Name a safe city with an airport in a low-cost country with no visa requirements, no COVID restrictions, decent weather in March, and interesting Biblical sites nearby. Did you say Thessaloniki, Greece? If so, then you’re right!
For the past year, our planning committee had been preparing for the third triennial World Missionary Wives Conference. In 2017 we met in Athens, and in 2020 we met in Barcelona. After much discussion, we decided to hold the conference in Thessaloniki on March 16-20, 2023.
Twenty-seven excited missionary wives from five continents were packing their bags for three and a half days of Bible study, fellowship and fun. But wait! On March 15, Greek air traffic controllers declared a 24-hour strike for the next day – the conference arrival day.
“Seriously?” I thought. “This very day? All these months of planning for nothing?” We had a few tense hours waiting to hear if anyone would still be able to come. In the end, 23 out of 27 still came, but arrival was pushed back two days. Our conference was condensed into half the time. Despite the disappointment, our conference theme was still fitting: “BREATHE: Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Dr. Rhoda Wolle presented our keynote address entitled “Life to the FULL.” She gave us guidelines on how to thrive (not just survive), tips on how to make positive changes, and encouragement to start a gratitude journal.
Half of the attendees had never been to a Missionary Wives Conference. Some are grandmothers, some new mothers. Some have been in missions for two and a half decades, one for just two and a half weeks. Yet there was immediate camaraderie amongst all the ladies. New acquaintances were chatting like old friends, sharing joys and challenges of the mission field with people who know what it’s like. “What do you do for babysitting? How do you buy furlough tickets? Any insights into parenting high school kids from a distance?” I loved watching the Christian fellowship and the new friendships blossoming.
We followed Missionary Paul’s path to visit the ancient city of Philippi. We saw the ruins of the forum, the “prison of Paul,” and the theater, which is still used today. Missionary Luke Wolfgramm gathered us in the theater and encouraged us to “live like Lydia!” with a message from Acts. It was especially meaningful to reflect on the Apostle Paul’s preaching, Lydia’s baptism, the jailor’s conversion – all that took place right there 2,000 years ago.
Just a short walk from Philippi flowed the river where Lydia was baptized, with trees, flowers, grass and seating for many visitors. We were fortunate enough to be the only tourists there while we enjoyed a devotion by Dr. Rhoda Wolle on “Rejoice!” from the book of Philippians.
In addition, we played silly games, worshiped, communed, shared more devotions, sang, laughed a lot, tasted some wonderful Greek food, and shopped! On behalf of all the missionary wives, thank you! We are grateful for the opportunity to meet with each other face-to-face. Many thanks to WELS, our husbands, and our families for supporting this conference!
Written by Mindy Holtz, world missionary wife on the Native American mission team.
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