Statement of the Board of the Association of Evangelical Mission Agencies in Germany (AEM) at the current Refugee situation in Europe
Newsletter from LEBANESE SOCIETY FOR EDUCATIONAL & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT September 2015. A letter from the Church in Lebanon to the Church in Europe by Nabil Costa >>>
Foundation of Orientdienst
The “Orientdienst” (i.e. Middle East Services) was founded in 1963 by Rev. Willi Höpfner. “Orientdienst” is a free association that assists churches and missionary societies concerned about the millions of immigrants coming to Germany, Switzerland and Austria as guest workers and students from Muslim regions like Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The founders wanted the Church of Jesus Christ to respond to this challenge in the spirit of the Gospel. In 1975 “Orientdienst” became an independent registered society. Its members at present consist of 60 private individuals, missionary societies and churches.
Today „Orientdienst“ has more than 20 full-time or part-time workers. In addition there are others who are not employed by us, but serve as volunteers or employees of other mission agencies that are cooperating with us. 16 of our staff members are German, 6 originally come from Turkey, 3 from Switzerland, one from Sweden and others from countries of the Far East. Several teams work in different major cities in Germany.
Main areas of work
According to our charter the purpose of the “Orientdienst” is to show “missionary and humanitarian care towards various groups from Muslim regions (i.e. Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa), particularly in Germany, as well as the coordination of such work.” From time to time individual co-workers also take on assignments in Turkey (visiting believers, teaching at Bible Schools etc.) or among Turkish-speaking minorities in Bulgaria and Macedonia.
1. Information Service
Since its foundation “Orientdienst” has provided German-speaking Christians with information.
Our aims in this regard are:
– helping people to gain a differentiated view of Islam and a Bible-based spiritual assessment of it.
– encouraging Christians to build relationships with Muslims in the love of Jesus Christ. This involves teaching an understanding of the religious background of Muslims and the acceptance of their cultural characteristics.
– offering suggestions on how to witness intelligibly, without attacking Islam or concealing the scandal of the cross.
Orientdienst achieves these aims through our magazine “Orientierung” (Orientation), lectures in churches, seminars, literature recommendations on the subject of Islam and conferences for Christians who have contact with Turks and Kurds.
2. Media work
The ministry of the “Orientdienst” staff includes the production of radio programs in Turkish and Kurdish. These are broadcast in cooperation with Evangeliumsrundfunk (Gospel Radio) and Trans World Radio. They also publish evangelical tear-off calendars in Turkish (which are sent to many prisons) and distribute Bibles, Christian literature, audio and mp3 in various languages.
3. Meeting with people from Middle Eastern countries, especially Muslims
Almost all of our staff know one or several Middle Eastern (Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic) languages. They have gained a personal knowledge of these cultures by living in the countries concerned. They make contact with Muslims in the following situations:
a) Social work: translation services, assistance with homework, social counselling etc.
b) Personal counselling of asylum seekers, married Muslim couples and families, sometimes of bi-cultural marriages.
c) Missionary work: distribution of calendars and New Testaments (so that Muslims may have access to information on the Christian faith), personal contacts and conversations on matters of faith, follow-up of believers in doctrine and pastoral counselling, Church Services and conversational Bible study groups in Turkish and Arabic, children’s meetings, church planting and teaching on personal involvement, conferences for Turkish families.