April 30, 1999
by Lorry Lutz
AD2000 Women's Track
"When we go to bed at night, we hear the NATO airplanes overhead. We have no bomb shelter in our city, so my husband and I say to each other, 'Good night, I'll see you in the morning or in heaven.'"
Serbian Ksenja Sabo faces such dangers these days as she and her pastor husband continue their ministry in war-torn Belgrade. She shared her story with the Hope for Europe Women's Leadership conference outside of Frankfurt in April. She feared police interrogation when she crossed the border to come to the conference. "I had a German visa in my passport and I was afraid the Yugoslavian guards would find out that I was going into the enemy's country." She explained that while they still have church services they cannot hold Bible studies. "But," explains Ksenja," we drink lots of tea, and if the police come we're just having a tea party." She reported that people are more willing to listen to the gospel now.
In the midst of the pain and anguish which hangs like a brooding cloud over Europe, 175 women from thirty nations gathered outside Frankfurt, Germany to demonstrate their oneness in Christ and their unity in the Body. One could sense the compassion and pain as Croats and Serbs hugged each other.
Germans and Poles sat and chatted over interminable cups of tea; Finns and Russians exchanged stories.
During the morning "Windows on Europe" representatives from each country reported on what was happening in their countries. A young Greek mother, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church told of the charismatic fellowship in her church and the need for revival "to know their true identity in God." A Romanian teacher and writer drew a heartbreaking picture of babies left in the maternity wards of hospitals because mothers cannot afford to take them home. "The situation is no better than it was ten years ago." she reported.
These children can spend several years in the same room, the same bed, with almost no human touch except to have their diapers changed.
In the midst of these painful reports, an Estonia Messianic Jew rejoiced in her recent conversion and danced her praise before the Lord. A Russian doctor of theology encouraged the audience that "women can help our world in peacemaking. Our vulnerability and weakness are really our strengths." The British delegate explained these as "the worst of times" in Britain. "But it is also the best of times, she said a strategic point in our spiritual history. There is a new desire to catch the heart of God and to cry out to God for mercy for our nation. The well of the truth of the gospel is growing.
The Alpha course is being used all over the country. Churches of all denominations are using this simple but profound course."
The Frankfurt conference was the fourth gathering of the Hope for Europe Women's meetings. In 1992 just 40 women gathered in Linz, Austria to test the waters--do European women want and need a vehicle to bring them together across national and denominational lines? Initiated by the leaders of Lausanne Women's Network, the AD2000 Women's Track and the Women's Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship, the movement's primary focus is to encourage and mobilize women for evangelism through a united effort. In 1994 a second conference was held in Ustron, Poland, and women in Budapest, Hungary hosted one in 1997. Elizabeth Mittelstaedt, editor of LYDIA magazine, gives leadership to the movement.
Reona Joly , from the Netherlands, former missionary to Albania, brought the situation in Albania alive to the delegates. In 1970 she almost lost her life because she brought Christian literature into the then atheistic country.
When Albania opened in 1991 missionaries returned to see churches planted and Albanian leadership developed. Today those churches are coordinating efforts for the refugees. "The response is fantastic," says Reola. "In every town the churches are coming together with joint plans to work together. One church alone oversees a camp of twenty thousand people." "Unquenchable hatred is doing its best to sink its claws into Kosovo hearts," Roly warned. But in the midst of this Christians are faithfully witnessing.
The stage was set for reconciliation. The following day when an Albanian delegate completed her report, a delegate from Belgrade rushed to the front of the room to beg forgiveness for what her people were doing to the Albanians-a forgiveness that was granted in Jesus' Name.
But the root of Albanian hatred goes back even further. When the two Bulgarian Turks took the podium they recalled the 400 years of Ottoman oppression in the Balkans. With deep sorrow and penitence the Turks begged for forgiveness for the hatred and killing their people had poured upon the people of the Balkans. Within minutes they were surrounded by Croats, Bosnians, Bulgarians and Romanians. Even Gigi Graham Tchavidian whose husband is an Armenian, expressed forgiveness on behalf of her husband's people. The Turks had slaughtered thousands of Armenians in the beginning of this century. Later that evening Gigi spoke, sharing her life story in a disarming and charming way to encourage her listeners that God can use any woman who is open to following Him in obedience.
The conference closed Friday evening with great anticipation of the citywide Hope for Tomorrow conference in one of the largest halls in Frankfurt the next day. For the first time in history, German woman from many denominations came together in a one-day celebration of unity in Christ. Over 300 women from dozens of churches served on the working committee to prepare the day for the anticipated 6000 attendees. But as the day grew nearer reservations poured in.
Just a few weeks before the event it was moved to the Messe in downtown Frankfurt, which seats more than 9000 people. There the women sang and clapped as well known musicians led in a variety of musical styles. They listened to challenges from Lynne Hybel, wife of Pastor Bill Hybel of Willow Creek Church; Gigi, Billy Graham's daughter; and Elke Werner who with her husband leads "Christus-Treff" a creative ministry for young people in Germany. When asked why the intense interest in such a gathering, the organizers responded that German women were experiencing a longing for truth and spiritual answers. More than 300 left the meeting having met the One who is Truth for the first time in their lives.
Lorry Lutz can be contacted at AD2000WT@ibm.net.<>
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