Great opportunities ahead!

Five ways everything is about to change.

As I write this note to you from the comfort of my in-laws’ dining room, I’m conscious about the fact that everything is about to get a little crazy.

I’ll admit, this summer has not been the epitome of relaxation:

  1. PreachingWe spoke almost 20 times and tried to meet with as many friends and family as possible.
  2. We have slept in about 20 different beds.
  3. We racked up over 5,000 miles of driving on our borrowed car. (Thanks Mom Z!)
  4. We have had physicals and dental work (for a total of nine fillings!).
  5. We have been in three week-long conferences.

All the while trying to keep up with people in Italy and Noah’s summer homework.

One man innocently asked us: “Why are you here?  Do you need money?”  The simple answer is that more than anything we need prayer.

If we have prayer God will provide the money too.
But if we don’t have prayer, all the money in the world will not suffice to meet our needs!

We need prayer because we are about to embark in some of greatest adventures yet:

  1. Sunday evening we will be speaking at Starkey Road Baptist Church, in Seminole, Florida.  This will be our greatest chance this summer to share our vision with people who are not already familiar with our ministry.  Please pray that we can make significant new connections and partnerships!
  2. Tuesday morning Melodee’s Dad will take us to the airport to fly back to Italy. We will be arriving Wednesday morning in Rome. (Thanks Mom and Dad W!). We are still waiting on a few important things we ordered online, such as extra suitcases.  Yikes!  We’re cutting it close!
  3. We begin strategizing to reach the unreached city of Foligno, a half an hour drive from Perugia.
  4. We continue to invest in people and train leaders for ministry at the Centro Evangelico Battista.
  5. We continue to reach people through personal evangelism; connecting with people at our kids’ schools, through music (my quintet already wants to plan the next rehearsal).

Pray that we can make the best use of our time and organizes our life around the most important things.

Pray that we can make the most of every one of these opportunities! 
It’s so easy to fall back into the routine and neglect the most important things that God is calling us to do.

Will you commit to pray for us every day this week and, why not,  this whole next month?

There are great opportunities ahead, but we can’t do it without you!

Jumping in Head First Without Losing Our Heads

Seven things in our life that ABSOLUTELY need your prayers this month.

Psalm 127:1-2
    [1] Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
[2] It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
(ESV)

Yesterday we went to a park with our children to take advantage of the last days of Summerfall (word I just invented to describe our warm October weather).
Noah and Eva have become much more courageous after this summer in America with slides and swings and climbing things.

Cousins at the park

Cousins at the park

Suddenly, I saw Noah, my normally cautious firstborn, do something I had never seen him do…slide head first at rapid descent down a steep plastic tube with somewhat of a drop at the end.  He was proud of himself for stopping before he fully ejected into the unknown below.  You should have seen the smirk on his face!

Mom and Dad were a little less impressed…he has a good brain and we hope to keep it inside his head.  And keeping his new jeans nice for school would be a plus.

Quite frankly, Melodee and I feel a bit the same way about jumping into this fall; maybe you feel the same way.  There are more opportunities than there is time, and we want to be wise about how we commit.  That’s why I’ve dropped everything to write you.  We need backup!

Can I ask you to pray for seven things?

Conference1. This weekend we have a Bible conference to encourage the church at large with the help our good friends of the Italian Theological Academy.

2. Our ministry has gotten really busy already this fall with Young Couples group, Choir preparations, Staff and Church leader training, Preaching, Discipleship, Melodee teaching English and Piano (she already got to share the Gospel in her first English lesson!!).

3. On a personal level we are trying not to over commit with family, but both Noah (6) and Eva (4) are taking a music class and we’re debating on signing Noah up for a sport to help the arches in his feet (at his pediatrician’s suggestion).

4. Thursday I head to Como to have my regular checkup with my oncologist…it’s an all-day trip there and back for a fifteen minute visit, but well worth it!  Pray that I don’t miss any trains and that the appointment will go well.

5. Pray for the salvation of the many people we are in contact with…We share the gospel so often, but there are so many people to reach and so little time!  Pray for Holy Spirit’s work!

6. Pray for us as we are praying about the completion of this church plant and about where God would move us, and that God would provide Italians to go plant the next church with us!  There are so many cities and towns in Umbria still unreached by the Gospel!

7. Pray for good stewardship of time, energy, money and all our other resources!

I know that your time is precious.  Thank you for taking time to read this and especially for praying.  There is nothing in the universe that God uses more than your prayers to do His will in this unreached heart of Italy.

Unreached Umbria

Love,
Jon, Melodee, Noah and Eva
P.S. Have you been on our website lately?  We have made some fun changes!
You also might want to check out Dann and Liz’s cool new website, with a few recipes to boot!

A unique opportunity for you and an amazing opportunity for our church!

I don’t often forward notes from others, but I just received a note from my parents, veteran missionaries Fred and Rachel Whitman, that you do not want to miss.

First, they talk about a unique opportunity: an Italian Christian History Tour, led by my Dad.
It is unique in three ways:
1. It may be the last tour my Dad organizes
2. It would be a great opportunity for you to enjoy Italy, learn about our history and have a greater understanding of the need of the country.
3. For a tour of its kind, it is truly a great deal.  My Dad never makes any money off it…he loses money every time, but he considers it worth it because of what it does toward raising awareness in the hearts of the participants to the needs of Italy.

The second part is regarding our new deacon!  As a church body we were able to vote on a new deacon for our church body.

Soon, we will update you on our furlough plans, but this message is time sensitive, so without further ado, happy reading, and we hope to see many of you here!
(If you subscribe to both letters I apologize for the redundancy!)

Jon and Melodee  

Continue reading

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!