In 1964, a chaplain of the US airforce, Guy Mayfield, launched a European conference, primarily to bring together Christians from the various countries in Europe, be they American missionaries, military personnel, or local European believers. In December every year since 1964, the Mid Winter Rally dominates our thoughts and activities. The holiday period from Christmas to New Year has proven to be an ideal time when the most people can assemble.
For many years the rally speakers were “home force”, recruited to lead sessions and worship. Later years saw highly gifted leaders who brought a high spiritual tone and technical expertise to the rally. Early on, the mothers took care of the children’s programming; later, Bible colleges sent their students to free the parents to enjoy some rest and participate with the other adults. These students get a brief experience of European life and rub shoulders with Europeans and veteran missionaries who can spark their interest in future evangelism on the Continent.
The meeting has been held in Belgium, Italy, and Hungary but most often in various parts of Germany such as Balingen (south of Stuttgart), Berlin, Russelsheim near Frankfurt/Main, Colditz castle near Leipzig, on the German-Swiss border near Basel, and other sites. By varying the conference sites, we were able to visit some of the surrounding cities.
Generally, the prevailing language spoken is English. For a number of years, the meetings were attended by Italian Christians who worked in southwest Germany, Belgium, and France. Harold Fowler, an American missionary serving in Italy, furnished simultaneous translations so that this group could understand the sessions. With the Italians’ retirement and return to Italy, translation was no longer necessary, since more and more Europeans are speaking English. The goal of the rally is to encourage disheartened fellow workers and build up lonely foreign believers.
Some military people were challenged at the rally to dedicate their lives to Christian professional ministry. Some went to Bible college and became ministers of the Gospel. Others who participated in this conference have come away with fond memories, long-term fellowship and family friendships, especially among the missionary children. Even today, some of the children and one-time attendees use Facebook to catch up with their friends from European Mid Winter Rally days.
With the drop of the American military presence, the ease and low cost of flying to the States, and the many options for travel in Europe today the attendance has fluctuated greatly since the mid 90’s. And yet those who attend are blessed with the fellowship and encouragement.
We would encourage you to attend one of these conferences, held every year between Christmas and New Year. Please feel free to contact Mid Winter Rally for details.