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‘Ministry begins in the local church and pours over into the universal church’

Every Tribe, Every Tongue

‘Ministry begins in the local church and pours over into the universal church’
Posted on May 31, 2020  - By Elizabeth Abraham

Melinda Dilione and her husband, Mike, grew up with Catholic influences, but both of them only came to know the Lord later in life through faithful friends who shared the gospel with them. It was after Mike attended an all-night prayer meeting, specifically for Niger in West Africa, that their call to the mission field began. 

They originally thought they were being called to serve in North Africa, but after almost four years of prayer and discussing the matter with their elders, the Lord showed them that they were to serve in May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica instead.

The pair have been married 10 years and have three children between the ages of three and eight. Their primary focus of ministry is teaching and pastoring students at Midland Bible Institute (MBI) as well as working alongside the local assemblies. 

How did you and Mike come to know the Lord?

Mike had a Catholic influence from his grandmother, but was not exposed to the gospel. He got saved at the age of 12 through friends who’d invited him to a youth group session. After a two-hour discussion in the car outside his house, Mike gave his life to the Lord. The parents of Mike’s friends were committed to seeing him grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, and would pick him up for church every week until he was 18. 

As for myself, I grew up with a Catholic background and served as an altar girl. I got saved in my freshman year of college when a young man clearly explained the gospel. Growing up in the Catholic church, I’d heard about Jesus. Still, it wasn’t until that conversation with the young man that I clearly understood my sin and need for a Saviour. 

Growing up in the Catholic church, I’d heard about Jesus. But it wasn’t until that conversation that I understood my need for a Saviour

Tell us a little more about your ministry in Jamaica.

Our primary focus of ministry is college students. Mike teaches a full course load each semester. He will teach any theology course the college offers. Currently, he is teaching New Testament Survey, Introduction To Missions, Biblical Eldership, and Biblical Hebrew.  Because of the financial state of the college, we are not paid, relying solely on the Lord to meet our needs each month through the generous giving of the Lord’s people through the ministry of CMML. 

We also host Bible studies in our home, which is attended by both MBI students along with college students and other young people from the local church we attend. We spend a lot of time with the students outside of the college — many of them often join us for weekly family dinners! — and try to follow the example of Paul when he wrote, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). 

What would you say to readers who are waiting on the Lord to provide a need?

I am reminded of Hebrews 13:5, “Be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

I would encourage your readers to remember that the Lord provides us with what we need, not what we want. So, if you are seeing the Lord ‘not providing’ for something, it is because you do not need it. I say this with a lot of empathy. 

We were asking the Lord to help us pay off our USD50K student loan debt to go to the mission field but, you see, the Lord didn’t provide a check for USD 50K. Instead, He provided us with the discipline to budget and pay off our debt quicker than the average monthly payment. 

Be sensitive to what you are asking for and how the Lord is leading to answer what you are asking Him to provide. 

Be sensitive to what you are asking for and how the Lord is leading to answer what you are asking Him to provide

Give an example of a challenging situation you recently faced and what the Lord taught you from the experience. 

The Lord has been teaching us to be patient with those we pastor. We were recently in a difficult situation, having been entrusted to secrecy by a couple who had made a questionable decision. While we were not happy about the situation, the Lord used Galatians 6:1-2 to remind us that we are to “restore them with a spirit of gentleness” and to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”. We continue to meet with the couple to counsel them, and although there is progress, there is a long road ahead.

As believers, how can we help other believers in our sphere of influence who are walking in sin?  

I love the step-by-step process in Galatians 6:1-3 for correcting our brothers and sisters: 

  1. Is this person in sin? It is a good reminder to use Scripture to define sin. There are grey areas in the Christian life and we should be sensitive to that. 
  2. Are you spiritual? Galatians 5:22-26 defines a spiritual person. 
  3. Keep watch on yourself. This step can go in two directions… Are they caught in a transgression that you could easily become entangled with? Also, are you self-reflecting and confessing your own sins?
  4. Bear their burden. Do not correct without a solution. The idea here is to come alongside them and carry their weight and grief, just as if someone sprained an ankle and you were lifting them off the football field. 

What are some practical steps we can take if we are seeking the Lord’s guidance about direction, especially in ministry?

The first step in seeking guidance about the Lord’s leading is sensitivity to the Holy Spirit at work. This happens in multiple ways, but one way, in particular, is being sensitive to how those around you sense the Lord’s leading — especially the oversight in your local church. 

Your involvement in ministry is not focused on what you do, but how what you do impacts the local church you are accountable to. So, practically speaking, it begins with being involved in a local church and submitting to the leadership of that local church. The apostle Paul is an excellent example to follow in Acts 13. 

Your involvement in ministry is not focused on what you do, but how what you do impacts the local church you are accountable to

Next, understand how your spiritual gifts will enable you to be effective in a specific ministry. One way we saw the Lord moving in a different direction from Niger was that we were having trouble understanding how our spiritual gifts would be beneficial to the work in Niger. The elders agreed that teaching was one of my gifts, and we were concerned about the challenge of communication. I was struggling with learning French, never mind having to learn a tribal language on top of French. 

If I were to create steps, it would be: 

  1. Are you a part of a local church? Ministry is not focused on an individual but a local church.
  2. How are you involved in that local church? Ministry begins in the local church and pours over into the universal church. 
  3. What are your spiritual gifts? Do the elders agree? Spiritual gifts identify your ministry, but they should be confirmed by the body of Christ.  
  4. How would your spiritual gifts enhance the ministry? 

How can we pray for you?

Pray that our family will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and that we would continue to remain faithful. 

Pray that Mike will continue to be effective in his teaching at the college, and that the Lord will use our family to minister to the college students.

Pray for the couple we are counselling. 

Pray for two individuals we are discipling (we’ll call them S and R), as both have admitted that they are struggling with their faith.

Elizabeth Abraham

About Elizabeth Abraham

Elizabeth Abraham — or Elsa, as she is usually known — has lived in the Lone Star State of Texas for most of her life, where she works as a physician assistant. From teaching preschoolers at Sunday school and mentoring younger sisters in Christ to conversing with co-workers and caring for elderly nursing home patients, her desire is to know the Lord and make Him known.



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