Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Christianity in Switzerland: Part II

In my previous blog entry, I introduced here the group of 113,000 followers of "Free Christian Communites" as part of Swiss Protestantism.

Question: What is it that made them multiply by a factor of 2.6 x within 30 years?

Let's look at it closer as published in 2005 by a survey of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (SFSO) called "Religionslandschaft in der Schweiz" (Religious Landscape in Switzerland). Against the trend, the Methodists decreased by 30 percent to leave roughly 8,400 members remaining.

Methodists -- 8,400 Trend: stagnating or declining
Evangelicals -- 31,800 Trend: multiplying (slowing down in the 90ies)*
Pentacostals -- 20,100 Trend: multiplying (slowing down in the 90ies)*
Others -- 52,700 Trend: stagnating *(e.g. Salvation Army, Baptists)
Total -- 113,000 Free Christian communities
Compare 2 400,000 Protestants of "Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirche"!
[* These 3 groups were compared with old data from "Operation World" (officially no separate data available from SFSO before year 2000)].

Official answer: (Extract from SFSO conclusions, "Religionslandschaft in der Schweiz")

Today, there is a trend for the faith communities to deteriorate. (They stop monopolizing an entire region). An analysis of the results of the four past census (1970-2000) brings us to the conclusion that the main reason for the change of the religious landscape is of social nature rather than a religious one. Two strongly growing groups seem to offset this general trend.

The boom of Evangelica (and Pentecostal) groups and the Jehovah's Witnesses seems to be due to a change of the religious affiliation. In both cases, members of one of the dominating denominations have turned their backs against their church in order to join a group with a clearer testimony of Christianity.

Monday, April 25, 2005

My Reward from Heaven

MOTHER & SON...The author Monina Kaufmann (right) poses with son Nathaniel during a family trip to Canton Schwyz, Switzerland last winter. (January 2005)

By Monina Kaufmann, M.S.

In retrospect, I remember my college psychology teacher saying, "My psychology ends where my family begins." Her words made no impact on me up until I became a mother, too.

Parenting is no easy profession. Living abroad makes it even harder. Here in Zuerich, Switzerland (Swiss German/German speaking part), I enjoy neither a maid’s nor a nanny’s services (something that my friends in the Philippines have). Such were the overwhelming joys and struggles of motherhood that they even inspired me to compose a poem in German for my son Tanni -- an expression of my love for him on his dedication day when he was just eight months old. My little boy will soon turn four. How time flies!

As a non-working mother, I’m confronted with daily challenges that demand not only my energy, creativity and flexibility, but also an abundant supply of patience. Coping with parental stress -- and life’s problems in general -- can indeed be exhausting. I feel my energy and patience gradually dissipate.

This has not escaped my Italian teacher’s eyes (she was also my German course teacher; one of the friendly souls I met here in Switzerland).

"Sei stanca (Are you tired?)," she would ask me in Italian. My dwindling strength actually made me consider to quit my Italian course, but I soon dismissed the idea. Attending my weekly evening class is also a welcome respite from the daily household routine. Besides, being able to speak another language is always a plus factor, especially during travels abroad. I’m grateful to my husband for being such a supportive partner -- taking care of our son every time I hie off to the Italian tutorial session with my sister.

When I feel down and tired, nothing comforts and inspires me more than God’s words. I have found in the Bible a more profound meaning of my role as a parent -- something that goes beyond just providing my child with life’s basic necessities.

Parents are God's entrusted people who are responsible for bringing their children to Him (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). They are called to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

I am blessed to have been part of our home church's two-session seminar billed "Erziehung aus Biblischer Sicht (Child-rearing from a Biblical View)." The inputs proved very helpful indeed! And it was a bonus to meet other Christian parents with whom I share the experience of going through the highs and lows of parenting.

Psalm 127:3 reads: "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him." I believe that children, as a reward from God, are precious and are, therefore, not only to be cherished but also to be disciplined with love.

More challenges await me as a mother, but I find solace in God’s promise that He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God’s purpose prevails (Proverbs 19:21) and He has a perfect plan -- not only for our lives, but also for our children.

CHEERS! Nathaniel "Tani" Kaufmann (left), son of Christian Cafe blog contributor Monina Kaufmann, plays with his first cousin Samuel during a Christmas family gathering. (Photo taken in December 2004)

(Note: A daughter of a Bacolod-based pastor, Monina Kaufmann has been living in Switzerland for six years now. Before migrating to Europe, she worked as a college instructor and psychology department head of the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City, Philippines. A regular attender of the Zurich-based Christian Center Buchegg, she is married to Dr. Stefan Kaufmann of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. They have one child, Nathaniel. W.W.C.D. welcomes testimonials from Christians who have a heart to profess God's goodness in their lives.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Anointed Boy?

Christian graphic artist/website designer Mike Dalmacio based in the Philippines, creates this humorous desktop wallpaper for young Christian professionals. W.W.C.D. welcomes his artwork contributions in its blog column "Art Gallery." (Graphic art by Mike Dalmacio/January 2005)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Christianity in Switzerland

I sometimes find myself like Thomas, one of the disciples: "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."

Now Jesus, the Risen, helped Thomas to believe by showing him the marks of His crucifixion. If we want facts, we will get them. Jesus is alive! Yes, there IS indeed statistical evidence which shows the life-changing impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let's talk about "faith statistics" in Switzerland from 1970 to 2000:

The population of Switzerland reached 7.3 M composed mainly of Catholic and Protestant cantons.

* Nominal members of the mainstream «Evangelisch-reformierte Kirche» decreased from 46 percent to 33 percent of the population.
* Those who claim "no religion" increased from 2 percent to 15 percent.
* Followers of the Free Christian Communities increased from 0.6 percent to 1.6 percent, reaching around 113,000 members according to the 2000 census (not including expat churches).

COMMENT: While members of the State churches keep away from Sunday services or even leave their respective denominations, most of the Evangelical and Pentacostal churches increase in numbers. Despite their seemingly insignificant portion in the population, one will see more Evangelical and Pentacostal Christians turning up for Sunday worship services, than those faithful to the main Protestant denomination.

(Note: Schweizer, a Swiss German Christian who used to be a full-time missionary working with and for the Covenant Players, currently works at the Federal Statistics Office of Switzerland, and is a member of the Christliches Zentrum Buchegg, a Christian church based in Zurich, Switzerland.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Who is the Person God Uses?

A Christian baptism service was held at the Christliches Zentrum Buchegg or CZB (Christ Center Buchegg) in Zurich, Switzerland last April 10, 2005. CZB has 1,500 members, exclusing visitors, with five worship services in a week given in German with pulpit and headphone translations in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and Thai. (JAYRED/April 2005)

Just last Friday evening during our nine-part church course called "Ministry Development," the Lord used mightily a Bible scholar and cell group leader from Ghana, Africa to remind me of this very important insight: Everything we do as Christians must flow out from our fellowship with the Lord.

"Without Him (Jesus Christ)," he said with much emphasis, "I cannot do anything."

This has always been my conviction. But that night, I felt God reminding me of something; driving home a truth in my heart.

I must admit there have been times in my life when I have fallen into the trap of self-sufficiency -- relying on my human wisdom, my human understanding, and my human strength, without consulting the Most High. Isn't it that the Bible says that many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's His plan that prevails?

How I would like to renew my resolve to give everything at the feet of Jesus from whom all things flow. May He grant me the grace to not withhold anything from Him -- both the joys and the pains -- regardless of the external factors that always distract and tempt me to swerve to the right or to the left. I desire this "wholeness" in Jesus.... Only then can He powerfully work through me.

Pension Fund in Heaven

DEAD COLD. All of us will soon face the inevitable: death. But for Christians, there is no fear in death for "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) (JAYRED/January 2005)

What is life without Jesus?

Can you imagine it? I can't. For me, the Lord is my be-all and end-all for living. Without Him, I cannot do anything -- not through my human wisdom and understanding, and not even through my well-meaning family and friends. After all, He is the source of everything that we truly need. We can have eternal life only if we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord (John 3:16).

So it is heart-breaking to see the world chasing after the wind in vain. They think that life is all about acquiring wealth and gaining fame. People do not realize that these things do fade away and will prove worthless in the end. Do you think we can take with us the 'valuable' things and the 'precious' titles we have amassed in our lifetime to the grave? No!

And so, instead of putting much premium on temporal things, let's crave for things with eternal value. It's a wise investment. As the apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:2: "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

(Note: JAYRED, a former Manila-based photojournalist and now a missions trainee of the Asian Center for Missions, is currently based in Switzerland. She writes the Bible-based texts for the online devotional blogsite "Fish & Loaves.")

Prayer Window

Christian artist Gigi Gallano prayed by this window of her Grandma's house in Bicol, Philippines for seven consecutive days during the Holy Week. The photo, with its poignant appeal, captures the precious prayer moment of a person seeking divine answers to life's tough questions (Gigi Gallano/April 2005).

(Note: Gigi Gallano, a Filipino Christian artist/musician based in Manila, works at the Asian Seminary for Christian Ministries as head of the media department.)