Dear YL Capernaum Team
On our recent trip to Macedonia we retraced Paul’s steps on his 2nd Missionary Journey which led him to set foot in Macedonia from the Aegean Sea. Sue, the boys and I waded in the Aegean Sea in Kualla which is modern day Neapolis, the port where Paul landed before he ventured 10 miles in land to Philippi.
I picked up three rocks to remind me of Paul, the Holy Spirit who directed Paul and Lydia, who became the first convert in Europe. As I looked at the rocks and felt the water lapping up at my feet while my boys laughed and played in the sea, I was overwhelmed by this thought. The thought was that Paul paid attention to the Holy Spirit and the vision he was given; because Lydia said “yes” to Jesus and the gospel came to Europe and 15 centuries later to America. Ultimately that same Gospel came to me and all the members of my family, because Paul said “yes.”
And yet Paul had been frustrated twice before this vision. The Spirit of Jesus blocked him twice as he sought a strategic plan of ministry. There is nothing wrong with strategic planning as long as the Holy Spirit is given permission to block them and give us dreams and visions as it states in Joel 2. Paul could have ignored the dream, he did not. He and his team travelled by pure faith to a place they had never been without knowing exactly where they would go to proclaim the gospel.
When he landed in Neapolis, where I waded in the water, he probably prayed, “Lord, now what?” I prayed that very prayer on August 1, 1986 in my first minute as a new Area Director of a new ministry called YL Capernaum. The Spirit faithfully directed Paul to Phillipi and they went. Paul looked for a synagogue in Phillipi to preach Jesus to the Jews, as was his custom. One problem, no synagogue, which meant there was no quorum of 10 male Jews to form a synagogue.
Paul once again probably prayed with is team, “Lord, now what?” Someone in passing conversation might have said that to a group of God fearing women gathering on Sabbaths at the river. The Spirit directs even random conversations in our lives and so they went down to the river. So Paul and his group went down to the river. There they found a group of women praying and worshipping. This would not be an ideal way to start a church in Paul’s day but Paul follows a God who loves, esteems and calls women every bit as much as he does men.
One woman stands out, Lydia! She probably stood out by the way she was dressed. She was rich and passionate and open to God. She was hospitable and a leader. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. She received Jesus and persuaded her entire household to receive Jesus and be baptized right at the river. A river that to this day has a chapel dedicated to Lydia. So the church of Philippi began and the gospel travelled on the Via Egnatia through Europe and ultimately to Rome and Caesar where Paul would bear witness to Jesus and suffers martyrdom.
Because Paul listened to Jesus, because he said “yes” to the Holy Spirit without knowing why or where he was going and yes, even to the cost of being flogged and imprisoned in Phillipi. Dear Capernaum sister and brother, what is the Spirit saying to you this year? In this moment, where is he leading you? Don’t be afraid to say yes and ask the Lord, “now what?” I did, 24 years ago and God used that yes beyond my wildest dreams. Yes Lord! Now what?
For all the Lydias we are sent to,