EKD-Bulletin 04/2000

4 - 2000

Mission - Development - Diaconia

"Dienste in Übersee" is a success story

40 years of "Service Overseas"

The Protestant personnel service "Dienste in Übersee" (DÜ) celebrated its 40th anniversary in September 2000. It was formed in 1960 to meet the urgent need of the partner churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America for qualified people. It was an extension of the financial aid that was being provided mainly by "Bread for the World", which had been founded in the previous year. DÜ was founded by committed Christians who wanted to share in the responsibility of a world growing more closely together. The ecumenical commitment with which DÜ was founded, influences its present work. The founding principles with which the work was begun still hold today: the partner principle (no work locally, only support for partners), the request principle (dispatch of personnel only follows a request from overseas), qualified people principle (only competent people are sent) and aid for self-help.

At first mainly German skilled workers were requested, who provided practical support and built up the church development work, for example carpenters and nurses. Eventually it was noted that there was little sense in sending expensive workers from Germany to Tanzania or Peru to do such work. Therefore more instructors and teachers were sent, apparently with success, as in the meantime, partner churches and organisations now have no more need for instructors as these tasks are being fulfilled by local people. Consequently "Dienste in Übersee" has concentrated lately on a new need. Very specialised professionals are now requested who can advise the partners on questions about management, financial planning and similar matters. In view of the increasing number of disputes and civil wars in various regions of the world, arbitrators are being sought, who can mediate in local conflicts and aid the partner organisations to prevent armed clashes. So, even after 40 years, "Dienste in Übersee" has not become superfluous, but has reacted flexibly to the new and changing demands of its partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The principle that qualified people should make themselves superfluous by training the local people has provided DÜ with opportunities to take on new tasks. All the skilled people are intensively prepared for several months for their work and are then sent overseas for periods of three to six years.

In the last forty years, DÜ has sent more than 3,000 people overseas to work with the local churches and organisations. At present, about 300 people are working in 50 countries. They are supported in their work by colleagues at the office in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, near Stuttgart. The office also coordinates the training in Germany. This involves organising seminars and events on development themes, and the publication of papers, which include the quarterly magazine "der Überblick", whose theme papers receive attention and recognition far beyond church circles. The returning workers are encouraged to pass on their experiences and insights in their home town and local church parish. Many of the returning workers have seized the chance to work with a DÜ home-contract in a development organisation or initiative in Germany, thus raising awareness of development-orientated themes. Skilled workers from overseas are also invited to Germany for this purpose.

In 2001, "Dienste in Übersee" will be integrated into the recently formed "Protestant Development Service" (EED), which is continuing with the work of the "Protestant Association for Cooperation in Development", the "Churches' Development Service" and some areas of work of the "Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in the Federal Republic of Germany". This means that the staff in the DÜ office must relocate to Bonn where the new institution has its head office. So the fortieth anniversary is marking the end of DÜ's independent work. Through this work the importance of placing qualified staff overseas has been so recognised and is so indisputable, that it will be continued by the EED as one of its main areas of work. DÜ will contribute its large expertise in this field to the new institution. DÜmanager Christoph Dehn draws the following conclusion: " the history of DÜ is a success story. DÜ has become the trademark of the development personnel service of the Evangelical Church in Germany".



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