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!

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.

When Jesus Didn’t Pray for the Harvest

Umbrian countryside

Umbrian harvest

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few…”

The Lord has been pounding this verse into my heart lately. As a missionary, but mostly just as a follower or Jesus Christ, I daily feel the burden and the frustration for the predicament of the lost people around me. I try to share with everybody around me, from my four year old to the cashier at the grocery store. Yet so far, with the majority of them it seems I hit a wall.

Strangely, in what is probably Jesus’ most famous quote on evangelism, Jesus does not put the evangelistic priority on praying for the lost.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:38 ESV)

Jesus makes some very interesting points about the harvest:
1. There is already a harvest. The seed has already been sown by God himself.
2. There is a shortage of laborers.
3. We are to pray earnestly to the Lord who already sowed and grew a harvest out there.
4. We are to pray specifically for the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest.

Jesus confirms this in John 4:35 when he affirms:
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

So, what stands between us and the harvest?
Prayer and laborers. And maybe even more specifically, prayer FOR laborers!

Are we to pray for laborers from another country or do we need to pray that God make laborers out of the Italian believers?
The answer is…yes.
Nevertheless, I am certain that the bulk of the work will have to be done by Italians, who are committed to reaping a harvest in their families, in their schools, at their jobs.

Our job has never been clearer: to Equip the Italian Church of the Next Generation to Reach the World for Christ.

Recently a young man in our church, exclaimed to me: “You’re right! Ever since you taught me that we are to always be ready to give an answer (I Peter 3:15), I have more opportunities to share Christ than I can handle!”.

I confess that I am not much of a street evangelist. I don’t love going door to door. But God gives me more opportunities to share Christ than I have time to tell you about. Every week someone somewhere is asking me about my faith in Christ.

People are asking the believers here in our church about their faith too…so we better be ready to help them give an answer!

Here are the outreach opportunities I’m most excited about at the moment:

Radio Outreach - Foligno

Radio Outreach – Foligno

1. A series of outreach events with the contacts from our Radio and TV ministries in Umbria: the Lake area (April 12th), Foligno (April 19th), Terni (May 24th) and Perugia (June 7th). So far the response has been overwhelming, with visitors from as far away as Tuscany!  Several of our church members helped out with this event.
2. I have had the opportunity to preach some very evangelistic messages on Sunday from First Thessalonians (about 40% or more of our church attenders are yet to make a profession).
3. We have been able to nurture several relationships with unbelievers and share the Gospel with them. In particular, we have been developing a relationship with the parents of one of Noah’s classmates from school.
4. We are working more diligently at training laborers and leaders in our church, including deacons and future pastors.
5. In June we have two major outreach events that involved the entire church body: our annual Soccer Outreach Tournament and Vacation Bible School.

The most important thing in the world you can be doing for Italy right now is praying.

As E.M. Bounds puts it in his classic work on prayer:
“On earth [Christ] lived and prayed and died for men. His life, his death and his exaltation in heaven all plead for men.
Is there any work, higher work for the disciple to do than his Lord did?
Is there any loftier employment, more honorable, more divine, than to pray for men?
To take their woes, their sins, and their perils before God; to be one with Christ?
To break the slavery which binds them, the hell which holds them and lifts them to immortality and eternal life?”

Would you pray for us and with us, that God will send his laborers into his harvest??

Thank you for praying once again!

 

The response to pray for the event was great and immediate. Now I have a little over 24 hours to complete my sermon for Sunday!

I’m really excited about this message (as usual). We are preaching through the Thessalonian epistles. I am preaching I Thessalonians 2:13-16. I always enjoy filling in for my Dad when he is out.
I imagine that I will get a chuckle from a few church members, since it seems every time I preach it seems God chooses a text for me that is about persecution, suffering or discipline! And some think God doesn’t have a sense of humor!

Thank you for praying for last night’s event. Honestly the turnout was a little disappointing, but I thank God for every young person that attended. I had asked that three key people hear the message, and God allowed for two of them to be present!

And the amazing part is that God works through our weakness and does not care if we give the message to one or one thousand. The real work is what God does in the hearts, not in the numbers.

Thank you for being a part of God’s work through your prayers!

PS. There are more exciting things to share, so keep tuning it!