The European Baptist Mission is Facing Major Changes
B u d a p e s t – The European Baptist Mission (EBM) based in Elstal near Berlin is facing major changes. According to General-Secretary Pastor Hans Guderian at the EBM-Missions Council, which convened in Budapest from 4 – 7 May and was attended by 120 delegates from 20 countries, in the new millenium, mission can no longer appear as it has in the past. The council sessions revolved around a report delivered by a task-force-group instituted a year ago. Its report stated that we can no longer distinguish between the wealthy, sending countries and the impoverished, receiving ones. In today’s global village, Christians in Western Europe can profit as much from the experiences of Christians in Africa and Latin America as vice versa. Mission is no one-way street. Foreign mission work therefore no longer needs to be led by missionaries from Western Europe – it can rather be placed in the hands of local Christians. Missions-Secretary Pastor Volker Bohle stated that at the end of the reform process stands the goal of significantly increasing EBM competence in mission, “so that more persons might hear and experience the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed”. Task-Force-member and delegate Carlos Waldow (Curitiba), who is also General-Secretary of Brazil’s “Convenção Batista Pioneira do Sul do Brasil” (a former German federation), noticed “great openness for new ways” during the consultations. But concrete decisions have not yet been made.
In Bible studies Cuban theologian Daniel Gonzales (Nueva Gerona) and the General-Secretary of Malawi’s Baptist Federation, Fletcher Kajya (Blantyre), stressed the necessity of repeatedly devoting one’s own life anew to God. Golzales called among other things for “tearing down the wall of pride”. Kajya noted that no problem is too great for God. God always offers us a solution.
The 2006 annual budget of 3,16 million Euro was passed without negative votes.
Three missionaries were commissioned: Esther and Matthias Dichristin (Marburg) will be sharing a single position working for the Aids-infected of South Africa. Theology instructor Dr. Klaus Fiedler (Zomba) will remain in Malawi and spend his retirement working for EBM in the realm of theological education and the counseling of volunteers. The EMB continues the search for candidates for three positions (shop leader and doctor in Cameroon, theology instructor in Sierra Leone). Three of the 25 volunteers planning to spend between three months and a year gathering experience in missions were introduced. Two couples leaving missions service were bid farewell: Thea and Pascal Weiand (Argentina) have begun pastoral work in Hassenhausen (near Marburg/Germany); Cornelia and Thomas Klammt (South Africa) have transferred to Einbeck (near Göttingen/Germany).
Elections were held: The Executive Committee’s new members are Andrea Klimt (Austria) and John Sussenbach (Netherlands). The existing functions of Brigitte Gloor (Switzerland) and Ulrich Wagner (Germany) were confirmed. This was also true for Vice-President Arild Harvik (Norway) and Treasurer Elimar Brandt (Germany).
The EBM also presented its new Sunday School materials entitled “God Sends His People”, developed mutually by the youth ministries of Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The materials intend to awaken among children an interest in missions. New are also a puzzle savings bank and a game called “EBMemory”.
A meeting of represenatatives from south-east European Baptist unions occurred prior to the Missions Council. It included the unions of Serbia/Montenegro and Slovakia, which do not yet formally belong to the EBM. It was suggested that initial experiences in mission be gathered by sending out short-term volunteers, which Hungary and the Czech Republic have already done. A Czech Baptist is working among Aids patients in South Africa; a Hungarian in Mozambique. Guests at the conference included Dr. Tony Peck (Prague), General-Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF). Eighteen European, seven African and six Latin American Baptist unions are members of the EBM. Its President is Dr. Helmut Rabenau (Vienna).