Focal Passage: Acts 16:13-18, 25-34
My wife, Sharon, has a special missional passion — the women of Jamaica, especially of the Elim community in St. Elizabeth’s parish. Through a former pastor in our association who has visited the Elim area numerous times, she took part in an evangelistic project. During the time of her first visit she heard the Lord speak to her about the women of Jamaica.
Since that first encounter, the Lord has continued to reveal deeper needs and challenges that make life difficult and at times dangerous for the women of this parish. I believe that Sharon’s “Macedonian call” was truly her “Jamaican call.”
Paul experienced such a call as he attempted to continue his missionary journeys. What began in one tenuous direction catapulted him in another direction — to Macedonia or Europe. Paul quickly obeyed the call and entered Philippi.
Three principle individuals embraced the gospel message. Interestingly enough, the first group to hear his message was women on a riverbank (there was no synagogue in the city) and his first European convert was a businesswoman (rare and expensive purple fabrics) named Lydia. In the text we find that she was a worshiper of God (a believer in the God of Israel). She had a listening heart, an open heart and a responsive heart. As an immediate fruit of her conversion, Lydia offered (urged Paul and the others to accept) her home in hospitality as the first church in Philippi.
The second that possibly embraced the gospel (though we do not know for sure, though she was healed of possession) was another businesswoman, though of questionable employment — a fortune-telling slave girl. While Lydia had a listening heart, this young girl had an enslaved heart. With a word of authority Paul spoke and the girl was liberated.
In Jamaica, so many are enslaved. Many live day-by-day not knowing where the next meal will come from or how to respond to health challenges with no financial resources. Others are enslaved by the physical abuses of angry, belligerent partners and of unfulfilled promises made by addictions. Sharon has had the joy of seeing some break away from these heartaches and embrace the healing, liberating power of Christ.
The last reported individual in this text was a jailer doing his job as a public servant. After an unsettling earthquake that instantly shattered his world, he encountered Christ. Through the attitude of praise by Paul and Silas (even when unjustly imprisoned) and subsequent response to the jailer’s deep question of longing for a right heart, the jailer embraced the Lord Jesus. With a ready heart, he (and his household) received Christ.
Jeremiah expresses it best when he repeats the promise of the Lord: “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart” Jer. 29:13.