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!

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

Ten Quick Prayer requests for November


The Whitman Brass live on!As I sit down to work on my message for Sunday, I realize how grateful we are for your work of prayer during this busy time of the year.

So I am stopping everything to ask for your prayers, with some fanfare,  before heading back into the challenges of the day, knowing that God uses His people to further His work.

Here are my prayer requests:

  1. Preparation for Sunday preaching and teaching.  This week I will be preaching from Hebrews 12:4-13 and teaching about biblical vision from the book of Nehemiah. Melodee will be teaching a music theory course for our worship leaders and choir members and whoever else wants to learn.  I am also training the worship team on Sunday mornings as well as leading monthly lay-leader training times (Sunday afternoon), as we lead the church toward independence.
  2. Wednesdays, I lead our staff training and communication meetings.  In particular, we are seeking to work together toward meeting our strategic goals as a team.  I also have started preparing the choir for our Christmas outreach, which we are planning for the 14th of December.
  3. CEB verseThursdays Melodee participates in a Mothers’ Bible Study.  She is also leading the development of a church library.
  4. Fridays I teach and lead the youth ministry.  Thanks to my mom staying with the kids, Melodee is able to help as well. I am excited to be sharing that responsibility with Giovanni, an Italian believer.
  5. Saturdays I disciple a dear brother in the church, and Melodee is involved with a decorations team and cleaning crew of the church.
  6. Please also continue to pray for my health.  My tongue swelling has subsided some in the last day or two, but certainly there are more questions that need to be asked. (And more visits!)
  7. We hope to officially nominate deacons by the end of the year.  We are in the process of interviewing the nominees.
  8. We continue to share the Gospel with people.  Please pray for fruit in this, as the harvest is great.
  9. Noah Burger KingOur children continue to grow, and we desperately need wisdom as we seek  to lead them toward Christ.  Please pray for Noah as he is going through some challenges at pre-school, both in language and behavior.
  10. We look forward to spending some time with Melodee’s parents over Christmas break.  Eva will finally get to step on American soil and meet her cousins from Melodee’s side!  It also means planning purchases of things we need for the family and ministry, where our dollars count!

Eva and MariaThank you for taking the time to pray through our requests.  I realize this is a very dry letter, but let me assure you that hidden in between the lines are our tears both of joy and toil as we see God do through us and despite us all that He wills for His glory.

And your prayers are what God uses to make it all happen!

Jonathan and Melodee, Noah and Eva



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 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

In good hands with a good God


God is good.  All the time.  You know it’s true.  If it weren’t true, then nothing else He said would be true.  God is everything he says He is or nothing at all! He would not be reliable! But God is true and God IS reliable!

Here are a few examples:

Choir rehearsal

Choir rehearsal

1. Cancer:

My tongue surgery is scheduled for April 24th, with admittance on the 23rd.  I will be in the hospital for at least a week.  But being after Easter allows me to direct the choir and enjoy family time! I have also been asked by the other pastors to preach.  It is both a great privilege and a great responsibility.

Dealing with cancer has helped me ask myself: “If this were my last message, what would I want to preach?”  I have decided to preach a message on why the resurrection of Jesus gives me a solid foundation for my faith.

2. Antonietta:

My land lady, Antonietta,  has started listening to Radio Luce, our radio outreach.  We continue to have spiritual conversations with her, as well as her husband Ernesto, who a few days ago admitted to me: “I think I am going to die soon.”  He really didn’t have a clear explanation as to why he feels that way, but it gave me the opportunity to share of the hope and truth we live by.

At the game dinner in Montebello

At the game dinner in Montebello

3. Over-priced grocery store:

We all have to admit that we have an over-priced grocery/convenience store that we go to when we are in a pinch.  I go to one in the nearby town of Montebello. I have had many opportunities to share the Gospel there, and we give them Bible calendars every year.  One of the deli ladies gave us some of her home made Wild Boar Pasta sauce!  Then she invited us to come to a social meal where she was cooking!  Another lady opened up to me in line at the cash register.  She said that she never goes to mass because the ladies that go to mass are the same ones who steal from her store.  I share the gospel and even *gulp* gave her a tract.

4. Delegating:

One of the blessings of my illness has been to have to delegate things I love doing.  The one thing I love doing is leading worship.  I finally asked my substitutes, Jeremy and Vincenzo, if they would be willing to lead even when I am in church!  Another brother, Giuseppe, plans the worship service.  Now I just need to work on training deacons and preachers!

5. Provision:


Noah found an interesting horse on one of our city errands!

We continue to marvel at God’s provision, despite the increasing costs of life and health care needs.  I have had one of our churches decide to allocate monthly money toward my cancer-fighting supplements.  We have had people give me money for my frequent trips to the cancer center in Milan.  Our insurance company promises 100% reimbursement for my hospital treatments…more than they would do if we resided in the States!

God is at work.  We are unworthy of His goodness toward us, and even of the kindness many of you show to us.  Please pray for God to be glorified and for much fruit in all we do!

Eva smiles

Eva smiles

We close with a new addition to our website: our most recent presentation.  It is a slightly updated version of the presentation we shared with you last time we were in America.  Once it leaves this page you will always be able to find it on our “Why Italy” page.