Pray forever!

[8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.                 (Revelation 5:8 ESV)

Did you know that there is no expiration date on your prayers?The Whitmans

In the words of E. M. Bounds:
God shapes the world by prayer.
Prayers are deathless.
The lips that uttered them may be closed in death,
the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat,
but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.

Desperate times call for desperate praying. 
Frankly, the greatest weakness I find in our church and in most churches I have visited in America is not a lack of sound doctrine, but a lack of sound, perseverant and desperate praying.  We are so drawn to Bible study, to testimony time, to singing, but when it comes time to prayer, few stick around.

My mentor, a veteran missionary that I affectionately call Uncle Eric, once asked me: “Do you want to be a part of the problem or part of the solution?”
I want to be a part of the solution.
And I am convinced that if you are reading this, you do too.

The world needs your prayers.
America needs your prayers.
Italy needs your prayers.
We need your prayers.

This week we desperately need your prayers.

  1. Any day now my sister Elizabeth could give birth to their daughter.  Her husband Daniel is the only other pastor here with me at the moment, and he is also in charge of Radio Luce.
  2. Tomorrow morning I take Noah to Assisi to have his adenoids removed.
  3. Two days ago Luigi, a member in our church, was hit by a car.  He has multiple fractures in his spine, a head trauma and a broken pelvis.  On top of that he is usually caring for his elderly wife, who is blind.  Pray for us as we lead the body in ministering to each other, even in times when our own families have pressing needs.

On top of these three urgent prayer requests there are a few more that are on our hearts.

  1. Please pray for our training of leaders.  All we have invested in 40 years of ministry as a family would be for naught if we are not able to equip Italians to replace us.
  2. Please pray for our witnessing, especially in the neighborhood and at Noah’s school.
  3. Pray for the management of our time and resources, especially now that I have taken on the bulk of the preaching.
  4. Pray for our Vacation Bible School outreach this summer.
  5. Pray for my health too. I have a cancer checkup soon and my oncologist is a little concerned over the health of my lymph nodes.  I also have a potential re-do on my hernia surgery.

Desperate moments call for desperate praying. 
America is facing a critical moment in its history.
The world is facing a critical moment in its history.
Our ministry is facing a critical moment in its history.

Together we can be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Your prayers will forever be a pleasant sacrifice of praise to our God.

Will you join me on your knees?

Love in Christ,
Jon, Melodee, Noah and Eva,
and your brothers and sisters of the Centro Evangelico Battista

CEB people praying

Three more things:
1. Thank you to the many people who contributed to our reader survey!  Your time helps us make better use of your time!
2. We are trying a new format that should be a little easier to print.  Let us know what you think!
3. Once a month hardly enough?  How about joining our Twitter Prayer Hotline or our Facebook Page!

What are your mission fields?

Before we get in today’s topic, we have an Urgent Prayer request:

It looks like my request for Italian citizenship is in its final evaluation phase.

Please pray!! 

Gaining Italian citizenship would:
1. Guarantee our stay here for as long as possible.
2. Allow me to continue to minister here freely for as long as possible.
3. Allow me to reside in the country I have known as home for my whole life!
4. Permit me to be a dual citizen.

Please pray!!

kids on our streetOne of my favorite moments of the day is driving Noah to preschool.

We talk about what we’re thankful for, I try to model sanctification though my driving (a daily challenge), and I pray for his day.
Last week on our way to school, out of the blue, Noah said: “I want Jesus to be my Savior.” Way to melt a Daddy’s heart!
Of course then he changed the subject to elephants… But I’m so glad he’s thinking!
The more I think about it, the more I think what a tragedy it would be to reach the whole world and neglect the mission field that is closest to home! In some ways you could say that there are several different mission fields that we are called to.  Some are closer than others.

 

What are your mission fields?

In 1st Timothy 2:1Paul reminds us: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,”  He concludes this thought saying (v.4): “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

 

It’s hard to imagine a time in my life when things around the world have seemed less certain.  The world is hurting, but they are looking for solace in all the wrong places.  It is our responsibility to point them to the right place!  While we can talk to them until we are blue in the face, God is the one who opens hearts to respond. So if you’re wondering where your evangelism should start, it should be with  prayer.

 

VillelmaVWe recently lost one of the great prayer warriors in our church.  Villelma, well into her nineties, was one our charter members.  She would pray every day for all of our members, present and past, missionaries and visitors. We have never known the church without her prayers.  Pray that many will heed that sacred call — in Italy, in America and around the world!

Will you carry that torch?

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!

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!

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.