So there’s this story about a group of men who were called to spread the Gospel in a foreign land. These disciples picked a destination, created a travel plan, raised money, took time off work, bought plane tickets, made hotel reservations, packed bags, said goodbye to their families, and set out on their journey. They planned several stops along the way, fully expecting to make disciples, baptize, and teach as they traveled.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
A few nights into their trip, something unexpected happened. One of the men had a vivid dream, during which he received a clear vision of a new destination. He awoke knowing this was no ordinary dream – it was a message from the Holy Spirit. He rushed to tell his travel companions.
Can you imagine how nervous he must have been to relay this dream? After all, they had planned and prepared for weeks, and he was getting ready to throw a wrench in the works. But much to his surprise, not a single man doubted him. In fact, they shared his conviction! They prayed and worshipped, and then they plotted a new route. (I wonder if I would have had the same reaction?)
So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.Romans 10:17
I have no idea how much the Holy Spirit cost them that day. Were their tickets refundable? Was the climate of the new destination similar, or did they have to buy new gear? Did they have all required vaccinations? Did their families think they were crazy? Lots of questions come to mind. Back to the story.
After a time, these faithful disciples finally arrived at the small, remote village. They weren’t quite sure what to do, but decided to look for the villagers. They soon realized there were no community buildings or places of worship.
They decided their next best option would be to walk to the river, in hopes of finding people at the riverbank. The men paused to pray, reminding themselves that Jesus promised to be with His disciples until the end of the age. Knowing the Holy Spirit purposefully led them to this place helped them regain their confidence.
So, they walked for a while and soon the riverbank came into view. Sure enough, they saw a group of people sitting together. The disciples approached with anticipation, and as they came near to the small crowd, they realized it was a gathering of women. Isn’t it incredible? All the twists and turns of their journey brought these men face-to-face with a group of women gathered on a riverbank near a small village.
Over the course of that afternoon, the disciples taught the women about Jesus Christ. One woman, named Lydia, was baptized that day! Not only Lydia, but her entire household received the Gospel and were baptized! Before the men moved on to the next village, they helped Lydia set up a home church. I wonder how many more disciples she made? How many she baptized in the name of Jesus Christ? How many did she teach to obey His commandments?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but you might be able to piece them together with a few facts. The courageous men who changed their travel plans were none other than the Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Silas. The small village the Holy Spirit led them to? It was called Philippi. The woman who Paul led to Christ that day? She was Lydia, a business woman and seller of fine goods. Lydia has the distinction of being the very first European convert to Christianity. Lydia’s house became the first “home church” in Europe, and this marked the beginning of Paul’s congregation in Philippi. “The famous Philippians in the New Testament feature four coworkers of the apostle Paul—three women (Lydia, Euodia, and Syntyche) and one man (Epaphroditus)—all highly valued for their dedicated leadership in the church and staunch commitment to Christ.” (1)
Acts 16 has the whole story, from start to finish. Granted, there was no air travel. Or vaccinations. I embellished just a little. Are you ready to read more about Lydia? I highly recommend Marg Mowczko’s article in which she writes,
“Women such as Lydia were not at the margins in the first decades of the Jesus’ movement. They were not silent in the churches or ineffective in evangelism. They cared for local congregations and were vital and strategic players at the forefront of the expanding Christian mission. A church was established in Philippi because of Lydia’s open heart and her open home, and it grew because of her patronage, her initiative, her courage, her ministry.” (2)
(1) Excerpted from https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/main-articles/philippi. Contributor, Peter Oakes, University of Manchester, UK. He is author of Philippians: From People to Letter (Cambridge University Press, 2001, 2007) and Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul’s Letter at Ground Level (SPCK/Fortress, 2009).
(2) Excerpted from https://margmowczko.com/lydia-of-thyatira-philippi/. Author, Marg Mowczko. Marg has a BTh from the Australian College of Ministries and an MA with a specialisation in early Christian and Jewish studies from Macquarie University.