God works even through weakness so that His name can be exalted

“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

I’m sure that like most people you started this year reflecting afresh on what really matters to you personally, in your family, in your church ministry.

Why do we do what we do?

There can be many answers to this question, but ultimately the Gospel is quite clear that all we do in this life must be for Christ and point to Christ.  In Peter’s words: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

No matter how you approach it, no matter who you are, where you live, eventually we will all have to face the undeniable truth that there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

We need to live for Him, and we need to proclaim Him until he returns.

Sunday, as a church, we said goodbye to a good friend.  For the last year, Daniel (Ransom) and I have been preaching through First and Second Peter.  This message has been so gripping that I have probably spent more than my fair share of time preparing it.

I have learned a lot through preaching this series.  First of all, I have learned that I really love to preach and that God seems to have used me in that area.  However, I also learned more about my weaknesses — in particular that I have a hard time managing more than one thing at a time. When this Monday came, a shocking realization took over…in three months we leave for a four-month furlough, and we had only a handful of meetings lined up, no vehicle, no prayer cards, no display and no tickets!

God has been so good to us.  We have seen Him work not just through the preaching, but in many areas in our lives.  Every time I sit down to write a prayer letter I ask myself, “What should I leave out?”

So here is a quick summary of four areas of praise and desperate need for your prayers: Recent ministry highlights, furlough plans, family and health.

  1. Recent ministry highlights

    1. Young Couples Ministry – We have been blessed in seeing God work through our new young couples group that meets every Friday night.
    2. Evangelism
      1. A five minute cappuccino turned into a two hour conversation about God.
      2. Melodee’s piano lessons have brought about many spiritual conversations.
      3. Pretty much everywhere we go, God has been opening doors to evangelistic conversations.
      4. Preaching has allowed me to invite many unbelievers to embrace the Gospel every week in church as well as on television and on the radio.
      5. So far we have sown a lot but have not reaped.  We look forward to see God’s Word change hearts.
    3. Our new website!  Jonny has grown up.  We now have a new domain: www.jonathanwhitman.com!  Our old address will redirect to this new one!  We love any feedback you might have to make it even better!
  2. Furlough Praise and Prayer Requests

    1. Praise: We bought tickets this week!  We will be in the States (mostly on the East coast) for a “half” furlough from May 16th through September 5th.  Next year we will focus more on the Midwest.
    2. Prayer Requests: 
      1. We need to fill up our calendar. We are still trying to contact churches to be able to spend time sharing all that God has been doing in Italy since our last visit!  Pray for our schedule to fill up!  Here is our itinerary. https://jonathanwhitman.com/furlough/
      2. We need a vehicle for furlough.  We are praying for a reliable minivan or similar vehicle for four months.
      3. Pray that we will be able to give an effective presentation that includes all that God has been doing and what we hope to see accomplished in the near future.  We want to be a blessing to as many of you as possible, because you are a blessing to us!!
      4. Pray for additional support. So many of you already faithfully and generously support our ministry.  Unfortunately, we have lost some significant support that leaves us about $350 short a month.  We know God provides, so please pray!
  3. Family Praise and Prayer Requests
    1. Praise:  Thanks to your generous gifts, we were able to buy a piano!  I was also able to purchase a travel case for my French horn that will allow me to bring it to the States with us!
    2. Prayer Requests: 
      1. Melodee has been reaching out by teaching piano lessons to children and adults from our church, as well as unbelievers.  She has also just finished writing an excellent e-brouchure about ministry in Italy that will soon be available on the website of Baptist Mid-Missions.
      2. Noah is enjoying Italian firstNoah's horn lesson grade and music classes!  This year he is taking an intro to music class, choir, and every month he is sampling a different musical instrument.  This month he is learning the French horn!!!
      3. Eva is enjoying preschool and talking up a storm both in Italian and English.  She has blossomed in coloring — from scribbles to trees.  We would include a picture of her artwork, but she has also blossomed in her ability to use scissors!  Yes, she is feisty — cute, but feisty!
      4. Pray for us to grow in our parenting skills!
  4. Health Prayer Requests:  It has not been a good period for our health.
    1. Pray for my cancer.  Though my checkup in January went well, I have had a sore throat since December, and there is a spot on my tonsil that does not seem to want to go away.  More testing is needed.  I have not been able to have my lymph nodes scanned for tumors because of the swelling and infection.
    2. Both of the children and Melodee have been sick on and off since the beginning of January.
    3. We feel like this period of physical trials has been a spiritual battle in its own right.  Fortunately, God works even through our weakness!  Pray for us to be strong, grow in our faith, and Lord willing to be healed!

Isn’t it amazing that God uses us despite our weakness?  Sometimes when we feel at our lowest, God does some of his most amazing work.

In the whole scheme of things, how important are your prayers if we serve a sovereign, almighty God?

Your prayers are vital, because through them God accomplishes His plan for His glory!

Thank you for making a difference for eternity!

2 Peter 3:18 Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 

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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!

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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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Waiting……

    

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
    but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV)

We all take comfort in the strength that is promised in this verse.  But there is a key word we often forget: “wait”.

Since my surgery on April 24th I have had to do a lot of waiting…

waiting

Waiting and meditating on my trip to Milan

  • waiting to get out of the hospital (two hospitals, to be precise).
  • waiting to go home from Milan after another week of constant checkups
  • waiting to be able to eat real food again
  • waiting to be able to read to my kids and pray out loud with them
  • waiting for biopsy results
  • waiting for stitches to come out
  • waiting for be able to preach, teach, disciple, talk, eat without pain(I’m still waiting on that one!)

Waiting has been a blessing in many ways.

  • It has helped me appreciate the patience and hard work of those around me, picking up my slack.
  • It has helped me have something to look forward to.
  • It has helped me delegate and swallow my pride as others excel at things I love doing.
  • It has helped me have time to reconnect with God on a deeper level through prayer, reading and meditation on God’s Word and truth.
  • It has helped me see God at work.

And God has been at work!

On May 22nd I went back to Milan with Claudio for my one-month checkup.  They gave me more good bad news… an in-depth biopsy of the part of tongue they removed found another carcinoma in situ.  So…more cancer, but the doctor does not see the need to take more (up to half my tongue)!  You can imagine the roller coaster of conversations I had with myself and those around me.  Here is a sample:

Pessimistic me: “More cancer!” 
Optimistic me: “But they got it all.” 
Pessimistic me: “But this is the fourth time!”
Optimistic me: “Well, in situ is the best kind to have because it didn’t spread.”
Pessimistic me: “But when will it end?”
Optimistic me: “Hopefully now!”
Pessimistic me: “But what if it doesn’t?”

How did I end this cycle?  I had to got back to a previous foundational thought: God is good.  Once we learn to trust him we can finally move on with our lives.

John Calvin said it this way:

“not a particle of light, or wisdom, or justice, or power, or rectitude, or genuine truth, will anywhere be found, which does not flow from him, and of which he is not the cause; in this this way we must learn to expect and ask all things from him, and thankfully ascribe to him whatever we receive.” [My emphasis]  (Institutes of the Christian Religion Book I Chapter II p. 40-41)

Despite the setbacks and the waiting we have much to be grateful for. In fact, God is working above and beyond our expectations and we can only look ahead to all He will do.  Here are a few clear signs of God’s blessing and protection:

  1. The carcinoma was in situ, therefore it did not spread.  The doctors don’t even want to see me again until September!
  2. We are so loved and feel so loved!!!
    1. When I got back from the hospital I had almost 800 e-mail messages…mostly of encouragement or of people wanting to help.  (Now you understand why it has taken me so long to write again!)
    2. MANY people have sent money to help cover my medical and travel expenses and even just to help me buy books to read during my recovery!
    3. Despite the burden of work of the ministry, our co-workers/family have encouraged me to take all the time I need to get better.
  3. God has amazingly mended some relationships that are very important in our life and ministry.
  4. We have had and will have several outreach opportunities:
    1. Music outreach
    2. Soccer outreach
    3. Baptisms
  5. We have had some precious family times!
Soccer Outreach

Soccer Outreach with Christian Artist Angelo Maugeri

What more could we ask for?  This very well may be one of the best years of our life!

Here are just a few important requests:

  1. Pray that my tongue would heal enough to get back to preaching and teaching, since Dann and Liz leave on June 13th for their 8 month long furlough.  I will be taking over several of their responsibilities in their absence: youth ministry, men’s ministry, staff leadership and…administrative duties (Lord help me!).
  2. That God would help us to catch up on so many things that I am behind on because of my illness and that we can manage our time and finances better.
  3. For Sunday’s baptisms and the choosing of our first deacons.
  4. That we can continue to improve at training leaders, in order to bring this church to independence.
  5. Our residence papers. Apparently they won’t renew Melodee’s residence papers without further documentation, including a marriage certificate with an apostille from Michigan that is translated and legalized.

Thank you for sticking with us as I continue to wait on God’s renewing of my strength, meditating and delegating!

whitmans_easter 2014

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