Ministering in Lockdown

I remember when we first started hearing about Coronavirus back in January.  I was one of those who made fun of it…after all, we’ve had our fair share of SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Swine Flu, Bird Flu…you name it, we’ve heard it.

Yet when the numbers of people dying started incrementing rapidly we realized this was something more than the usual.
As of this writing more than 124,000 people in the world have contracted the virus, with more than 4,600 deaths and in Italy we’ve had over 12,400 cases and over 800 deaths.

I remember when we first started hearing about Coronavirus back in January.  I was one of those who made fun of it…after all, we’ve had our fair share of SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Swine Flu, Bird Flu…you name it, we’ve heard it.

Yet when the numbers of people dying started incrementing rapidly we realized this was something more than the usual.
As of this writing more than 124,000 people in the world have contracted the virus, with more than 4,600 deaths and in Italy we’ve had over 12,400 cases and over 800 deaths.

When Saturday we announced that there would be no church Sunday we were hoping the worst would have soon been over.  Unfortunately we were wrong.

Monday night the Italian government decided to shut down the country further and again today we heard that more restrictions have come about, so that Italians are not allowed to leave their homes if not for work or basic necessities, such as groceries and pharmacy.  Everything else is closed.
Schools will be closed at least until April 3rd.

We have attempted homeschooling this week (our hats are off to all you homeschooling parents!!!).
Pray for us!

So how do we minister under such circumstances?  After all, greater the need, greater the need for the Gospel!
I thank the Lord for very capable coworkers! Yesterday Daniel, Danilo and I met at church to figure out what to do.  (I mostly sat there pretending to understand the technological gibberish).
We decided after last week’s lack of a service to look into a way to stream services.

Streaming

Praise God we were able to stream via Facebook Live. Italian Christians were hungry for fellowship and worship!  The feedback we got was overwhelming and Daniel’s brief message from Psalm 46 was exactly what the people needed.
(You can follow us here. We will be streaming again Sunday at 10 AM Italian time and again Wendesday 8:30 pm our time.). 

We look forward to ministering to people.  We know that God uses everything for His glory.

We will be praying for you, as many of you soon may be facing what we have been going through.

What joy to know that our hope is not found in this world, and that our hope is eternal in Christ!

God is good!

Life in a Virtual Quarantine


I admit…I’m probably not the best person to write about this topic.

After all, I’ve never seen a zombie movie, nor do I plan to.

Yet the surreal atmosphere that the world, and especially Italy is facing right now with the Coronavirus reminds me  of every zombie movie I’ve never seen.

The needle that broke the proverbial camel’s back came when the prime minister of Italy decided to shut down all schools and public gatherings at least until the 15th of March, and possibly as lat as the beginning of April. Many families will be scrambling to figure out what to do with their children.  

It was a tough decision.
The official order is to keep at least 3.28 feet (one meter) distance from people.  Can you imagine enforcing that in Italy, where people greet with a kiss and personal space is socially unacceptable?
Imagine trying to enforce that with children’s ministries…

As I look out the window of our church office  I see business as usual…granted, probably less cars than a typical Thursday morning.  People still have to go to work.

We’re living in strange times.
Nothing can be taken for granted.
The economy seems on the verge of a collapse.
Even our church will not be able to meet this Sunday, as they try to curb this terrible virus that is taking the world by storm.

Umbria so far has not been as affected as northern Italy, where at least 80% of the cases have been, but the numbers are growing.
(For an interview to of missionary friends of ours from inside the “red zone” click here.)

Classroom

Schools are closed, social gatherings are discouraged when not forbidden, people walk around suspiciously (or at least I do!).  They are even considering playing soccer games in empty stadiums.
The hardest part is not knowing exactly when it will end.
In northern Italy, the infamous “red zone”, they have already been living this way for a while.

America may soon be facing similar decisions. All we can do at this point is pray. 

Please pray for us:

  1. Pray as we decide how to best minister to people in a country that is in virtual quarantine. 
  2. Pray that people will be open to spiritual conversations.
  3. Pray for the virus to end soon, so we can back to normal life.
  4. Pray for our planning for our visit to the United States in July for the 100 year anniversary of Baptist Mid-Missions.  In particular pray for:
    1. Good airline tickets
    2. Transportation and housing for our time there.
    3. Planning of the worship times for the conference
    4. Planning for my absence from the ministry
    5. Planning for the connections with ministry partners and family.

Thank you for praying!
The Whitmans

Three things that change the world

Blame it on the inevitable process of aging, blame it on having kids, blame it on some major health problems in my not-so-remote past…or maybe just plain laziness (it takes a lot of work to be lazy)… I’m always looking for ways to be efficient with my energy and time and resources.

Eva

Fortunately, I don’t have to feel guilty about it because even the Apostles had to prioritize their time! Do you remember when they had to STOP doing things in Acts 6:2 in order to focus on the things that made the most difference?

With a growing ministry, the risk of burnout is great, both for us as missionaries and the people we serve with at Centro Evangelico Battista.

An Italian, Vilifredo Pareto, summed up this idea of how to do the best things, observing that as a rule of thumb 20% of what we do makes for 80% of the results.

So we have had to ask ourselves:  “What makes the greatest difference in our life and ministry?”

Our prerogative certainly cannot be too far off from what the apostles considered their main priorities.

The body of Christ has many responsibilities and commandments to follow, but at the end of the day there are three things that we cannot stop doing if we want to obey Christ and make the greatest difference.

  1. Preach and teach the Word of God
  2. Pray
  3. Share Christ

1. Preach and teach the Word of God

2 Timothy 2:15

This summer I had the opportunity to finish our preaching series from the book of Ephesians.  How exciting to preach on the armor of God from deep behind enemy lines!
I was also privileged to spend over a week teaching spiritual disciplines as part of a discipleship course that my good friend and mentor Giorgio De Angelis hosted in his church in Torino for young people from all over Italy and even Albania!

This weekend instead we will be hosting the Exegesis classes for men from our church and other surrounding churches.
Please pray as we identify and train men for pastoral and teaching ministry.  With the majority of the cities in our region still unreached, there is no time to lose.

2. Pray

Ephesians 6:18
Call me a broken record, but our life and ministry depends on prayer. As a church we just made an big decision: we moved our main prayer time to Sunday mornings after the worship service (the time traditionally set apart for Sunday School.)  If people can’t come on Wednesdays, can we afford for our church to not have a well-attended prayer time?

We concluded our study on Ephesians gathering the entire church in a circle in true Baptist Mid-Missions fashion (story for another day), praying for us a church to be united in being faithful servants of the Gospel, of God and of each other.

All the great works of God since Pentecost and even before have been bathed in prayer.

3. Share Christ

Ephesians 6:19-20
One of the most frustrating things is to evangelize until we’re blue in the face and yet not see conversions!  God must have heard my prayers of frustration…this summer we had two unexpected blessings.  In one of our “Sunday school prayer times” I prayed with a young teen in our church.  We will call him David. I asked him about his faith and he prayed to be saved on the spot!  Even more than that, in July Melodee and I had the joy of being together with Noah when he prayed to receive Christ as his Savior!  It just doesn’t get better than that!
This, plus the reminder of Ephesians 6:19-20 has convinced us further that we need to pray for boldness in our witnessing.
Every day we are out with people we love and care about, and we desire for them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Every day people are going to hell because Jesus Christ is not their Lord and Savior. 

Every day people are hopelessly trying to get to God by their own strength.

PLEASE PRAY FOR BOLDNESS!!
Drop everything else and pray for boldness in sharing our faith!
Pray for opportunities to meet with unbelievers to study God’s word.
Pray for open doors.

Thank you for what you do to make a difference here in Italy!