Baptisms!

This morning I got an unexpected call from Roberto. We were supposed to meet this afternoon for discipleship. He couldn’t come because he is sick. Immediately I asked him: “Will you be OK for tomorrow?” His answer: “I’ll be there tomorrow, even if I have 40º degree fever (104º F)”.
You see, tomorrow is not your average Sunday for Roberto…he and nine other people are scheduled to be baptized! He is so excited you would think he was getting married!

teaching

Dann teaching. Roberto is the first on the left.

Tomorrow is the culmination of months of preparation, study, reflection, prayer, and yes, even selection. For the first time aided by our new deacons in the interview process, we are happy to present these candidates to the congregation and to their unsaved relatives and friends. They will stand in front of a crown of potentially 150 people to share their faith in Christ and follow him through the waters of baptism.

Honestly, our part has been minimal. God has done the saving, the believers in our church have done the witnessing and my colleague/brother-in-law/friend Dann Ransom has done most of the preparation.
God is so good!

Please take time today to pray for these baptisms.

Pray for:
1. Clear testimonies and preaching.
2. Good health, especially for Roberto.
3. Good attendance.
4. More people to come to faith because of tomorrow.
5. For God to be exalted in His church!

Thank you for taking time and being part of this great event through your prayers, through your giving, though sharing with others the vision of what God is doing in Italy!

Jon, Melodee, Noah and Eva

Whitmans Christmas Portrait 2015
P.S. Make sure you connect with us through Facebook and Twitter too for quick prayer requests and news throughout the month!

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Three undeniable answers to your prayers for Italy

Last night, as I led the deacon training time, I looked around the room and was struck by how committed and engaged these men were, even at 10:30 pm!
God truly does work, despite the challenges and even through the challenges he brings about in our life and ministry.

I apologize if in my last letter you sensed desperation or dismay.  My goal was to help you pray more earnestly, and certainly not to make you feel sorry for us!

Someone said: “If you don’t feel inadequate or overwhelmed you are not working at something only God can do!”

God is doing things only He can do here. Here are
Three undeniable answers to your prayers for Italy:

1. You prayed for Noah’s adjustment.
Noah and EvaEvery morning on our way to Noah’s preschool, I take time to pray with Noah for his day.  One thing he ALWAYS asks me to pray for is that the new teacher will not yell at him (She is an old school Italian educator.).  Today after I prayed, he mumbled something from the back seat.  When I didn’t understand, he got a little frustrated with me: “I want to pray too!”  If that does not melt a parent’s heart, what does?  God is working in Noah’s heart!

2. You prayed for the trials of missionaries to Italy.

  • The Standridges and the the other missionary family I mentioned are both scheduled to return!  Please pray for them!
  • Sunday my Dad will begin his regular preaching, just in time for the Christmas season!

Praise God for working in their lives!

3. You prayed for our ministry.
(Here is where the letter risks getting too long!!)
Witness:
funeralMonday I was able to read Psalm 121 and pray at the graveside of the aunt of Serenella.  (Serenella is the sister in Christ that found me the Oncologist in Milan, just as a frame of reference.)
It’s remarkable that God allowed me to share at all. Just moments before, at the funeral, the priest has verbally abused Serenella’s family for trying to “lead this woman astray from the one catholic faith!”

Youth:
youth puzzle activityGod is working in their hearts.

  • A few weeks ago, the youth hosted the church on our regular Friday night  and we put together 2000 Bible calendars to give out in the Christmas season!  It’s a new record!

 

  • Youth puzzle activityWe have been studying shorter books of the Bible every Friday evening and have seen them get more engaged.  One girl has also been bringing a friend!

 

 

Maturing the church to independence:

After so many years of sacrifices, we are making great strides toward our long sought after goal of forming an autonomous local Baptist church.

Jon preaching

  • We have begun monthly deacon training meetings.
  • We have started small groups in the homes as a way to equip leaders and foster community.
  • We are training more worship leaders.
  • Melodee has almost completed her second course of music training for members.
  • For our Christmas program we translated and are working on Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus (praise or prayer request?).  Just a few years ago we couldn’t even get the choir to harmonize!

There is so much to be grateful for!  

Exciting things are not happening  despite the trials, but through the trials!  Walls are being knocked down (literally, as the church building is undergoing the next step of the long-term remodeling process) because God is doing so much!

Do you realize that in God’s sovereign plan he has used YOUR prayers and your giving to make all of this happen?
Thank you for making a difference!

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Count on it! Trusting God when the future is uncertain.

[3] I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
[4] For your steadfast love is great above the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
[5] Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
[6] That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
(Psalm 108:3-6 ESV)

If you have followed Jesus for more than one day, you realize that there are more times than not when we don’t know how things could humanly end well.

David describes how he faced this in Psalm 108.
He chooses to worship God before he even describes the challenge he is facing because our worship is an act of faith, a statement about what we know for certain about God.

Recently, we have been reminded of this in three ways:
1. Trials in the lives of missionaries near and dear to us.
2. Challenges in our family life.
3. Challenges in our ministry.

1. Trials in the lives of missionaries near and dear to us.
So many missionaries to the Italian people are going through some great trials.

You may have heard about the tragedy the struck Reed and Kyra Carr.  They were headed back to Italy as missionaries after a short furlough when they were hit by and unmanned tractor trailer.  Kyra lost her life in the accident.  Though we don’t know them personally, we were were all very affected by their tragedy.
But there are others:
– My mentor, Steve Standridge and his wife Stephanie have been held back from returning to Italy because he has Lyme’s disease and she has cancer.
– The Lyerlys have had to return to the States because of health problems, as well as the Johnsons.  Still another family has had their return delayed after a routine checkup that showed some potentially serious health problems.  My Dad is currently incapacitated from preaching and teaching because of surgery to his nose and throat.

It seems so remarkable how in the arc of just a few months so many missionaries to Italy have been under attack.

2. Our family is also facing some new challenges.
Noah has really been struggling returning to school and has developed a severe shyness and unexpected anger issues.

3. We have finally been overwhelmed with challenges in our ministry as we start out a new season of ministry.
– In regards to our youth ministry, we are at a loss for how to minister to this new generation.  In our recent youth dinner we had a full table.  Unfortunately, only a handful of the participants were from our youth group.  The others were from another youth group that had come to celebrate a birthday with us.

– Secondly, I have had so many opportunities to share the Gospel this summer (probably more than ever).  Unfortunately, none of the people to whom I witnessed have committed their life to Christ yet.

When David was facing such odds against him he worshiped, prayed and trusted in God’s steadfast love.  We can and will do the same.
Here are three promises we can count on:

1. God is love.
He loves the Carrs, and the Standridges, and the Lyerlies and the Johnsons, and my parents,  and us, and Noah, and the youth, and the lost.

2. God is in control.
The truck that hit the Carrs was out of control, but not God.
The health of our dear friends seems out of control, but not God’s grip on their lives.
Noah’s emotions may seem out of control to us, but God still has him in His hands.
The youth seem to have lost their first love, but God did not lose his grip on them.

3. Christ will build His church.
As John MacArthur so aptly put it: “Christ will build His church, not us.”
Now more than ever we need workers in the Italian harvest.  How can God allow these Church functiongood missionaries to be taken away from us, even temporarily?
Christ will build his church.
How can we think of reaching Umbria if we can’t even get through to our own children, or the young people we are counting on to be the church of tomorrow?
Christ will build his church.

 

How can we build the church of Christ if nobody comes to Christ?
CHRIST builds His church.  Not us.

Please continue to pray for missionaries.
Pray for our family.
Pray for our ministry.

We are certain in victory because it is God’s battle.
But often that victory passes right through your lips in prayer.

Thank you for making a difference through your prayers.

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Starting the year with a bang!

 

Happy New Year!!
In Italy the New Year celebration is a big deal.  It is traditional to have a succulent meal with multiple appetizers, at least two kinds of pasta, two side dishes (one being lentils cooked with sausage), two kinds of meats, and in some areas fish.  The meal usually starts after eight o’clock and takes a break when the clock strikes midnight.  Then there is dessert and a good espresso coffee, games and much laughter and joy.  Christians then gather to pray together.

One thing that is never missing is a continuous display of fireworks big and small in all directions (We don’t celebrate the fourth of July, so this is it!).
In some southern areas, such as Naples, they literally celebrate with a bang — with gun shooting and home made explosive devices.  Needless to say, many people end up in the emergency room with gunshot wounds and other injuries.  All in all, Italians know how to start the new year off with a bang!Fireworks

Our new year has started with a bang as well.  
We thank God for the opportunity to spend Christmas and New Year’s with Melodee’s parents in Florida and to see our kids enjoy being with their grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins that they rarely see.  Eva was able to be on American soil for the first time.
airplane ride

Other than spending a day in the emergency room for a swollen tongue, our time was uneventful in all the right ways.

Now we are back in Italy. As we count it a privilege to serve God here, we immediately sensed the pressure of the important job we are called to and the spiritual battle we are in.

 

Here are a few examples of things that you can pray for:

1. Hernia Surgery
I wish I could say I am getting back to work, but tuesday I got the call I had been waiting for since June… and Thursday morning I had hernia surgery (maybe moving too many pianos?).    Everybody is so patient with me!  I feel so guilty having to take more time off, but God knows exactly what He is doing!

2. Radio Ministry Challenge
We have not one, but two radio stations that have invaded our frequency, covering our signal even here in Perugia.  Pray for us as we go back to the lawyers to see what we can do.  It’s another one of those David and Goliath situations…but we all know who won in that story!

3. Deacons
On February 1st we have our “Vision Meeting” to officially vote in the three men who were chosen as deacons.  Pray for them and their families, as we have already seen some spiritual battles in their lives spring up form nowhere since the announcement.  Also pray for us as we prepare the deacon training manual.

4. Youth Ministry
Pray that we can continue to develop leaders and teachers, whoever they may be.  We are still looking for someone to be mentored into the teacher/leader position.

5. Baptist Mid-Missions European Enrichment Conference in Malta
In mid-February we will be traveling to Malta to participate in a wonderful conference with most of the Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries of Europe.  Pastor Patrick Odle from First Baptist in Elyria and Pastor Ed Sears from Grace Baptist in Winston Salem will be encouraging us through the Word.  Pray especially for me as I have been asked to lead the worship time, something I love doing (though I usually do it in Italian!).

6. Evangelism
God has been giving us some incredible opportunities to share the Gospel with people.
For obvious reasons, personal details have been omitted.

7. Please continue to pray for us in our teaching and equipping ministries, that God would use us.  
Please pray for my parents too who, after almost 45 years in Italy, are having problems renewing their residence permit.  As you can imagine, we are all quite concerned, but we look forward to God’s provision.

8. In February I also return to Milan for my cancer checkup.  
My oncologist says I am “special”.  (I’m not sure it is a compliment, though.)  He says he has never seen anyone with such mysterious symptoms.  Honestly, seeing what some people have gone through with this disease, I am very thankful that I am a bit different!

Thank you for taking time to read this “brief” note.  As usual, it was supposed to be short, but there is so much going on, this was the best I could do!
As my father-in-law, also a pastor says: “I can’t believe we can have this much fun and still get paid for it”.  Thank you for being with us through your prayers, through your giving, through just being our friends.  We are the richest of all people to be able to have you in our lives and share this common treasure of the Gospel.  You are a blessing to us, and we pray that we can be a blessing to you.

Family Portrait

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Merry Christmas!

 

Merry Christmas from the Whitmans!
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
(Philippians 2:5-7 ESV)

We thank God with you and for you!
Each one of you is a blessing to us.  Thank you for your faithful partnership in the Gospel.
Most of all, we celebrate our Triune God, perfect in redemption.  We celebrate Christ’s birth, we celebrate His death, we celebrate his victory over death by the power of the Father, displayed through the working of the Spirit in Italy and around the world as well as the future fulfillment of our redemption for His glory.

We wish you a wonderful Christmas celebration with your family and church family.
Jonathan, Melodee, Noah and Eva

IMG_2269 IMG_2213

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