The Gospel in Europe: Conversion of a Purple Woman.
Acts 16:11–15 (NAB)
11 We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis,
12 and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city.
13 On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
14 One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.
15 After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.
At Philippi, Paul and his companions went down to the river on the Sabbath because Philippi did not have a synagogue. There have to be at least ten Jewish man before a synagogue may be formed. At the river, they met some women who were either washing clothes or involved in gathering water to make dye. It was fascinating to consider that these women would talk to strangers. That they did and that was how Paul and his companions met with Lydia. Lydia may not be her real name as according to convention at that time, she was ‘a Lydian woman’ or ‘the woman of purple’ because she was from Lydia in Asia Minor. She was described as a ‘worshipper of God’. That meant that she has been in contact with Jews and though a Gentile was accepted into their beliefs.
Lydia was from Thyatira region in Asia Minor which was famed for their purple dye trade. We do not know why Lydia was in Philippi. Some scholars speculated that she was a widow and her husband was in dyeing business before he died. The basis for this was that no man was mentioned and at that time, it was unusual for a woman to invite strangers to her house unless she was a widow and house-owner. Purple dyed cloths was in strong demand and Lydia was probably a rich business woman.
She believed the Gospel and was baptized, making her the first convert in Europe. The first convert in Europe was a Gentile and a woman!
Picture source: “Icons courtesy of http://www.eikonografos.com used with permission”