A Week at the 46th European Christian Workers’ Conference
By T.J. Marinello
The 46th annual European Christian Workers’ Conference took place next to Lake Annecy, France, from August 19 to 25—a very warm week with daily temperatures averaging 100 degrees Fahrenheit! The nearly 100 people who gathered encompassed missionaries and their children who serve in Europe and have been commended from New Testament assemblies in English-speaking countries; European national workers from various countries; and those who came to serve at the conference. Commending assemblies in Belgium, Canada, England, France, New Zealand, Poland, and the US were represented. Assembly missionary service organizations that had their missionaries at the conference included CMML, Global Connections in Missions (New Zealand), Echoes International (UK), and MSC Canada.
For many, this annual conference is the only break from ministry in a busy calendar year; it’s one of the few times the gathered missionaries and national workers take in rather than give out in a public setting. The week of solid Bible teaching, afternoon seminars, seasons of prayer, and physical refreshment enabled the attendees to recharge on many levels.
Refreshment for spirit, mind, and body
Each day started with a season of prayer. Phil and Mary Parsons (CMML) led the prayer time—Phil, the men’s and Mary, the women’s. Other times of prayer followed the missionaries’ and national workers’ ministry reports.
This year’s main speaker for the adults was Dr. Mark Stevenson, a professor at Emmaus Bible College and an elder at Arbor Oaks Bible Chapel in Dubuque, Iowa. Mark presented nine well-received messages from the Gospel of Mark entitled “How Do We Keep Christ Central in Our Life?” His practical Bible teaching was apropos for the listeners. An international team—people from Poland and France as well as a missionary working in Austria—led the music.
Afternoon seminars included sessions entitled “Emotional Intelligence,” which counselor and assembly elder Dr. Paul Rabideau (New Jersey) presented. His wife, Rita, an area director for Body and Soul Fitness, led exercise classes for the women several afternoons in the air-conditioned main hall. Pascal Glock (France), son of Matt and Sylvie Glock (Missionary Prayer Handbook Day 10), led the “Glock Family Singers” in concert one afternoon. He also organized the missionaries and workers by ministry location, and then, each group presented a Christian song from their country of service.
The conference center’s pool and Lake Annecy were especially popular pastimes this year, given the uncommon heat, and two or three generations of missionary families could often be found enjoying the water. Offsite outings included a trip to the nearby town of Annecy, a UNESCO heritage site; a trip to Château de Menthon, the ancestral home of St. Bernard (yes, that Bernard, the trainer of the Alpine rescue dogs); and a jaunt to the medieval city of Conflans. The annual four-hour hike along a nearby ridgeline was attempted, but only five hearty souls of the 15 made it to the crest. The incredible heat felled the others, who had to turn back.
Old and new friends
For the teens and children, this was “camp week” and a time to renew lifelong friendships. This gathering is always a blessing and encouragement for them since they are with children just like themselves: children of missionaries or national workers who often feel as if they don’t quite fit in where they live. Anna Gifford-Remans and Jesse Remans (Belgium), daughter and son-in-law of Peter and Joanna Gifford (MPH Day 9), again led the teens; father-and-daughter team Dave and Abby Bensch (Oklahoma) returned to lead the middlers; and Anastasia Glock (France), daughter of Matt and Sylvie Glock, and Katie Stevenson (Iowa), daughter of Mark and Tonya Stevenson, worked with the nursery- and toddler-aged children. The teens and children put on a closing-night program that entertained the parents, grandparents, and other attendees and demonstrated the week’s Bible lessons.
This year, 17 of the attendees were associated with Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa, in some way: Maureen Crow (MPH Day 10), Matt Glock, Anastasia Glock, Randy and Sherri Hoffman (MSC), Paula Lenaerts (Belgium), Steve Luibrand (MPH Day 14), Mirek and Beata Marczak (MPH Day 13), Mary Parsons, Daniel Pasquale (MPH Day 12), Tom and Anne Stanczak (MPH Day 13), the Stevenson family, and myself. We comprised alumni, office workers, teachers, and one current student—people from as far back as the mid-1960s.
Both CMML and MSC were represented by servants from the main offices, and the conference provided the attendees an opportunity to meet or reacquaint themselves with MSC’s new executive director and his wife, Randy and Sherri Hoffman.
All in all, the week was a great blessing. Those of us who attended thank the Lord we could be there.
Dr. Tom Marinello and his wife, Patti, serve in the Netherlands and are commended from Garland Bible Chapel in Garland, Texas.
Originally published in Missions magazine, November 2023. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at CMML.us/magazine/subscribe.