When Jesus Didn’t Pray for the Harvest

Umbrian countryside

Umbrian harvest

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few…”

The Lord has been pounding this verse into my heart lately. As a missionary, but mostly just as a follower or Jesus Christ, I daily feel the burden and the frustration for the predicament of the lost people around me. I try to share with everybody around me, from my four year old to the cashier at the grocery store. Yet so far, with the majority of them it seems I hit a wall.

Strangely, in what is probably Jesus’ most famous quote on evangelism, Jesus does not put the evangelistic priority on praying for the lost.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38 ESV)

Jesus makes some very interesting points about the harvest:
1. There is already a harvest. The seed has already been sown by God himself.
2. There is a shortage of laborers.
3. We are to pray earnestly to the Lord who already sowed and grew a harvest out there.
4. We are to pray specifically for the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest.

Jesus confirms this in John 4:35 when he affirms:
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

So, what stands between us and the harvest?
Prayer and laborers. And maybe even more specifically, prayer FOR laborers!

Are we to pray for laborers from another country or do we need to pray that God make laborers out of the Italian believers?
The answer is…yes.
Nevertheless, I am certain that the bulk of the work will have to be done by Italians, who are committed to reaping a harvest in their families, in their schools, at their jobs.

Our job has never been clearer: to Equip the Italian Church of the Next Generation to Reach the World for Christ.

Recently a young man in our church, exclaimed to me: “You’re right! Ever since you taught me that we are to always be ready to give an answer (I Peter 3:15), I have more opportunities to share Christ than I can handle!”.

I confess that I am not much of a street evangelist. I don’t love going door to door. But God gives me more opportunities to share Christ than I have time to tell you about. Every week someone somewhere is asking me about my faith in Christ.

People are asking the believers here in our church about their faith too…so we better be ready to help them give an answer!

Here are the outreach opportunities I’m most excited about at the moment:

Radio Outreach - Foligno

Radio Outreach – Foligno

1. A series of outreach events with the contacts from our Radio and TV ministries in Umbria: the Lake area (April 12th), Foligno (April 19th), Terni (May 24th) and Perugia (June 7th). So far the response has been overwhelming, with visitors from as far away as Tuscany!  Several of our church members helped out with this event.
2. I have had the opportunity to preach some very evangelistic messages on Sunday from First Thessalonians (about 40% or more of our church attenders are yet to make a profession).
3. We have been able to nurture several relationships with unbelievers and share the Gospel with them. In particular, we have been developing a relationship with the parents of one of Noah’s classmates from school.
4. We are working more diligently at training laborers and leaders in our church, including deacons and future pastors.
5. In June we have two major outreach events that involved the entire church body: our annual Soccer Outreach Tournament and Vacation Bible School.

The most important thing in the world you can be doing for Italy right now is praying.

As E.M. Bounds puts it in his classic work on prayer:
“On earth [Christ] lived and prayed and died for men. His life, his death and his exaltation in heaven all plead for men.
Is there any work, higher work for the disciple to do than his Lord did?
Is there any loftier employment, more honorable, more divine, than to pray for men?
To take their woes, their sins, and their perils before God; to be one with Christ?
To break the slavery which binds them, the hell which holds them and lifts them to immortality and eternal life?”

Would you pray for us and with us, that God will send his laborers into his harvest??

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In good hands with a good God

 

God is good.  All the time.  You know it’s true.  If it weren’t true, then nothing else He said would be true.  God is everything he says He is or nothing at all! He would not be reliable! But God is true and God IS reliable!

Here are a few examples:

Choir rehearsal

Choir rehearsal

1. Cancer:

My tongue surgery is scheduled for April 24th, with admittance on the 23rd.  I will be in the hospital for at least a week.  But being after Easter allows me to direct the choir and enjoy family time! I have also been asked by the other pastors to preach.  It is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.

Dealing with cancer has helped me ask myself: “If this were my last message, what would I want to preach?”  I have decided to preach a message on why the resurrection of Jesus gives me a solid foundation for my faith.

2. Antonietta:

My land lady, Antonietta,  has started listening to Radio Luce, our radio outreach.  We continue to have spiritual conversations with her, as well as her husband Ernesto, who a few days ago admitted to me: “I think I am going to die soon.”  He really didn’t have a clear explanation as to why he feels that way, but it gave me the opportunity to share of the hope and truth we live by.

At the game dinner in Montebello

At the game dinner in Montebello

3. Over-priced grocery store:

We all have to admit that we have an over-priced grocery/convenience store that we go to when we are in a pinch.  I go to one in the nearby town of Montebello. I have had many opportunities to share the Gospel there, and we give them Bible calendars every year.  One of the deli ladies gave us some of her home made Wild Boar Pasta sauce!  Then she invited us to come to a social meal where she was cooking!  Another lady opened up to me in line at the cash register.  She said that she never goes to mass because the ladies that go to mass are the same ones who steal from her store.  I share the gospel and even *gulp* gave her a tract.

4. Delegating:

One of the blessings of my illness has been to have to delegate things I love doing.  The one thing I love doing is leading worship.  I finally asked my substitutes, Jeremy and Vincenzo, if they would be willing to lead even when I am in church!  Another brother, Giuseppe, plans the worship service.  Now I just need to work on training deacons and preachers!

5. Provision:

horse

Noah found an interesting horse on one of our city errands!

We continue to marvel at God’s provision, despite the increasing costs of life and health care needs.  I have had one of our churches decide to allocate monthly money toward my cancer-fighting supplements.  We have had people give me money for my frequent trips to the cancer center in Milan.  Our insurance company promises 100% reimbursement for my hospital treatments…more than they would do if we resided in the States!

God is at work.  We are unworthy of His goodness toward us, and even of the kindness many of you show to us.  Please pray for God to be glorified and for much fruit in all we do!

Eva smiles

Eva smiles

We close with a new addition to our website: our most recent presentation.  It is a slightly updated version of the presentation we shared with you last time we were in America.  Once it leaves this page you will always be able to find it on our “Why Italy” page.

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Counting down to Furlough 2012

 

Shuttle LaunchTen, nine, eight seven…preparing for a six month furlough feels a little like waiting for a space shuttle to launch. With less than two weeks to go, things are really getting crazy around here.

  • Prayer cards are ordered
  • Display materials are being worked on.
  • Bills are getting automated.
  • Ministries are being delegated.
  • Housing – found (for the most part)
  • Transportation – found
  • Powerpoint presentation, VBS presentation, suitcases, dr. visits… not so much

HELP!!!

Before we leave we also have baptisms on June 3rd, with all the preparation that goes into that, as well as preparing studies for the youth.

Can we just plea for your prayers right now????

In the meantime ministry goes on.  Recently we had the privilege of bringing a bus of about forty people of the church to Rome for a day.  In the morning we had our worship service in the catacombs.  In the evening we worshiped with our sister church where Lucio was brought to faith.  Here is a short video of the occasion.  The singing….well…needs work, but imagine singing In Christ Alone in the catacombs!

 

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Snow showers of blessings

sNoah

sNoah

Greetings from snowy central Italy!  It’s not every day that Perugia is in the news for snow.  In fact, they say that it has not snowed this much since 1985.

You can imagine the chaos and the fear in people’s eyes as they are afraid to venture out of the house.  For us, on the other hand, having lived for many years in West Michigan, we are most afraid of the other drivers!
For the first time in the history of the Centro Evangelico Battista we even had to cancel church because of snow.Sometimes God makes us slow down when we need it the most.Since Christmas we have not really taken a break between discipleship meetings, choir preparation for Easter, visits, furlough preparation.In particular, we have had the challenge of helping young Christians who are struggling with their faith.  We ask your prayers especially for this aspect of our ministry.  It is not enough to lead someone to Christ; we must also be willing to live life with them and help them when they need it the most.As Paul said: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”   (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

Malta Conference

Tomorrow we leave for a week for a week of ministering and being ministered to in Malta, where we will be with many other Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries from around Europe.

Furlough 2012

We are looking forward to this summer when we will see many of you who support us so faithfully, as we will return for a brief furlough to celebrate what God is doing here in Italy.  We thank so many of you who have promised to open your churches and homes to us during this time.

Our schedule is filling up quickly.  You can click here for the most up to date information about our furlough.

We thank God for providing a vehicle (Melodee’s parents) and housing from mid-August through November.

Please pray for:

1. Housing for the beginning of our stay.

2. Preparation of our presentation (video and PowerPoint), prayer cards.

3. Affordable airline tickets.

4. Filling up of the rest of the dates available.

We also have several things that need to be accomplished before we leave: renewing Melodee’s residence permit, delegating ministry responsibilities, setting up bills for our absence, preparation of my request for Italian citizenship.

Though it all sounds overwhelming, we thank God because we know He is in control of our lives.

We covet your prayers and thank you for your time and prayers.

In Other News…

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