Fifteen years ago my family saw this mosaic standing in the middle of the modern city of Verea in Greece (that’s Berea in the New Testament). It recalls the first episode from this week’s text in Acts 16:6-15. In verse 9 Paul has a vision of a “man of Macedonia” pleading for Paul and his companions to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Paul and Silas eventually get to Berea in chapter 17, but their first step in that journey was in verse 11, to set sail from Troas in what is now modern Turkey for a landing at Neapolis, effectively the first Christian visit to Europe. From their landing on the beach at Neapolis, they walked north to Philippi, where the first European convert to Christianity was the woman Lydia.
The face of Europe and all world history changed when Paul and Silas landed there at its furthest eastern region. The message they brought would over the next few centuries spread and transform life and culture across the area we think of as the heart of western civilization. Europe became Christian.
Of course, neither Paul nor Lydia could foresee the events that would unfold from their decisions and actions. Paul would have been surprised that modern Berea would one day be filled with churches and that an image of himself would stand there. Neither of them could have ever guessed at the great Christian monastic movements or the Christian establishment of the first universities or the great cathedrals which would rise across the European landscape. They had no inkling of the great missionary movements outward from Europe that would take the good news of Christ to places they didn’t even know existed. They just joined in conversation about Jesus in a little place for prayer alongside the river outside the city.
One lesson here is that none of can really know the extent of what will come from what we do here and now. A little kindness or a word or two about Jesus to a stranger might make a vast difference in how history unfolds beyond our own lives. Or it might just mean the healing and transformation of a single life or family. In either case, God can accomplish huge things through us if we are only faithful and attentive to His direction. As Ephesians 3:20 says, He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…”