Last week I made a bold promise: To celebrate Valentine’s month, rather than overwhelm you with so much that your heart will explode, for the next seven weeks we will attempt to only share one request a week and will keep it short and sweet.
So here goes: week two!
Even when the world is locked down, the Gospel is preached. Today’s keyword is Preaching. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
As I write to you, I am thinking with joy and trepidation about the message for tomorrow. What a privilege to be able to share God’s Word to God’s hungry people!
I have been enjoying preaching verse by verse through Paul’s letter to the Romans. It certainly is a big responsibility and fairly time-consuming in study time, but it is also one of our greatest opportunities to edify Christ’s church in Perugia and around the world, as well as to preach the Gospel every week!
Our church family is blessed with a hunger to know and apply God’s truths and share it with those around them.
As you may already know, the ministry we are a part of has always had a strong preaching ministry. I thank God for the many years of faithful preaching by my father, Fred Whitman, both in the church and on television since 1978!
Many things have changed over the years, but not the commitment to preaching God’s word, verse by verse, week by week.
Even now, with the pandemic and lockdown, thanks to new and old technology, we are able to get that message out, and people all over the world continue to follow along. With so many ministries shut down, including the children’s ministries, even our children are hearing the preaching. What a blessing to see them take notes in the front row!
Please pray that God will save souls and transform lives through His Word (Isaiah 55:11)!
It seems like yesterday that we were sharing the blessings of the end of 2020 (or maybe the blessing that 2020 ended!).
It was a challenging year, with one of our challenges presenting in being faithful in writing to keep you updated on the comings and goings of ministry. Then when you did receive news, it probably felt like drinking out of a fire hydrant! And here we are again…nearing the end of February and you are starting to ask yourself if we got lost or if for some reason all of our technology died at once.
We are deeply sorry for failing you in this way.So here is my prayer and my promise to you: because what God is doing in Italy is so important, by the grace of God we will provide you every month with at least one e-mail update and will continue to post requests on Facebook and Twitter as they arise.
Just as Luther would spend an extra hour in prayer on his busiest days, we must persevere in helping you pray for us in our busiest seasons!
To celebrate Valentine’s month (belatedly as well), rather than overwhelm you with so much that your heart will explode, for the next seven weeks we will only share one request a week and will keep it short and sweet (after today, of course).
So here goes…
Today’s keyword, as you can imagine from the subject, is: LOCKDOWN.
I am sure some people felt underwhelmed with activity and joined new online clubs and started new hobbies during Covid-19. That has not been our case, because the Gospel is not locked down! It is still moving at an incredible rate! Paul said: The Gospel is not chained! (2 Timothy 2:9)
The Gospel is not locked down, but Umbria is.
Umbria has now been on almost total lockdown for three weeks. The children have been doing school online for three weeks. Unlike parents who homeschool (bless you), we don’t get to decide the amount of homework. Somehow Italians think more homework is better to keep the kids out of mischief. So we oversee school… all day, every day. Extra homework on the weekend as a bonus!
So we need your prayers. The Gospel must go forth! Lockdown or no lockdown!
Our church meetings are not locked down, but we do have limits on how many people can attend. Right before lockdown one of the parents at school asked me about our church. I tried to explain to him where it was. I told him: “If you want, I can give you a tour sometime!” He looked puzzled… “We would love to come to a church service with you”! His answer took me by surprise! I guess I need to expect more from God!
Pray for this family to be able to come to church with us!! Pray for sanity and for the Gospel to go out.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Whitmans!
We are grateful to God and for you and we pray that God will continue to use us together for His glory in 2021!
 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.  For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:4–5 (ESV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
I’m sure you’ve heard the story before… George Whitefield, one of the greatest evangelists of all times was once challenged: “Why is it that you preach so often from that text, ‘Ye must be born again’?” Whitefield answered, “Because ye must be born again!” This is one case in which as Christians we are called to be broken records! Is there anything more important than sharing with people how that can have peace with God through Jesus Christ?
Then, the other day we were at the grocery store where we saw a classmate of mine from elementary school. He said: “I noticed that you are doing most of the preaching lately…”. It made me wonder: Just how many people are hearing the Gospel every week through our TV and social media that we don’t even know about! Praise the Lord, and pray that they would come forward! Conversations like this seem to take place weekly, if not daily. God is good!
What a privilege for us to serve on behalf of Christ in Italy, sustained by your prayers, gifts, encouragement!
Since the last time we talked you can easily summarize our ministry in three connected categories: Preaching, Discipleship and Leadership Training. God has blessed us so much that it will be hard to keep this short!
Preaching Over the last year God has blessed me immensely to be able to minister with a focus on the preaching of God’s word verse by verse, week by week. Preaching through Romans, especially, opens up incredible opportunities every week to share the Gospel! The beauty in the challenge of Covid-19 has been that we have been able to reach many people that otherwise would not have been able to hear the preaching of the Word of God. Just this past Sunday Antonella, a regular attender of our church (who is looking forward to being baptized this fall) shared with joy that she is able to send the Facebook link of our service to her mother every week! She said: “Though she won’t listen to me share the Gospel, she seems to enjoy listening to you share the Gospel!”
Discipleship You may remember Michele (Michael), who I met when he was the butcher at our grocery store. His wife is due to get baptized soon as well. He has been asking me frequently to meet so he can ask me questions from his Bible reading. Lately, he blew me away twice with his questions. The first one was, “Why do we sin?” Another day he asked me, “Is it okay to ask God that He receive the glory?” I did everything I could in my strength to scream out: “YES!!!”
When Loredana from New Jersey sent him a study Bible in Italian, I never saw him more happy. Pray that he would soon make a clear profession of repentance and faith.
He is just one example. We have several men signed up for discipleship groups this fall. Once again we are blessed almost beyond what we can handle.
I absolutely LOVE seeing men grow in their ability to lead. Danilo, our intern, has been a particular joy to work with this year. He has preached, led the usher ministry some Sundays, leads a small group on Wednesday nights and has been so vital in our streaming of the services. He is gifted, humble and very desirous to learn and grow. I get so excited to share with him that I think I might have overloaded him with ideas of good books to read!
Our preaching course of the Italian Theological Academy is also close to graduation. At the end of November we will have our final course. Pray for the men to be able to continue developing their gifts. This ministry has also been a blessing to other evangelical churches in the vicinity of Perugia.
The academy has also started a survey course of the Old and New Testaments that meets over Zoom every month. It sounds like our students have their hands full!
Lastly, kind of as a bonus, I must share that we really enjoy the impromptu Gospel opportunities that come our way. Even dropping our kids off or picking them up at their school becomes an chance to connect with people who still live without the hope that we have in Christ.
Pray that we can make the most of every opportunity!
You may be curious for some family news…
Melodee continues to serve through music and practical ministries in the church, as well as teaches piano every week, along with holding this family together.
Noah and Eva excel in their studies (though motivation at times is optional). Pray that we can shepherd their hearts every day toward Christ!
We’re praying about the possibility of finding a house that is a bit bigger and that allows for more hospitality and ministry (and room for our energetic 9 year old boy!!).
My brother Jeremy and his wife Francesca are proud new parents of Gioele, along with siblings Sofia and Giacomo.
My brother Josh and his wife Sara continue to serve with amazing gifts in the city of Imola along with their children. All us Perugia Whitmans have to fight over the chance of going to see them as they are so fun to be with!
Finally, my sister Elizabeth and her husband (and our team leader) Daniel are also proud new parents of Luke. Despite the challenges with his birth and having Down Syndrome, he continues to make progress, and they hope they can bring him home soon!
My parents continue to bless all of you in the States as they plan to arrive back in Italy on November 6th. We’re glad that they will hopefully be back by Christmas!
Thank you for making time to read all this!
Let us be broken records with one more thing. We love you all and thank God for each one of you!
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2)
The other day it dawned on me that I was supposed to be somewhere else in that moment…that is, before Covid-19 changed all of our plans, and probably yours too.
We can all probably think of some things that we would be doing differently this summer if life hadn’t been in many ways turned upside down by this virus. It comforts us to know that God knows what is happening, even when we don’t! This reminds me of a verse:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8)
We were all excited about our summer trip to the United States to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Baptist Mid-Missions as well as spend some time with Melodee’s family. After all, our kids are the only cousins her sisters Harmony’s kids have! We also looked forward to being in our home church in Grand Rapids, catching up with our mentors and friends, and why not, enjoying some good American summer cookouts along the way!
When the US consulate cancelled our passport renewal appointment after Easter we had a feeling that things were not going to go as planned. As it turns out, at least for us, it very well may be that this summer had a greater impact than we had hoped for!
Here are just five of those blessings:
1. Family We have been able to hold consistent family devotions, reading through the book of Proverbs during this time! We have also had time for more meaningful conversations and making memories. Eva even learned how to ride her bicycle!
2. Mission Family
Despite the disappointment of not being together to celebrate our 100 year anniversary, in July Baptist Mid-Missions welcomed Pastor Patrick Odle as the new president of Baptist Mid-Missions. He has been highly involved for many years with the mission as pastor of First Baptist of Elyria, even speaking to missionaries in Europe (with an obligatory stop with us to visit Rome and Perugia!). Please pray for our previous president and mentor Vernon Rosenau as he prepares equips our new president for the task and transitions into a new phase of life with his wife Jan. Pray for his health too!
Much of my time sin we last spoke has been spent in sermon preparation. What a blessing to be able to spend time with God every day preparing to share God’s Word with God’s people! I learned so much preaching through the End Times, and now I am excited to preach verse by verse through Romans…the book written to locals! (Perugia would have been one of the first places to receive this letter after the Roman Christians).
I appreciate the trust and encouragement given to me by the Pastors and the church as a whole! Because of Covid-19 we are still not able to have children’s ministry. Many people still stay home for safety reasons, but thanks to Daniel and Danilo we have continued to stream the services, allowing everyone to follow, even from home, from vacation or even people from other parts of Italy without access to local churches.
4. Leadership Development
Pastoral Internship I was able to continue spending time with Danilo, our pastoral intern He has been an incredible asset to the ministry, even during this time with so many restrictions. His heart for God, willingness to grow and learn, and graphic design skills have been a great blessing to us all.
Theological Academy Many of our men participated in the preaching labs offered by the Italian Theological Academy. What a blessing to see these men prepare and expose God’s Word! We look forward to see what God has for them in the future!
Discipleship We continued meeting over ZOOM every two weeks throughout June with several men in our church. Though we had asked for a commitment through June, some men even asked to continue meeting once in a while to keep up! We have also met with other men individually to help wherever needed.
5. New Deacons!
Lastly, thanks to the gifted organization of Daniel, after several months of nominations, meetings and voting, we were able to welcome two new deacons to the ministry of our church! These men have seen exponential growth in character and service in the last few years and the vote of approval was unanimous! We look forward to seeing how these men will “gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 3:13)
There’s so much more I could say! We have so much to be thankful for. We only with you could be here to see for yourself!
God’s work not only continues through hard times, it flourishes!