Lydia was on a riverbank praying quietly among other women when Paul met her. He had recently had a vision of a man pleading with him to go to Macedonia because the people there needed help (Acts 16:9–12). Paul went to the bustling trading town of Philippi to preach to the Gentiles. He found a peaceful retreat along the banks of a river, and away from the noise of the city, he taught those gathered about the gospel. Lydia, a businesswoman, had joined others for worship that day. Acts 16:14 states that she was “…a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira….”
In ancient times, Thyatira was located about forty-two miles inland from where the coast of Western Turkey meets the Aegean Sea. The city was famous for its dye trade and textiles. Archeologists have unearthed artifacts with inscriptions from trade guilds that include wool workers, tanners, linen weavers, and dyers. Lydia was believed to have been a dye merchant. Today, the city is called Akhisar.
The Bible reveals that Lydia's heart was opened by the Lord to receive Paul's message, and she and her household were baptized. She then opened her home to the missionaries. Thus, the little Christian community at Philippi was established by Lydia. The Scriptures state that Lydia opened her home another time — when Paul and Silas converted their jailer and were given freedom, they went to Lydia's house. Her home was probably the meeting place of the early Philippian Christians.