The German Connection

When I first began working with children of AIDS-infected parents, back in 1999, I bought a house just off church property in Viengkhuk. There I housed our first group of kids; 7 girls and a boy. MISSIO/GERMANY gave me a grant to pay for the house, and money for one year of support for the children and salaries. German Redemptorists from the Munich province sent money to drill a well and put up a water tower. Later that year, Dr. Margot Weyer and a friend brought German Marks from Eltern fur Kinder to help with our by then growing herd of runts. It was an incredibly generous donation, made more so by the fact that I thought a German mark was equal to a French franc!

I decided to mention some of our volunteers in articles for the web site. The first group is made up of three young, unmarried people from Ev. apostelkirchengemeinde in Oberhausen, Germany.

ANDRE. Andre has been here five times now, and is 33 years old. He was in the University when he first came, but now is a church social worker for the "Missionary Youth Ministry". Andre trains and motivates young volunteers from the ages of 17-26. He has been doing this work for four years now, and educates and supervises over 400 volunteers for 100 churches in Germany. He brings his expertise to motivate the workers in Sarnelli House.

PETRA. Petra is 35 years old, and has volunteered here 6 times, helping with our kids and working with our staff. Hers is a special work in Germany. Petra is a government official who counsels and advises 120 teenagers who quit school. She and her 20 staff work with these youth to motivate them into studying and taking exams. She offers them their last chance to get a degree. Petra finds jobs for these unemployed youth of German, Turk, and eastern European backgrounds. They also try to intervene to solve family problems. Petra admits this is very difficult work but at times very rewarding and fulfilling, but also quite exhausting. Petra also works at her church every Sunday. She is a presbyter in her church and one of the leaders in her community.

URTE. Urte is 21 years old, and this is her third trip to Sarnelli House. Urte is studying to be a social worker at the University level, and works part time in the government Youth Office. Every Friday she supervises 100 girls of various faiths and backgrounds; African, Muslim and Eastern European, plus poor German youth. From 2:00-6:00 PM every day, they feed and play with these children and are there to advise and help them. Every Sunday at church, with help from Petra and other friends, she has services for the children, and 3 days a week, she helps kids with their home work in school. Several times a year, their church organizes a camping trip for 150-200 children, where they learn Bible stories, play, dance, swim and go to the zoo. These trips are for children of all religions and background.

The admirable part of this is that these three, plus their friends, have broken down barriers of distrust, fear, prejudice and bias, and join all these kids together, despite their cultural and religious backgrounds, into one flock. They teach Christianity, real Christianity; not dogmatic hair splitting, by their love, compassion, interest and dedication. God bless them!

Fr Mike

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