The report from the conference
|When:||March 18-22, 1997|
|Who:||women from all over Europe, east and west, invited by a united umbrella of four movements that have not generally worked together in the past: the AD2000 and Beyond Women's Track, Hope for Europe (an indigenous European evangelism program), Lausanne Movement, and the Commission of Women's Concerns for the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF).|
|Agenda:||Will study leadership, evangelism and spiritual gifts.- It is hoped that this kind of joint effort will help to break down historical barriers and impact the church across the continent.|
|Contact:||Elizabeth Mittelstaedt, Western European Track Leader for the AD2000 Women's Track, Lydia Magazine / Postfach 12 22 / 35608 Asslarer Weg 8 / D-35608 Asslar-Barghausen Germany. FAX: 49-6443-1707.|
by Lorry Lutz
Coordinator, Women's Track, AD2000 & Beyond Movement
They came from every corner of Europe to Budapest the "pearl of the east, with its renewed splendor emerging from the ashes of communism. More than 180 Christian women leaders gathered March 18-22 from 28 nations under the auspices of Hope for Europe, an umbrella organization of evangelical ministries in Europe. Co-sponsored by the AD2000 Women's Track, the Commission of Women's Concerns (WEF) and the Lausanne Women's Network, the conference drew women from most major denominations and para-church organizations. This alone made the conference newsworthy, for European Christians have not been noted for their unity and cooperation, especially between evangelicals and charismatics.
This was the third such conference led by Elizabeth Mittelstaedt, founder and editor of of LYDIA, the largest Christian women's magazine in Europe. The initiating leaders of the three global women's movements, Lorry Lutz of the AD2000 Women's Track, Robyn Claydon of Lausanne and Ingrid Kern of the Women's Commission, had launched this organization with the purpose of bringing women together in love and unity across denominational and national lines to mobilize them to use their gifts to fulfill the Great Commission
Though coming from very diverse backgrounds the women share the theological committment to the Lausanne Covenant and a common purpose to reach those without Christ while continuing their distinctives in their own organizations.
By the end of the conference women who had never prayed together back home were making plans for cooperative outreach. For example, the Russian delegation sat around the breakfast table the last morning planning to meet together regularly for prayer, even though as Baptists and Pentecostals, they had not been permitted to do so before.
Jill Briscoe, well-known British-born author and speaker, challenged the women to face the stresses and demands of leadership in her evening messages. During the day a representative from each country presented the needs and opportunities in women's ministries. Not only did this open a window on what God is doing in Europe, but gave the women new information and burden to pray for each other.
Each one who gave a report brought a symbol of the needs of women in her country. Charlotte Hoglund,one of Sweden's most popular young singers, brought a checkered tablecloth to represent the opportunities to present Christ to friends over coffee. But Serbian and Romanian women asked that a cookbook be written entitled, "How to Cook with Nothing," for their poverty stricken people.
Romjke Fountain of the Netherland compared her native Holland to a vase of pink tulips ---beautiful, colorful and lovely to look at-- NOW. Romjke mourns the fact that her beloved homeland has lost its Christian culture, with a small percentage of evangelical Christians. She fears that the nation will soon lose its signs of life and beauty because of its spiritual emptiness and decadence. As an illustration she told of a friend who recently lost her mother -- not to the cancer the wracked her body-- but to euthenasia. Her friend had called to say, "They killed my mother. I went to visit her one day and met the doctor coming out of the house. He asked me, 'How do you want me to do this?' I tried to dissuade my mother, since she was still able to be up and about, but my mother insisted. I knew on what day the deed would be done, and went to visit her the day before to say good bye, but I did not want to know how it was done."
Elke Werner, Women of the Year in Germany last year, described the women of her country with a broken mirror.German women have lots of money; they are rich, educated, free, can travel. "When you look from afar the mirror is fascinating. It even looks like a piece of art. But when you come closer you see the brokenness.
"Many pastors do not believe n Jesus and the Bible. Homosexuality is being accepted by the State church. Today authorities are considering whether the Muslims should be allowed tobroadcast a call for prayer over the loudspeakers."
The picture was not all gloomy as women told of prayer groups, breakfast meetings for unsaved women and growing opportunities for women to serve. Elida Marines, a Costa Rican missionary to the Turkish speaking people in the Netherlands, challenged the women to find ways to make friends and show love to the millions of Turks in Europe.
There was time for love and blessings during the four days of the conference. Women brought their favorite European cookies for the coffee breaks. The Hungarian women gave a welcome gift of an embroidered heart shaped pin-cushion to every guest. But the most heart warming touch was the "blessing table" -- a room full of gifts brought by women from Western Europe for their Eastern sisters. Each woman was able to select ten gifts. There were lotions, clothing, books and toys One young woman squealed with delight over a teddy bear -- not for her child (she is unmarried) -- but because she'd never had one. Another Romanian woman looked for a gift for a young friend who'd just lost her mother. She didn't have time to deliberate so she grabbed a parcel without knowing the contents. Later she opened a package of ten pair of black hose -- her friend would need to wear black for a whole year of mourning, and could never have afforded to purchase them.
On the final day the women were driven into Budapest to the largest indoor hall in the city where more than 3000 Hungarian women gathered from all over the country. Never before had so many women come together for a Christian meeting. Old and young, babuskas and stylishly dressed teenagers, professional women and simple grandmothers -- met to listen to stirring music, testimonies, and a challenge from Jill Briscoe. This was the first time a group of Hungarian women had the opportunity to plan such a function, for under Communism such a meeting would have been prohibited. The committee, led by Jocelyn Gracza of the Hungarian LYDIA, and Lynn Murphy Elet Szava expected perhaps 500 women, but as word got out that Elizabeth Mittelstaedt, the founder and editor of LYDIA, which is also published in Hungarian, would be speaking, the registrations rolled in. Just a few weeks before the date, the organizers had to rent a larger hall.
Every part of the program spoke to some woman's heart. When Tuula Akerlund, a Gypsy from Finland gave her testimony and sang several Gypsy songs, word got out in the city. By the afternoon session dozens of Gypsy women, often despised and scorned, had come to the hall to meet Tuula and to rejoice that one of their own had been given such prominence.
The testimony of Romanian, Ana Veres, moved many to tears as she told of her family's suffering under the communist regime. Her husband, a pastor, had been poisoned twice by government officials, but miraculously recovered. Then Barnabas, her four year old son was given a "vaccination" which caused his muscles to atrophy. Today at 16 he wieghs only fifty pounds and spends his time in a wheel chair. Barnabas loves Jesus and shares his testimony with the children his younger sister brings to visit him.
When Jill Briscoe challenged the women to become "fishers" for Jesus, about 50 responded to the call for salvation. One group of young girls stood weeping in the hall until someone asked if they could help. They explained that they had been challenged to offer themselves for missions and wanted to know if there was an organization in Hungary to which they could apply.
Everyone waited, however, for Elizabeth to share her secret of the founding of the LYDIA magazine. Elizabeth told them how the excruciating and incurable pain from a dental accident had nearly driven her to suicide. Instead, God reminded her that women all around suffered pain without the comfort and help of the love of Jesus. He challenged her to help women know about God's healing love in spite of her pain. That's how the idea of the magazine was born-- and today LYDIA is read by more than two million people in German, Romanian and Hungarian.
The leaders of the Hope for Europe conference felt their dream had been fulfilled. They had seen women from diverse backgrounds come together in unity, motivated to use their gifts to serve Him, and made plans for similar follow-up meetings in many countries. And that is indeed hope for Europe.
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