By Amy Eckert
Attendees may never see the work done by the WCRC’s stewards. But without their volunteer hours, the General Council couldn’t function.
Before most delegates ever arrived, a team of 75 stewards were unpacking trucks, ripping open boxes, setting up offices with computer connections and stuffing attendees’ bags with literature, meal tickets, a reusable water bottle and an umbrella–this is Germany, after all. They’ll do whatever is asked to keep the conference running smoothly and facilitate a good meeting.
A group of seven WCRC stewards—most clad in their telltale red “Steward” t-shirts—shared their experiences of being selected to these key volunteer roles and what their experience has been thus far.
Shan Joseph of Peshawar, Pakistan, was invited to apply by a friend who works for the World Council of Churches in Geneva. “He encouraged me to apply for a position with the WCRC,” said Shan. “Honestly, it was a group that I had never heard of before. That was in October, 2016, and I actually kind of forgot about it until January, when I received the news that I was accepted.”
Martinus Havenga and his wife Angelique from Stellenbosch, South Africa, learned about the positions from the WCRC’s Afrikaner Facebook page. Mary Deepthy of Kerala, India, learned about the opportunity through her bishop. And Loujain Saad of Homs, Syria, was invited to volunteer as a steward after assisting in a similar role at a WCRC Executive Committee meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2015.
While all of them looked forward to the opportunity to travel internationally and assist with the meeting in Leipzig in 2017, they were well aware of the demands that would be placed on them.
“Being a steward is a lot of work,” said Angelique. “The days are long. But we were well prepared. We expected it.”
Shan was given airport duty, picking up attendees and getting them delivered to their appropriate meeting points and hotels. Loujain handed out t-shirts, agendas and translating headphones at the Women’s Pre-Council meeting. And all know they could be called on at any time to print documents or run a simple errand.
But if their duties are sometimes exhausting, the stewards gain much from the experience. And all are happy to have volunteered.
“Working with a big group is a difficult thing,” said Nayri Masserlian of Beirut, Lebanon. “We are a diverse group of people, from different places and with different languages and cultures. But things are going easily. Everything is so calm. I really think that’s because of our shared Christianity.”
Jessica Bwali of Lusaka, Zambia, agreed. “My faith has really grown through this experience,” she said. “To be honest, I didn’t even know that some of these countries had Christians living in them. I meet a Christian from Pakistan, someone from Syria, and I’m, like, wow! I didn’t even know there were Christians in that country! I will be more careful about praying for believers in those countries now.”
Shan agreed. “I love the unity and the diversity of this group,” he said. “We are from all different places but we are all under one roof with one shared goal. It turns out that we are divided by national borders, but not in our hearts or minds.”
“Spending time with Christians from other places makes the world feel smaller,” said Angelique. “When world events happen, you care about them because you have friends and fellow believers there.”
Martinus agreed. “When this conference is over it will be great to be reminded of our brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere,” he said. “And we will pray for them.”