrival for the African youth be made easier?
It will be important for the African countries that they organise direct flights for their members to Germany, so that no third European country becomes involved. This will make visa transactions much simpler. Should transit stops be necessary they should be chosen in Africa.
What plans are being made to allow the youth from other continents to take part in the Youth Convention?
The respective District Apostle will decide what financial travel support can be given to the youth and who can actually take part. The four District Apostles in Germany have already decided that we will support travel arrangements for the youth on a small scale. We are still considering in Western Germany how we will choose which youth to support. However, there can only be small delegations from each respective country because the formalities are complex and the costs are high. At the same time we want to present the diversity of the international church and therefore the youth should be involved in designing a booth or making a presentation of their countries.
What are the youth from France doing?
Those who were at the European Youth Day in 2009 will certainly recall “the French” – a small group with a great voice and with their own unforgettable signature melody. The French youth are campaigning, once again, for the IYC with absolute commitment and enthusiasm just as they did ten years ago. Under the motto “We have the fire” many of the youth from the Lyon-Mulhouse district are visiting congregations in their district each month to bring the youth and the brothers and sisters their closer to the International Youth Convention 2019. F.I.R.E stands for fidèle, investi, reconaissant, engagé (faithful, committed, thankful, involved). On Saturday morning, 24th February the youth travelled to Grenoble, where they gathered in the afternoon with the congregation and enjoyed a convivial evening together following a communal choir practice. The next day, after the broadcast divine service where Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider placed the District Apostle for France, Bernd Koberstein, into retirement and District Apostle Rainer Storck as the new head of the district church, there was Lasagne and salad for everyone before the youth returned home again.
Three weeks later, on March 18th 2018, their travels took them to Colmar. The youth spent a day with the congregation there; cooking for them, organising games and welcoming the confirmands in their group. The youth from France are eager to bring their enthusiasm for the IYC with them to Düsseldorf, to share with all who take part. They have already gathered several ideas, including transforming the motto “Here I Am” into a choreographic dance in the traditional style of the Maori – known as the Haka, which they want to perform in Düsseldorf together with all the youth.
With angklungs and drummers
Preparations for the IYC are also racing ahead in South East Asia. The New Apostolic Christians from Indonesia, the Philippines and Korea also experienced the EYD 2009 and the ICC 2014 and took unforgettable memories home with them. District Apostle Urs Hebeisen wishes that as many of the youth from Asia as possible equally enjoy a wonderful occasion in 2019. He isn’t exactly sure yet how the organisational and financial challenges which face the travellers will be overcome. “We must really say that it is impossible for us to take part. We simply can’t afford it, but if we say that, the subject is closed and the IYC will go ahead without us. That must not be allowed to happen!” Although he is now retired the District Apostle has a close affinity toward the youth. He continued, “It’s great to know that they are so active and networked worldwide!”
District Apostle Hebeisen considers this networking to be crucial: at the end our church is globally active – for him a positive aspect which is often seen critically from a political or industrial consideration. “I can see sense and reason in the New Apostolic network for the International Youth Convention. Jesus did this similarly as He chose Capernaum for His place to lodge, through which many of His travels passed. He also found several of His disciples later there.” For the youth from Asia to be in accord with the motto “Here I Am” they must firstly come to Düsseldorf. That would be very difficult for many of them, according to the District Apostle. He said, “I sometimes hear that so Many Asian tourists come to Europe: it shouldn’t be a problem to bring the New Apostolic youth to Düsseldorf. That may be true for Korea and China, but the majority of the South East Asia congregations are to be found in poorer countries, such as Indonesia or the Philippines. Most of the church members there have no means to afford such an expensive journey. We, as a church, are also unable to provide financial assistance. We are relying on sponsors.” However, District Apostle Hebeisen is an optimist and therefore, regardless of these challenges, plans are in progress to form a booth of the South East Asia district church on the exhibition site. “The organisers are making a 650 square metre floor space available for us, which we will share with Australia.
Final details of our presentation there are not yet firm, but the Indonesians will definitely come with a large battery of angklungs. They were very successful with them at the ICC in Munich. The Korean youth want to send 30 drummers to the Youth Convention and the Philippines are considering one of their typical fiestas.” We can expect further surprises from the other side of the world; of that District Apostle Hebeisen is certain. “We hope that we can also send a few of the youth from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar to Düsseldorf. The New Apostolic Church of South East Asia will be there to be seen and heard – here we are!”
Text freely translated from: "Spirit – the young magazine for New Apostolic Christians", edition no. 03|18, pages 28 - 31 © Verlag Friedrich Bischoff GmbH, Neu-Isenburg (author Annette Conrad)
The magazine “Spirit” has been publishing news and facts about the International Youth Convention since March 2017 under the heading “IYC Countdown”. This is the seventh article in a series of twelve planned.