German agency has sent more than 1,200 volunteers into serviceBy Tim Huber Mennonite Weekly Review
The 1984 Mennonite World Conference assembly in Strasbourg, France, was a seminal event.
Ron Sider’s speech, “God’s People Reconciling,” was the basis for the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this month.
The assembly’s theme, “God’s People Serve in Hope,” also impacted German Mennonites. Two years after the gathering, they formed the voluntary service agency Christliche Dienste (Christian Service), which celebrates the same birthday this month.
“The main point was, ‘We can no longer look to do good simply through giving money and then sitting back and relaxing,’ ” said Christliche Dienste director Barbara Hege-Galle. “Rather, people are needed who will go and serve.”
In 1987 CD sent its first volunteer. In 1988 it sent 16. This year, 89 volunteers are serving in 13 countries. More than 1,200 volunteers — mostly young men and women — have engaged in relief and mission projects, both around the world and within Germany.
This year, 20 young people from Germany are serving in the U.S. with Mennonite Mission Network Service Adventure and Mennonite Voluntary Service placements, Agora Ministries of Columbus, Ohio, Peaceful Living in Harleysville, Pa., and Mennonite Disaster Service. CD volunteers have also served with Mennonite Central Committee, Eastern Mennonite Missions and Millersville (Pa.) International House.
For German Mennonites, much has happened in the last two and a half decades. Reunification, the end of the Cold War’s nuclear standoff, and most recently the conclusion of the military draft have all had some measure of impact.
The program was bolstered when a new international development federal program was created in 2008. CD was able to apply for funds and increase the number of volunteers and supporting partners in locations where partner organizations have limited or no funds for volunteer expenses.
Midterm seminars could now be conducted in host countries, and more staff were added. In the last five years, paid staff has grown from a full-time equivalency of 2.45 to 4.25.
“CD has become one of the larger Christian voluntary service organizations in Germany,” said CD staff member Andreas Rosenwink. “Last year, for the first time in our history, we had almost twice as many applicants as there were positions available.”
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