Wolfgang Oehler: The ‘Smiling Wolf’ leading the NAC West Africa Seminar ‘pack’ across the path of West Africa
26 September 2020

Energetic. Socially adept. Ever smiling. Passionate. That is District Elder Wolfgang Oehler (DE Oehler). He radiates so much enthusiasm in his duties you wonder how he is fully motivated across different cultures and environments. Maybe, it is in his name “Wolfgang” (meaning, “path of a wolf”). And quite possibly, NAC West Africa Seminar Tutors may just have their own “alpha wolf” leading the path across West Africa on trainings in music for Choir masters and seminars for Ministers.

NAC-Ghana recently enjoyed a very hearty and moving conversation with the amiable leader who was placed into retirement on 6th October 2019 but still heads the Seminar Supervision Team (SST) for West Africa. He shared his personal experiences across West Africa in this first part of the interview. Here we go:

NAC-Ghana: You always have a lot of energy and wearing a very broad smile. What drives you so much?”

DE Oehler: Oh, on the contrary, this is vice-versa! I receive so much love from my African co-workers! All trips are amazing discoveries!!! I think Africans express their emotions a lot more which is fantastic! I am always overwhelmed and learn so much! I always try to carry this joy back to Germany!

NAC-Ghana: How do you manage the language barriers – English, French, Spanish?

DE Oehler: With English, I feel at home. With French, you have to be very patient and tolerant listening to me. And in Spanish, I speak through a translator.

NAC-Ghana: Since you work across West Africa, are your delivery methods and approach greatly affected by the cultural differences in the countries?

DE Oehler: Of course! We call it horizontal transfer of knowledge and experiences! Role plays are an essential point of teaching children, but also adults learn by playing a story with others. In Equatorial Guinea, they brought down the paralyzed man to Jesus from the balcony. In Cote d’Ivoire, they used exciting costumes to illustrate the council of Nicea.

Nigeria illustrated Daniel in the Lions den so well within their setting; Guinea played the protection of the Three Men in the Furnace; and Ghana impressively displayed the story of the Merciful Samaritan. I learn so much at every trip!

Another example of the exhibition of cultures is in the methods of applause; Ghana has the mosquito clap, Nigeria the raindrop clap and the French clap in Benin.

NAC-Ghana: What are the most common challenges across West Africa?

DE Oehler: Giving young brothers and sisters roots in the faith! Give them responsibilities and duties so that they can also work in the rural areas with joy in their congregations. We need them there.

NAC-Ghana: Where is the biggest success story so far in West Africa?

DE Oehler: In Nigeria. We started seminars 5 years ago with nothing, zero tutors and trainers!!! But in 2019, the newly engaged seminar tutors trained three times their number of brothers and sisters. However, the best news of all is the establishment of Sunday Schools in more than 70% of our congregations in Nigeria! This team of brothers and sisters, tutors and teachers have worked so brilliantly!

Concluding this first part of the interview, NAC Ghana asked him how the resumption of Divine services has been in Germany and his home congregation. Always effervescent of his joy and experience of West Africa, he shared some interesting remarks:

“We are very thankful. Since August, we are able to be physically present for divine services with Holy Communion as a congregation. We still to keep physical distances, but we have fellowship!

However, I had a conversation with a District Rector in Equatorial Guinea very recently and his message touched me so much; he told me that they conduct 3 services every Sunday to serve all brethren whilst observing all safety protocols in the congregation! And in between they also have Sunday Schools! I told my brethren in Germany: “Look to Africa! What a wonderful example! Europe must learn from Africa!!”