Joy in Ministry :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Joy in Ministry

Frank DiBagno
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One may be glad when circumstances produce an unexpected outcome. Perhaps a thrill may produce adrenaline in an exciting, fleeting moment, or laughter may come due to a witty comment or amusing event. But joy in the Lord is different. Joy in the Lord lasts. It endures when one recognizes that we are not pawns but beneficiaries of God’s grace, truly friends of the Savior. Not by (my) power, not by (my) might, but by His Spirit, our God accomplishes His work. Joy begins when reading and pondering His Word, truly near the Son Who is the Word. What a marvel, the reality that He permits me, a weak sinner, to embrace Him, to find solace, comfort, and forgiveness, followed by rest and His peace.

It brings joy or satisfaction to witness the Lord as He closes and opens doors. While we were searching for the first storefront rental property for our church in Italy, three times an owner pulled out of the deal at the last second. That hurt! Finally, one family chose to lease to us a better facility, so we could open in February 1995. Praise God, the ministry grew in that unlikely spot until we moved in 2009. The ministry continued to progress until another setback and loss came less than a year later. Hurt and joy in the Lord coincide and coexist.

At our second location we hosted the BJU Musical team twice, along with missionaries, pastors, Christian educators, scientists, music groups, and friends. Joy increases as one knows that the Spirit of God is working.

Again, the Lord opened doors. Our landlord would never permit any opportunity to name our Lord, much less witness to him. In 2005, someone knocked at the door. There was our landlord with a question: What did I think of the new pope? We spoke for two hours. He took a Bible, and we became friends—not my doing! In 2009, we rented our new church facility from him. From that time on, he and his wife attended nearly every church service when they were in town. The Lord kept the door open. In 2019, we spent time with him and his wife. They listened to the Gospel. Though they did not accept the Lord that day, we continue to pray that they will.

An older couple in our neighborhood began listening to the Gospel back in the 1990s. They were always sweet, hospitable, and gracious. We had lunch with them often. Though never hostile to the Gospel, they couldn’t grasp its simplicity. During my return visit to Italy in 2022, on my last day in the area, this dear old friend said, “I’m scared.” The blessed open door! That day my oldest friend, 93 years of age, trusted in the Savior.

It gives great satisfaction and joy to see the local church in Central Italy going forward for the Lord. It is wonderful to see growth, fruit in lives, extension of the Gospel, and new initiatives for God’s glory.

Since “retirement” the Lord has given us the green light to return to Italy twice, along with the opportunity to fill the pulpit for a month in Ohio and later in Wyoming. Other invitations to preach have come from Virginia and again from Ohio. The Lord has also given teaching opportunities in our church in South Carolina for both my wife and me. The Lord is our joy, and He gives grace to continue to plow, plant, water, wait, and see fruit in His time.

Last year the Lord opened another road to ministry. By His good pleasure, I’m the chaplain (albeit part-time) of a detention center. The first steps were unsteady, but the Lord held my hand to keep me upright. There are multiple occasions to counsel, pray with folks, preach, teach, distribute literature, explain the Gospel of grace, and see the Lord work in lives.

The Lord whispers to our hearts the meaning and the value of His joy as we abide in Him.