Tag Archives: Cancer

Our first Video Update ever

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Mr. and Mrs. WhitmanYou’re probably thinking: “What are you talking about??  You just sent one the other day!

Funny how that works out…
Wednesday I worked for two hours on this video report, then the earthquake happened.

So you received a second video update before the first one.

In this video we share what is going on in our family and ministry life, plans for the near future and important prayer requests.

We hope you enjoy it!

Birthday presents: early, on time or belated?

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Noah's birthday joyWe all love birthday presents. 
Personally, I don’t even care if they are early, on time or belated.  I just love a good surprise!
Most people like to celebrate their birthday, one way or another.
(I say most because I have discovered that there are a few out there that really don’t love birthdays…I can’t say I can relate!)

I have had many memorable birthdays, but there are two that are related to my adventures as a cancer patient. 
One was a belated present.  A second one was a day early.

I remember my birthday in 2010 like it was yesterday.
I was still healing from my first tongue surgery. It was a perfect day for grilling.  As I savored my steak with family I just had this feeling…there was something wrong in my tongue.
The next day I got the call we had not hoped for.  The lesion that they had taken out of my tongue was squamous cell carcinoma. Classic tongue cancer.
They scheduled me on the spot for another surgery because they were afraid it could have spread to other parts of my tongue, or worse, to my lymph nodes.
This time they took out more tongue and most of the lymph nodes on that side of my neck, leaving the rather conspicuous scar that I admire when I shave.
God allowed that call to come one day after my birthday. You could call it a belated birthday present.  I was able to enjoy my birthday without considering all the ramifications of life after cancer diagnosis.

Six years later here I was, waiting for more news.
How ironic… another birthday diagnosis! This time it was the day before my birthday.
Dr. Riccio is a hard man to read.  He knows how to joke around, but when it’s time for the important stuff, you couldn’t find a more serious person.
He felt around my mouth and neck silently, then re-read the ultrasound report, went over six years of charts. Now we awaited the conclusion.

He finally spoke up after a few seconds of eternity. Here goes… *Gulp*
“Six years have passed since your first diagnosis. Only the first tumor was invasive.  The other three tumors were “in situ” tumors , therefore non-invasive by definition.
Since it’s been over five years since your first and only case of invasive cancer, you are considered statistically and clinically in remission!
Your lymph nodes were a concern, but both the ultrasound and the checkup confirm that they are just reacting to a less than perfectly functioning system.  After all, we can try to fix you up, but your tongue, salivary glands and lymph nodes work poorly. Only God creates things to work the right way!”

I am not sure what excited me more: hearing that the odds of a recurrence are slimmer every day, or that he acknowledged our Creator as the only one that truly can do things the right way!

So what now?
We will continue regular checkups.  But now only twice a year.  My job is to always be on the lookout for what is going on in my tongue and neck for any suspicious changes.

One last blessing from the day.  Probably the most important one.
I thank God for good health news.  It seems that for the time being, death is less imminent. Unfortunately, sooner or later, unless Jesus returns, death will take us.  As the common saying goes: “it’s like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic”.
But oh, that God would use us to bring souls into eternity with Christ!
There is more celebration in heaven for one sinner who repents than for ninety-nine good health reports!

Please…don’t stop praying for us! We pray that we can make the most of every opportunity.


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When the grand finale is only the beginning…

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One of the things I always enjoyed doing growing up was preparing and performing in band concerts. 

One of the hardest days was the day after the concert.  All of the preparation and emotion and celebration…and then it is over.  You’ve probably been there, either in music, or in sports, or in preaching, or in school, or in just about anything big you have prepared for.
Fortunately, unless you are hanging it up, there is more to be experienced.

Our VBS grand finale certainly was exciting, but God does not take time off, so we are also excited to see what He has in store for us now.

Before I share more about summer opportunities, let me share how God blessed us on VBS Sunday (a.k.a. the Grand Finale).

VBS 2015 Sunday Crowd

VBS 2015 Sunday Crowd

VBS Sunday
I took this picture with my back to the door…literally.  I don’t know the exact count of guests, but I am not sure we could have fit more people!

Daniel preached a great evangelistic message, and the children continued to be excited about the things they had learned and shared with their parents.  Even this past Sunday some of the children came back with their parents!  Thank you for praying!!

Most of the children were unchurched.  Almost all of them were invited by someone, despite our efforts with fliers and publicity.

Now what?
You may be curious to know what the rest of the summer looks like (including the long overdue health update).

Jon and MelodeeBible studies and visits
We have connected with several unbelievers who have asked for Bible studies.  One of Noah’s classmates’ dads has asked to bring their son to Sunday School with Noah!  Another unsaved friend has asked to spend time reading the Bible together.

Music Outreach
Trying to keep my horn playing up and getting out in the community as well, I have started getting calls to go play in symphonic bands, some at a very amateur level, but others on a more semi-professional level.
I have only had one concert so far, but have already been able to share with a musician friend of mine.
The pressure is on, both musically and evangelistically!  PLEASE PRAY!

Whitmans in S. FortunatoDeacon Training Preparation
We have found an excellent Christian translator for our Deacon Training manual.  Now we just need to get it ready to be used and go for it!!

Health Needs
I thank the Lord that it’s been over a year since my last cancer surgery in Milan.   Sundays are the most painful day for me.  I can tell that I do a lot more speaking.  But I thank God that a little discomfort is all I have been experiencing!  Please continue to pray for me as I need to go back to Milan for my checkup!

Thank you for praying!  I hope you have enjoyed reading more about all God is doing here.


Our Top Seven Prayer Requests

1. For the salvation of the children from VBS and their families as well as good follow-up.

2. That I can start reading the Bible with my unsaved friend.

3. That Noah’s classmate and his family will start coming to church.

4. For boldness in evangelizing the musicians I come into contact with and good playing so that I can keep evangelizing them!

5. For leadership training in our church and that we can be ready and able to train our deacons in the fall.

Roman and Vincenzo

Roman and Vincenzo

6. For good health and wisdom with dealing with what comes our way, especially with my cancer.

7. For Christians in Greece. We were supposed to send Roman and Vincenzo this summer to help in a camp, but because of the situation they had to cancel the camp.

What if?

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Gozo CliffsWhat if Jacob had not deceived Esau? Would he still have gotten the inheritance?
What if Jacob has not attempted to run away from Laban? Would he still have gotten to leave?
What if Paul had not gone to Jerusalem? Would he still have gotten arrested and died?

What if I had not bit my tongue so many times (or whatever may have caused my tongue cancer)?
What if?

The truth is, if we trust the sovereignty of a perfectly good God, all things work together for good. There are no “what ifs” with God.
So stop worrying and live every day as wisely as possible and dependent on God’s grace!

Have a great day!

Avalanche!

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Have you ever felt overwhelmed by God’s work in your life?

Does your life ever remind you of those avalanches that are so common in the Alps, only a few hundred miles from here?

Truthfully, I am guessing that if you are a follower of Jesus, you, like I, are continually overwhelmed with your inadequacy and God’s work around you.

The amazing part is that He allows us to be right in the middle of it!

Solomon certainly understood this when he became king of Israel.  God made a simple offer: “What shall I give you?”

There appears to be no hesitation in his response.  After recognizing God’s steadfast love toward his father David and David’s faithfulness to the end, Solomon asks one thing (recognizing that David would be a hard act to follow!):

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9 ESV)

Avalanche

(Photo: Bruce Tremper/U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, www.noaa.gov Material is not subject to copyright protection)

The fact that I feel overwhelmed can be seen clearly by my otherwise tidy desk.  Books, papers, bills, folders, pens, birthday cards (my birthday was in May), songs to translate, post-its, cassettes (don’t ask).

There are days when I don’t know where to start and when to stop.

Now before you go and blame everything on my lack of discipline (certainly a part of the problem), let me share some of the overwhelming blessings.

God is at work, so we need prayer and wisdom because, as usual, we feel unprepared to handle it all!

1. God is opening evangelistic doors.

I thank God for allowing cancer in my life as a way of reminding me of my finiteness and of the urgency of the message. 
This morning I was reminded of the urgency in God’s words to Ezekiel: “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:7 ESV)
Maybe I have become more pushy; some would say even too pushy, but Paul reminded Timothy: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)

2. Leadership training.

     If I could do one thing that makes the greatest difference… I would train leaders.
     – We continue to work ourselves out of a job with the worship ministry.  
Melodee will be teaching the first music course open to all, but especially for our worship team and choir members. She also is teaching some women to play piano.
– I promised to start rehearsing our choir starting October 1st!
– On September 28th we will have our first Worship Training conference with special guest   speaker Dr. Donald Ellsworth, from Baptist Bible Seminary in Pennsylvania!

   – We are training youth leaders.
We started a youth leadership team that includes one young married couple and two singles over 30.  Giovanni will be co-teaching the youth with me!
     – I am leading the missionary team at the moment with weekly training meetings.
– Sunday we will have our first ministry fair at our church, where we will give people the opportunity to sign up for ministry groups and Bible studies for the fall.
– Sunday afternoon I will be leading the ministry coordinators through a training session.

3. Teaching

This is probably the most overwhelming part of my ministry right now: preparing studies for the fall.
     – Translating teaching curriculum. 
We have joined forces with Partners in Discipleship International to translate solid biblical curriculum for all ages.  Right now we are working on a study for middle school and for high school.  Eventually our goal is to find other solid evangelical churches to partner with in distributing the materials and a good Italian evangelical publishing house that would be behind the project.
I’m also translating a deacon training manual, since we are weeks away from nominating deacons in our church!  Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, IN, has kindly given us permission to translate their wonderful materials.
    –  Teaching the adult/youth Sunday School in the fall.

  I have also agreed to disciple two men in our church: Claudio, my brother that has come to Milan with me,  (He is doing much better, by the way.) and Alessio, a young man who used to be the priest’s right hand man in his town, until God almost violently brought him to Himself through the Truth of His Word.
– Then there is our monthly men’s meeting to plan

4. Melodee’s residence permit

– Tuesday, September 16th we will go to pick up Melodee’s residence card.  We will find out if our request for a permanent card was accepted.  I normally would say it is impossible, but God has been doing so many impossible things in our lives recently that I have no doubt that He is capable of it!

5. My health

– On top of a hernia surgery that I am waiting for (when it rains it pours), I am waiting to hear back from the doctor in Milan for my follow-up visit, due this month.

6. Our beautiful children.

Noah will be heading to pre-school in a week.  There he will be in contact with children his age, and hopefully get a better grounding in the Italian language.
Eva turned one a couple weeks ago.  She has found in herself great determination to eat out of the trash and whatever else she can get into her mouth.  Scooting along on the floor, she also helps with cleaning!

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 ESV)

Probably your impossible and my impossible seem so insignificant compared to Jeremiah’s announcement to Jerusalem: God would actually destroy the city He loved.

But God made us a promise:  “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15 ESV)

We don’t know what God will do, but we know that He has called us here, and that He has promised to deliver us for His glory and He does it through prayer.

Please pray with us!  And we will exalt Him together!

Please Pray For:

1. The salvation of those with whom we are sharing Christ.
2. The training of leaders and opportunities

– Worship ministry: Melodee’s  music course, piano teaching, choir ministry, the training conference on September 28th with special guest speaker Dr. Donald Ellsworth, form Baptist Bible Seminary in Pennsylvania!
Youth Ministry: Giovanni, Daniel, Roberto and Carmela.
– Our ministry fair this Sunday.
– Ministry coordinators training session this Sunday
– Our monthly men’s meeting.

3.   Our translation work.  
– For curriculum translation with Partners in Discipleship International (more to come in a future update). For other churches to partner with and a solid publishing house.
– For the translation of the deacon training manual.
– For the adult/youth Sunday School.
– For discipleship with Claudio and Alessio.
4. Melodee to get her permanent residence card (we have spent a lot of time and money on this!!)
5. Continued health for all of us.
6. Our family to grow together toward God and each other.
7. Much needed wisdom and partners to whom we can delegate!!!