Those who want to find Gian Walser, leader of OM Germany, during TeenStreet (TS) needn’t call his office at the Mosbach headquarters. They can also forget checking the TeenStreet office in Offenburg or the area set aside for home office representatives. In fact, the only barrier between most camp participants and Gian is a small printed sign advising, “Kitchen staff only.”
Wearing a bright red apron, Gian will spend the duration of this year’s TS in the kitchen, working as one of six main chefs. For the 2,500 some teens as well as the OM Germany staff – many who have also travelled to Offenburg to fill various roles at TS – Gian’s example of servant leadership is inspiring.
“It’s very valuable, a very good example that’s also motivating to me,” said Peter Wiebe, head of the finance department at OM Germany who’s also serving with the finance team at TS. “Gian is the leader of OM Germany, but he doesn’t need some special office or position…He’s able to work totally normally in the kitchen. I like that.”
For Gian, kitchen work comes naturally. Now serving at TeenStreet for the third year, Gian previously spent twelve years with OM Ships International, including a year in the galley and several more managing catering and hotel services on the open seas. “There is some knowledge, understanding, and experience in cooking,” he said. There’s also fun involved. “I enjoy TeenStreet. I enjoy cooking. My family enjoys to be here.”
In addition, TS does have strategic value for OM, in Germany and internationally, Gian said. “I see that TeenStreet has a huge impact in teenagers, really helping them in their walk with Lord. If I think of our focus area ‘Mentoring and Discipleship,’ that’s really where this fits in.
Of course, TS, with 4,300 participants from 42 countries, is also prime opportunity for recruiting, not only of teenagers but also of Service Team members, who, according to Gian, are “top candidates.” While Gian would like to see TS utilized even better to mobilize young people for missions, he recognized that some parts of the event, such as the Global Village simulation, are already “planting seeds” for the possibility of future missions work.
Klara, a chemistry student from the Czech Republic, said her first TS was “a big turning point,” showing her the importance of Christian discipleship. She’d always dreamt about going to missions, and, after TS, she found an opportunity to spend two months in Brazil, working with children from poor communities, homeless people, and drug addicts. Now she’s back at TS for the fourth time, this year as a coach. “It’s always a huge inspiration to be here,” she said. “I believe that TeenStreet can be a huge investment in God’s hands.”
Gian feels the same. “We believe as OM Germany in TeenStreet, and we are investing a lot in TeenStreet,” he said. “As OM International, focusing on TeenStreet, I think it’s great that we invest into the younger generation…It continues to be our mission to mobilize. That’s why we are called Operation Mobilization. These events, in terms of mobilizing, are definitely top opportunities for us.”
For the moment, however, Gian’s looking forward to his two favorite parts of TS: attending the Main Hall, filled with thousands of people, mostly teenagers, from across Europe, worshipping the Lord together, and watching the food line in the dining area. From a catering perspective, as long as the line flows smoothly, people get their food and are (hopefully) satisfied with it, “every meal can be a highlight as well.”