Make me a blessing. This was the theme of the eighth Hope for Europe Women in Leadership conference, held in Modra, a small village just outside Bratislava in Slovakia. Nearly one hundred women from over twenty countries attended. Subjects such as human trafficking, how to reach Muslim neighbours, and how to pass on leadership to a younger generation of women were covered. Hope for Europe Women’s events were begun in the early 1990s by Elizabeth Mittelstaedt from Germany, and were created to link European women, to encourage reconciliation and international friendships, and to provide helpful input for women in leadership positions.
Awareness and Education
Each day began with worship, followed by a Bible study by Lilo Keller from Switzerland. Keller discussed the concept of blessing found in Genesis 1:27. Reona Joly spoke on the life of Joseph of Arimathea on the first evening, while Timotea Vrablova welcomed the participants to Slovakia and introduced them to the rich Christian history in the nation.
“I did not know that young girls were being trafficked, even in my own town,” one of the Romanian pastor’s wives remarked. “But I am going back to my church and will encourage the people in my church to start helping these women.”
Ro Potter was the main speaker on this subject of human trafficking. Potter was born and raised in Japan as the daughter of missionary parents. When she was eighteen, she returned to the United States and attended Multnomah Bible College, where she received degrees in biblical theology and communications. After graduating in 2000, she moved to the Far East, where she saw the terrible impact of the sex industry on young girls. Shortly after this, God led her back to the USA and she began working against the global epidemic of human trafficking.
Shirinai, born in a Muslim family (one father, two mothers, and twenty children!), became a missionary after she received Christ. She has planted a number of churches among Muslims. Her practical and passionate talks showed how important it is for Christians to know about the roots of the Muslim faith.
Networking and Encouraging
Elke Werner, Senior Lausanne Associate for Women, gave practical examples of how younger and older women in leadership can work together to impact society.
Participants ranged in age from the early twenties to the seventies, with about half being younger than thirty-five. Werner encouraged the older women to mentor the younger women. Ksenija Sabo, who attended the conference with her two daughters, wrote this: “My girls are saying how many new friends they have now. Each night they talked with different young leaders for many hours. They are praying now for each other, and they are encouraging each other by mail. All these young girls are the hope of Europe.”
The final day focussed on the many ways women can be a blessing to society. A Hungarian female politician challenged the women to be informed about world issues. The women were able to visit different “market stalls,” where some thirteen different organizations working in society were represented. These included: Stop the Traffik (against human trafficking), Herzwerk (ministry to ex-prostitutes in Austria), Precept Ministries (ministry to help people understand the Bible), and Project Hannah (a radio program encouraging and comforting women in vulnerable situations).
The conference finished with a short visit to Bratislava, where the ladies walked from the castle down to the Danube and prayed for Slovakia.
Links to different ministries involved: