(EMS) Ecumenical Youth Volunteer Program in Germany

(EMS) Ecumenical Youth Volunteer Program in Germany
By the grace of God and the support of many people, a cooperative
exchange program with partner churches was held in Southwest Germany from September 2008 through May 2009. The program is a cooperative venture rather than a one-way street. Youth from seven churches in five countries gathered, including eight youth from Japan. The participants connected with pastors of churches in the areas where they were sent and took part in the volunteer work to which they were introduced. Once or twice a month the team gathered at Baden-Wu”rttemberg (in Stuttgart) at the headquarters of Das Evanglische Missionwerk in Sudwestdeutschland (EMS) to learn about various common issues and projects in the churches.Participants shared reports to deepen mutual understanding through the
exchange. There was a range of opportunities beyond the core program for anyone who was interested, including the chance to attend such events as the Youth Forum organized by the Roman Catholic Church.
The participants could experience various accommodations, ranging from a homestay with a German church family to university dormitory life. Some team members were housed in the Rhineland-Palatinate area of Kaiserslautern. The Protestant Student Association (Evangelische Studierenden Gemeinde [ESG]) provided use of its assembly hall and dormitory, where doors were always wide open to students regardless of nationality or religion. It was a truly fascinating place. This diversity certainly provided a rich cross-cultural and ecumenical experience for us. We were greatly helped by Pastor Pearly Walter from The Church of South India, OEFP, who was in close solidarity with us. Our two leaders were given lodging and an office for emergency consultations, which was an ideal setting. At first, my work was primarily simple translation at the university, but when I shared my desire for more human interaction that too was accommodated, and I was able to volunteer at a nearby nursery facility.
ESG, as mentioned above, is open as a gathering place for activities.Every Tuesday there was a workshop covering a range of issues, such as tips for international student life, international conflicts, and religious conflicts. On Wednesdays, the area gospel chorus held its practice. On Friday there was an English Bible study led by the pastor of Calvary Bible Church, who was from the United States. There were also interfaith gatherings of Christians and Muslims as well as an African church that used the facility at times. We observed church life in Germany as we experienced various local church situations and programs. We are deeply grateful for the fine leadership of Kaiserslautern Landeskirche Riyou Kuni, who was in charge of the youth volunteer program. Whenever we expressed an interest in anything, he listened carefully and guided us. He also skillfully handled our requests, adjusting the program to fit our needs whenever possible.
One of my greatest joys was to observe the Children and Worship program.The EMS meetings were brief but focused and packed with content. Surely this program achieved its aim of promoting mutual understanding about the church as we exchanged our various perspectives from our countries of origin. We learned about the state of the church in Germany through the various reports. EMS was very adept at addressing issues related to international cooperation modalities, immigration assistance, women’s rights, care for those suffering with HIV, as well as others.
Through the training and discussions we became friends gathered in the name of Christ, although we came from different cultures and hold different ideas. Occasionally we had clashes of opinion, but ultimately we were strengthened through the process. We focused on “Building up each other in the church as a network of multidirectional how” — it is a positive and proactive outlook. Although there may not be clear-cut answers yet, we found it important to keep on struggling to keep listening deeply to each other. This is the benefit of the “forum” type of mission.
I am grateful to the Kyodan’s Committee on Ecumenical Ministries for appointing me to lead this group and for the tireless support of Takada Teruki in the Kyodan office. I thank God for blessing the program, its supporters, and participants and pray God’s blessing on the next generation of leaders. (Tr. NB)
―Nishido Nozomi, member
Ten’nodai Church, Tokyo District’s Chiba Subdistrict
参加者の派遣地域や滞在形態(教会員家庭へのホームステイ、寮生活等)はそれぞれ異なるが、私の受け入れ先となってくれたのはラインラント=プファルツ州カイザースラウテルンにあるプロテスタント学生協会(ESG)と、その管理下にある一軒家を用いた集会所兼学生寮であり、国籍や宗教・宗派を問わずに広く学生と地域に門戸を開放した面白い場所だった。間借り人のほとんどは近くの工科大学に在籍する留学生で、ここでの共同生活が滞在中の異文化交流やエキュメニカルな体験として占めた割合は大きい。また、同じOEFP参加者である南インド教会のP. Walter(ウォルター)牧師が一緒だったことも、立場を同じくする仲間がすぐそばにいる安心感として大きな支えとなってくれた。私たち2名の師父は、ESG担当責任牧師であり、同館に住居とオフィスを構えていたため有事の相談には困らない恵まれた距離だったと言える。ボランティア活動の場として私には大学での簡単な翻訳仕事が与えられたが、もっと人と接する仕事がしたいとの要望を容れてもらい、後に近くの保育所にも保育補助員として通えることになった。
OEFP 参加にあたり御尽力下さった日本基督教団事務局の高田様、国際関係委員会の皆様方、EMSスタッフと全ての御協力者、そして守り導いて下さった主に感謝いたします。次代の参加者の上にも主の豊かな恵みが与えられますこと、心よりお祈り申し上げます。