European Christian Workers’ Conference 2022
By Philip C. Parsons
In Mark 6:31, the Lord instructed his disciples to refresh themselves physically and mentally: “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Each year, assembly commended workers in Europe apply these principles to their lives at the European Christian Workers’ Conference—a week of refreshment, rest, and spiritual enrichment. From August 20 to 26, 2022, these believers and their families gathered in Saint-Jorioz, on the shore of pristine Lake Annecy, for the 45th conference.
A week of precious fellowship
Attendance was less than expected. Some prospective participants contracted COVID-19 and canceled their reservations, and some regular attendees chose to take furloughs during the summer months. Still, 53 adults and 18 children attended the conference.
Of special note this year, some of the helpers were MKs who, as children, had attended the conference with their parents. Their contribution was a powerful testimony to the value of the retreat and their desire to give back. From the Glock family (Missionary Prayer Handbook Day 10), Anastasia helped with the nursery, and Pascal led the music each day. Rebecca Toal, daughter of Kathy M. (MPH Day 11), helped with the “middlers” program (ages 6–13). Anna Remans-Gifford, daughter of Peter and Joanna Gifford (MPH Day 9), and her husband, Jesse, led the ministry to teens and organized a spirited family fun night.
The keynote speaker was Paul Davis (the Evangelical Alliance Mission), a longtime missionary in France with his wife, Karan. His encouraging ministry on the theme “Living Joyfully Even Though . . .” came from Philippians. Using his personal experience, Paul demonstrated that we can be joyful by expressing thankfulness for the past, counting it a blessing to participate in God’s plan of salvation, putting others first, and learning contentedness and generosity.
An engaging yet relaxing schedule
First thing each morning, my wife, Mary, and I led prayer time for the women and men respectively. After breakfast, Paul Davis presented two ministry sessions, with a break in between, and the children met with their program leaders.
The afternoons were purposefully unstructured so families could do as they pleased, choosing to relax or participate in optional activities. Kathy M. organized a trip to the quaint village of Annecy, a visit to the Paccard Bell Museum, and tours of Conflans (a medieval city) and Chateau de Montrottier (a medieval castle). For those seeking a more vigorous and stretching activity, Dr. Tom Marinello (MPH Day 13) led a hike up a nearby mountain trail that rewarded participants with a breathtaking view of Lake Annecy.
At the retreat center, families could rent bikes and swim in the pool. Or they could spend time with Dr. Paul and Rita Rabideau (New Jersey): Rita led three fitness sessions for women, and Paul, a biblically trained counselor, met with anyone seeking counsel. Over the years, many have appreciated his advice and guidance.
Participants could choose to attend seminars before dinner. Over two sessions, Dr. Paul Rabideau spoke on “Knowing God’s Will.” Marti Pasquale (MPH Day 12) presented “The Worst Crime of the 21st Century: Sexual Trafficking,” and Paul Davis addressed the topic “Adapting Missions Strategy to the Changing Times.” On the final afternoon, in place of a seminar, Pascal Glock performed some of his original music (instrumental and vocal) while his sister Anastasia and mother, Sylvie, accompanied him.
The week’s scheduled evening activities included a family fun night and ministry reports from the workers. During the conference’s closing meeting, led by Steve Luibrand (MPH Day 14), the children gave parents an overview of their week through songs and skits. Then, Steve invited the adults to share what the week meant to them. Many offered thanks to God for the blessings of the spiritual enrichment, friendship, and fellowship. The conference organizing committee announced next year’s retreat for August 19–25, 2023, at the same facility, Lord willing.
Philip C. Parsons, CMML missionary care and security
Originally published in Missions magazine, November 2022. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.