The Great Orchestrator of Our Lives and Ministries
I vividly recall a prayerful moment from the beginning of the summer in 2022. I had been laboring extensively here in Italy on the mission field in a new town we are reaching for Christ. We had been (and still are) pioneering in the work of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Since the start of this current work, we had been praying (and waiting) for more missionaries to join us. It was always our intention to incorporate more missionaries into this new work. The problem is that missionaries are not so easy to find today. The pandemic did a tremendous job at hindering all forms of missionary participation.
To make things even harder is that despite all the good hard Gospel labor we were doing, we were seeing very little results. No conversions. No people born again and rightly desiring the things of God. Numerous souls had come close only to then disappear. In a very real sense, our labor was seeming to be completely in vain.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. - 1 Pt. 5:6-7
As I cried out to the Lord, I reminded Him that I didn't decide on my own to become a missionary. It was not my idea. It is one of the last things I would naturally desire to do. I further reminded the Lord that I had not been laboring in my own power, but in the power He alone provides, that of the Holy Spirit, and that I had not been laboring for my own glory, but for the glory of God. I even reminded the Lord that by His grace, we were preaching the true gospel and not watering it down. I remember saying, “Why Lord are we seeing so little fruit from all this labor? All that we do is by you, through you, and unto you? Lord Jesus, you must do something. I'm afraid I just can't go on any longer alone like this.”
In essence, this was the sum of that memorable time I had alone with the Lord in prayer. It’s one of those moments of prayer that we don’t forget. To my astonishment, it was within less than 48 hours that I received a message from someone that I did not yet know personally. I received a message from sister Desi of Provoked Podcast, part of Apologia Studios. She and Zack had reached out to see if I would be interested in joining them on an episode of their show, to talk about the spiritual realities of Italy and evangelism in Italy. Wow! I was speechless. Grateful, yet also trepidatious. Despite the fact that I oversee a ministry and host a podcast and can be seen talking on numerous platforms, I don’t like attention. I’m actually quite reserved. But what a humbling thought it was to get to talk with these dear folks and on a platform that far more people watch/listen to.
How did it come to be that Provoked contacted us? I suppose only the Lord knows, ultimately, but I saw this as an answer to prayer. I gladly accepted the invitation, even though the video call would be scheduled for around 3 am Italy time… I was glad to be able to meet Zack and Desi and enjoy a wonderful conversation.
Furthermore, when PMc publishes an episode on Missions Incorporated, we typically have around 50 people listening. When they do a podcast episode, there are typically thousands that tune in to listen. To be able to share with them and their audience about the realities of Italy and the ways that others can get involved via PMc was not just a great pleasure, but a great opportunity.
It was through that episode that Robert & Lara Vitter learned about Practical Missions Cohort. In 2020, after returning to the US following over 7 years of missionary service in Italy, they were praying about their return to Italy. They looked at many different ministry options, and decided to move forward with PMc, believing it to be the Lord that led them to see our interview on Provoked. They reached out and got in touch with us and a genuine friendship has since formed. Now they are presently on their way to the mission field, having already raised the needed support. They will be coming alongside of us to continue the work here in the city of Mestre, Lord willing for many years to come. They will be serving with us to see the Lord plant a new church where Italian men will one day be trained and recognized as a plurality of elders to oversee the flock and take our place. Glory to God!
So how is it that Provoked Podcast ever heard about us? Ultimately, I suppose it is only the Lord who truly knows all the details. During the height of the covid pandemic I had shared with our ministry partners and friends, some quality podcasts that I recommend. Among the list of recommended podcasts, I included Provoked even though it was still a podcast that was just starting out at that time. I recommended them because some of their early episodes were particularly encouraging to me, especially in the context of evangelism and how God is glorified through faithful and obedient Gospel work.
I was also impressed with their work of encouraging the body of Christ to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves, mainly the millions of babies being slaughtered in the womb throughout the United States. They do a great job at evangelizing the lost in front of abortion clinics and at encouraging others to get out there and ‘fight the good fight’. I greatly respect them for that work that they do.
Today my heart is encouraged as we labor on in the trenches of Italy. Though many don’t see us or forget about us, God does see us. He reminds us that He has the perfect plan. As we labor on by faith, God will have the right people notice us and the right people ignore us. When we serve wholeheartedly, and do all our labor unto the Lord Himself, we can trust His timing. His grace is always sufficient. He is the great orchestrator of our lives.
My exhortation to all of us is that we keep on doing what we know God has called us to do. When it's going well, give praise to God. When it's going less well, or doesn’t seem to be going well to us at all, give praise to God the same. His ways are not like ours, but He is always working things out for our good and for His glory. He is the ultimate orchestrator of our lives, and there is no one better!
I don't believe it was an accident that I came across the Provoked podcast and was moved in heart to recommend it to friends of the ministry. I don't believe it was an accident that somehow Desi came to see our review and recommendation of the good work they do. I believe it was God's providence at work. He knew that it would also lead to an interview coming together sometime later. He knew that interview would be the means to call the Vitter family back to Italy with a ministry with which they align just right. He had a plan to send more laborers into the harvest even before I cried out to Him in prayer.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. - Eph. 3:20-21
When you feel like giving up, let me encourage you to first pour out your heart to the Lord. He is attentive to the prayers of His people. He is at work in more ways than we can imagine to do more and greater things than we could even dream. After this extended season of laboring alone in the trenches, facing many limitions, we are now joined by co-laborers. In an extremely barren land like Italy, this is no small thing. To God alone the glory.
We invite you now to join us in praying for Robert & Lara and their six beautiful children as they pack all their stuff and are sent out by faith into the harvest in Italy.
Written by Jesse Schreck | founder, director, and missionary with Practical Missions Cohort