Service Corps works in Germany during World Cup
The world gathers and The Salvation Army is there.
by CHRISTIN DAVIS –
The Western Territory sent a Service Corps team to Germany to participate in The Salvation Army World Cup outreach. Pictured (l-r) are Austin Anderson, Dana Coto, Michael Moore, Rachel Giffey-Brohaugh, Christin Davis and Carmen Magdaleno.
BERLIN—Two back-to-back 45-minute segments, 23 nations, and millions of fans have swept the country of Germany in an athletic crusade to win the World Cup games. From June 9 to July 9, people around the world stop to watch as each nation competes in one of the 12 host cities around Germany. In essence, the world comes together for one solid month of an international game that raises passion in all.
The Salvation Army began in Germany in 1890. Prior to World War II, 22 corps existed in the city of Berlin alone. The devastation brought to the country of Germany by the war also had a large effect on the work of the Salvation Army. Only three corps exist today in the city of Berlin. In a country known for its beer and sausages, the World Cup has given The Salvation Army a unique opportunity to re-establish itself in this culture.
Recognition the key
“Our main goal is to make The Salvation Army known once again here. We want people to know the Army is alive,” said Major Poldi Walz, corps officer of the Suedwest Corps in Berlin.
The Salvation Army in Germany teamed with an initiative called “kickoff2006” that aims to use the World Cup games as an opportunity to testify their faith in Jesus Christ. Walz sees it as a way to show people outside the church that they are on the same level.
“We want someone to walk in off the street and see that we can enjoy a good football game too,” Walz said.
To assist the Suedwest Corps in their World Cup efforts, The Salvation Army USA Western Territory sent a Service Corps team of six to Berlin. The team participated in many open air activities, children’s programs, wide-scale distribution of a special issue of the War Cry, and a nightly café that projects every game on the front wall of the church, directly beside the cross.
“When people come in, they see the cross beside the screen and know where they are. We want them to enjoy the game and hope if we invite them again, they will come,” said Walz.
While the big vision surrounding these games is to share Christ and The Salvation Army, there are a lot of smaller victories along the way. Over 100 people attended the Suedwest Corps for the Germany vs. Argentina game, many who were not regular attendees of the corps. The following Sunday, six of those fans returned for the morning meeting.
It seems as though the whole country of Germany stops to watch the World Cup games. No matter where you walk, people crowd café windows, trying to watch the games inside on TV. The streets are a sea of black, red and yellow, the colors of Germany’s flag, as people will adorn themselves with anything to show allegiance to their team. Flags wave, cars blare their horns and people sing madly in the subway.
“The atmosphere here is so exciting to see. You can’t really understand it until you are here. I had no idea how big of a deal soccer is until I experienced this,” said Service Corps member Rachel Giffey-Brohaugh. “We’ve been told it is unusual for people to display the flag here but these games have really given Germans the opportunity to be proud of something they have been so ashamed of in the past.”
“Soccer really does unify people,” said Service Corps member Michael Moore. “Everybody here has a flag painted on their cheek and are singing the same song. We are seeing a part of Germany that most people haven’t.”
The Salvation Army produced a special World Cup magazine that is geared around the soccer games. It includes testimonials and stories from some of the best soccer players in the world, the advantages of faith, information about The Salvation Army today, a chart to track the games, and an inserted invitation to watch the games live at the corps. The Service Corps team has spent time distributing the magazines in popular and crowded outdoor areas throughout Berlin.
“The two main goals for handing out the War Cry are to make Jesus better known and to make The Salvation Army better known,” said Service Corps member Austin Anderson. “it’s really neat to be a part of that.”
“When we first started handing out the magazines I really felt like a nuisance,” Moore said. “I’m sure only a small percentage of people come to the Lord through these, but it’s our responsibility to leave a little bit of an imprint, to give someone that magazine and know they are seeing the name of Christ and of The Salvation Army.”
During a Sunday morning sermon at the Suedwest Corps, Walz told his congregation that they must either live or die. He said those who play the game of soccer know it is about winning or losing, but it is not that way in the Christian life.
“You don’t have to wear the color of the losers,” Walz said. “In the game of life, we can try again.”
Just as Jesus called Zacchaeus out of his tree in Luke 19, he also calls us to come out of our “tree” and play the game with him. As Major Walz said in his conclusion, “We can be world champions for eternity.”