“The Next level” - boldly embark on the new chapter!
After 18 years the 65 year old Mission Director, Dr. Detlef Blöcher hands over his position to Günther Beck and Andrew Howes in April 2018. Here is an interview with Detlef Blöcher about 32 years of mission work:
Your wife Elisabeth has a doctorate in Pharmacy, and you have a doctorate in Physics. How did you both become missionaries?
Scientists are naturally curious. They want to look and understand how God's good creation works. This amazes us and we want to infect others with this fascination. When Jesus personally touches someone, he cannot help but share this wonderful message with others. Personal encounters often play an important role: For example, my wife met many missionaries in her parents' home and in her church. This challenged her to become a missionary herself. We knew that scientists could work with their professions in countries that are not accessible to theologians, so we chose this path.
Since 1986 you've been working with the DMG in the Arab world. Which experience has influenced you the most?
After several discussions, I finally dared to offer a Bible to a colleague. He not only gladly accepted it, he read all night long, so fascinated was he by the gospel. I am moved by what a deep hunger for truth many Orientals have. How they long to get to know the living God, who has always remained distant and alien to them in their religion. Even today, we like to talk to refugees from the Middle East about faith.
In 1991 you returned and began to work at the DMG Home Base. How did this change come about?
That is God's secret: The DMG was growing very rapidly at that time. More workers were needed to care for the missionaries. The then Mission Director, Bruno Herm was in poor health, so the DMG Mission Council called us to join the leadership team. This happened during the second Gulf war. Many of my foreign and national friends in Arabia had already left in fear of their lives. We saw it as God's guidance.
How did you find the DMG then? What was particularly important for you?
During our assignment abroad, we experienced for ourselves how important personal support is. Many missionaries live in extreme situations; the need is overwhelming and there is a shortage of staff everywhere. What are our priorities? Where should we set our limits so as not to burn out? This applies to all missionaries, not just to young people. They experience challenges of all kinds. It is so important to have good companions and mentors who ask honest questions, encourage reflection and offer prayer together.
The need is overwhelming and there is a shortage of employees everywhere. Where should we set priorities?
What does Jesus Christ mean to you?
Jesus is our Savior and good Shepherd. He is the risen and returning King. He opens people's hearts and gives them a new start in life and communion with God. It's his mission, he’s the one doing it. We humans are at most his little helpers - and reporters of God's great deeds.
You spent ten years as personnel manager for missionaries all over the world. What are the particular strengths of today's missionaries?
They are excellently trained, extraordinarily creative, digital professionals and have a lot of cross-cultural experience already from school. In addition, many sending churches are deeply committed to their missionaries.
And what are their greatest weaknesses?
Impatience! We come from a performance-oriented society. Our colleagues and their friends expect quick results. But it takes time to learn the language and habits of the host culture, to gain people's trust and to live with them. Significant changes are slow. We also bring inherited burdens from our own culture: Our European culture is oriented towards the individual - my rights, my experiences, my relationship to God. In most countries of assignment however, the extended family, the village community and the clan are more important while the individual takes a back seat. We also live very selfishly - my house, my car, my job. You deserve it! Indulge yourself! Jesus, however, invites us to follow, to serve, to respect others more than ourselves. Our society is materialistic - only what is measurable and visible counts. Most cultures though are very spiritual and have profound experiences with invisible powers. We have a lot to learn.
In 2000 you took over the leadership of DMG from Manfred Bluthardt. What was the saddest moment and what was a particularly joyful one, in your 18 years as Director?
I had just taken over the leadership when I received the news on a Sunday morning that one of our missionaries in West Africa had died suddenly. I had to give the relatives the sad news. Because of the hot climate and the remote area, the body had to be buried locally in Africa on the same day. That was very difficult for the family members and also for myself.
I am inspired by how the Gospel has gripped entire ethnic groups in Ethiopia, North Africa and India, how many of them have become followers of Jesus and are now passing on the Gospel themselves. Today, half of all Christian missionaries come from the global South.
It was also very moving when the immense influx of refugees came to our country in 2015. I helped at that time in a first reception camp and was greeting starving people. They had barely escaped death, walked across the Balkans and had not eaten for days. Listening to them, helping them, sharing God's love and hope in Jesus, it was wonderful. Many communities are taking care of the refugees. Today 47 of our DMG missionaries are supporting such projects in our country.
What are the challenges facing the new leaders of DMG, Günther Beck and Andrew Howes?
Our world is changing rapidly: politically, socially, technologically and spiritually. This needs to be heeded so that the Gospel remains good news. I wish them a lot of courage to bring about change, to dare to try new things and in doing so, to ensure that they are taking their employees and sending churches with them.
A tip for your successors…?
Keep listening to Jesus' voice and follow him faithfully! Boldly tackle the new.
For 14 years you were also chairman of the AEM, the umbrella organisation of the evangelical missions in Germany. How has the cooperation between these organizations and their role in the world changed?
During this time, great trust has grown among the mission leaders; they work together much more closely today. The AEM has developed into an open community with many docking sites, and we have built bridges to other mission agencies. Developing projects together with the local people, holistic mission and sustainability have become a matter of course today. The Christian Community Development Conference (CCD) has developed into a world-class international conference. In addition, more and more Christians from former mission countries are coming to Germany today as missionaries to preach the Gospel among those born and living here and to build churches...
What kind of people do these organizations need today? For which countries?
Mission today happens from everywhere to everywhere. The regions of the world in which Jesus is not yet known are of particular importance. Churches abroad are also asking for Christian experts to contribute their expertise and train local coworkers.
When you look back, what would you do differently today?
Of course, there were also necessary conflicts. Today I would listen even more carefully to what the other person actually wants to say, instead of jumping to conclusions prematurely. Then I would implement my/our decisions more quickly.
Mission today is everywhere to everywhere. The regions of the world in which Jesus is not yet known have special importance.
What makes you proud?
DMG stands for a worldwide network of relationships with more than 100 partner organisations and allied churches. We are travelling together, enriching each other and learning from each other.
How would you like to organize your retirement as a married couple?
When you are a follower, you never retire. For us a new period of service begins: "The next level", as the young people say. I am happy that I will then have more time to meet refugees and to invest in young leaders. And, of course, there will be some lectures and sermons...
Your wish for the worldwide team of DMG?
Let us continue to remain learners who are on the journey with Jesus, listen closely to him, nurture fellowship with him and take courageous steps into new territory.
Thank you very much Detlef, for the interview and the many years of good fellowship in the spread of the Gospel. We wish you God's rich blessings!
Das Interview führte DMG-Redakteur Theo Volland
Who are the two newcomers?
Günther Beck (new director) and Andrew Howes (new deputy director) has taken over from Dr. Detlef Blöcher on 1 May 2018.
Günther Beck trained as a Protestant pastor and has been a missionary for many years. He joined DMG in 1984 and spent several years working in North Africa, where he met his wife Rosemary. He has served as Chief Communications Officer at DMG's home base since 2016. Andrew Howes comes from the United Kingdom and studied Civil Engineering in Leeds. From 1980 he and his wife Elisabeth were missionaries in Congo and Burkina Faso. He was Project Manager of Christliche Fachkräfte International for 13 years before they returned to DMG in 2012 where he took over the task of Africa Personnel Director. Please pray for strength, wisdom and God's blessing for our new leaders.