September 22, 2018

70 Years Broadcasting Hope in Germany and Beyond

Gerald A. Klingbeil, Adventist Review

Saturday, September 15, 2018, marked a high Sabbath in Alsbach-Hähnlein, a small town close to Frankfurt, Germany, as Seventh-day Adventists in Germany celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Inter-European Division media ministry Stimme der Hoffnung (Voice of Hope). One hundred and eighty guests from all corners of the globe spent a day remembering, giving thanks, and dreaming about the future. The nearly three-hour morning program featured engaging and varied presentations, hosted by Klaus Popa, CEO of Stimme der Hoffnung (SdH) since 2014.

The program was recorded and broadcast the following day on SdH’s media outlets (satellite, cable TV, online). The guests enjoyed not only a professionally presented program but also a good lunch, afternoon tours of the large media center facilities, time for networking and fellowship, and a concert with the chamber orchestra and choir of Schulzentrum Marienhöhe, a Seventh-day Adventist school located in the neighboring city of Darmstadt.

The Journey Begins

Klaus Popa introduced the journey through 70 years of hope by reminding the studio guests that it was God who had guided the destiny and growth of this ministry. Using different media — including short, prerecorded video clips, live interviews with past leaders of SdH, and testimonies of people whose lives had been affected by the ministry of SdH —  he showed that the journey started in 1948 in Berlin, when Adventist pastor Max Busch produced a weekly 10-minute broadcast that was transmitted on Radio Luxemburg on medium wave, making SdH the oldest private Christian radio ministry in Germany.

Some of the intriguing images from that post-war period of a destroyed Germany illustrated the creativity of German Adventists during that time. They drew graffiti on building ruins to share broadcast times, program names, and radio frequencies with their neighbors. In the 1960s, a new Bible correspondence study guide series replaced the translated Voice of Prophecy study guides that had originally been used.

God’s Care in the Midst of Persecution

The program highlighted not only spectacular growth but also reflected the highs and lows of German history. Following the closing of the border between East Germany and West Germany, the media ministry continued to grow on both sides of the wall. Lothar Klenk, a retired 40-year veteran radio technician, shared with the audience some of the, at times, adventurous and clandestine stories of God’s care in the midst of political oppression and constant control. He recalled his work at the Friedensau Photographic and Sound Service organization in East Germany before the fall of the wall in 1989, followed by another 26 years of service at SdH in former West Germany.

Heinz Hopf, director of SdH from 1972 to 1978, highlighted the use of the one-page monthly newsletter of the ministry, often privately sent to individuals in Communist Germany. The story of a lay member from Ludwigshafen in southern Germany, who had made it his ministry to single-handedly send out every month, at his own expense, more than 600 newsletters to people in East Germany, was not only inspiring but offered a rare window into political realities of that time.

The interview with Matthias Müller, SdH CEO between 2002 and 2014, recalled an often understaffed and overworked team that would leap into a digital future during his tenure. The dynamic interaction between Popa and Müller reminded guests of the Faith.Simple evangelistic TV show that the two men had co-hosted in 2011.

During Müller’s leadership tenure, SdH moved to its state-of-the-art building in Alsbach-Hähnlein in 2007 and also began 24-hour radio and TV broadcasting. He reminded the audience that SdH, like any other ministry, “ultimately seeks to take viewers by the hand and lead them to Jesus.”

“My Times Are in Your Hand”

Brad Thorp, former president of Hope Channel International, shared thoughts about Psalm 31:15, the motto of the day, highlighting God’s sovereignty in the midst of personal pain, loss, and even chaos. “I wish above all else that this institution will lead individuals to put their lives into the hand of God,” he concluded.

Mario Brito, president of the Inter-European Division, reminded the audience that SdH is part of a worldwide family, that hope should drive how we look into the future, and that hope will help us stay faithful to God’s mission. “Hope is rooted in God and fulfilled in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Happy Birthday, Stimme!”

More greetings were presented by Derek Morris, current president of Hope Channel International, located at the General Conference building in Silver Spring, United States; Werner Dullinger, president of the South German Union; and Johannes Naether, president of the North German Union. Additional greetings came from a representative of the German Protestant media ministry ERF Medien, located in Wetzlar, Germany, and a partner in a number of Christian media initiatives.

What Really Counts

The day’s slogan, “Seventy Years of Hope,” was brought home powerfully by a prerecorded video clip featuring Jens from Torgau, a prisoner who had found Jesus and the Adventist message while serving a life sentence in a German prison. His initial contact with SdH started with a desire to receive mail, as he felt completely isolated from family and friends. The weekly letters with the Bible study guides from the International Bible Study Institute team at SdH soon meant more to him than just receiving a letter.

Jens met Jesus and His amazing grace as he understood more and more of Scripture’s message. Today, he enjoys warm fellowship with his Adventist family during the 24-hour release time he gets twice a month. As a gifted artist, he has begun a ministry of sending hand-drawn birthday cards to members of five congregations.

In the video, Jens reminded his audience that the good news of hope is shared and illustrated in the community as we are embraced by the Savior. He also emphasized how much he values his newfound family. “It’s a good feeling to belong and be part of a family,” he said.