Birthday presents: early, on time or belated?

 

Noah's birthday joyWe all love birthday presents. 
Personally, I don’t even care if they are early, on time or belated.  I just love a good surprise!
Most people like to celebrate their birthday, one way or another.
(I say most because I have discovered that there are a few out there that really don’t love birthdays…I can’t say I can relate!)

I have had many memorable birthdays, but there are two that are related to my adventures as a cancer patient. 
One was a belated present.  A second one was a day early.

I remember my birthday in 2010 like it was yesterday.
I was still healing from my first tongue surgery. It was a perfect day for grilling.  As I savored my steak with family I just had this feeling…there was something wrong in my tongue.
The next day I got the call we had not hoped for.  The lesion that they had taken out of my tongue was squamous cell carcinoma. Classic tongue cancer.
They scheduled me on the spot for another surgery because they were afraid it could have spread to other parts of my tongue, or worse, to my lymph nodes.
This time they took out more tongue and most of the lymph nodes on that side of my neck, leaving the rather conspicuous scar that I admire when I shave.
God allowed that call to come one day after my birthday. You could call it a belated birthday present.  I was able to enjoy my birthday without considering all the ramifications of life after cancer diagnosis.

Six years later here I was, waiting for more news.
How ironic… another birthday diagnosis! This time it was the day before my birthday.
Dr. Riccio is a hard man to read.  He knows how to joke around, but when it’s time for the important stuff, you couldn’t find a more serious person.
He felt around my mouth and neck silently, then re-read the ultrasound report, went over six years of charts. Now we awaited the conclusion.

He finally spoke up after a few seconds of eternity. Here goes… *Gulp*
“Six years have passed since your first diagnosis. Only the first tumor was invasive.  The other three tumors were “in situ” tumors , therefore non-invasive by definition.
Since it’s been over five years since your first and only case of invasive cancer, you are considered statistically and clinically in remission!
Your lymph nodes were a concern, but both the ultrasound and the checkup confirm that they are just reacting to a less than perfectly functioning system.  After all, we can try to fix you up, but your tongue, salivary glands and lymph nodes work poorly. Only God creates things to work the right way!”

I am not sure what excited me more: hearing that the odds of a recurrence are slimmer every day, or that he acknowledged our Creator as the only one that truly can do things the right way!

So what now?
We will continue regular checkups.  But now only twice a year.  My job is to always be on the lookout for what is going on in my tongue and neck for any suspicious changes.

One last blessing from the day.  Probably the most important one.
I thank God for good health news.  It seems that for the time being, death is less imminent. Unfortunately, sooner or later, unless Jesus returns, death will take us.  As the common saying goes: “it’s like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic”.
But oh, that God would use us to bring souls into eternity with Christ!
There is more celebration in heaven for one sinner who repents than for ninety-nine good health reports!

Please…don’t stop praying for us! We pray that we can make the most of every opportunity.


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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

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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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You can change someone’s life this week

You can change someone’s life this week!

Committing to pray for what may be currently our most strategic ministry of the year

VBS Sunday 2013

VBS Sunday 2013

Two years ago we did our first Vacation Bible School (VBS) when two girls from America came to help us for the summer.  We had no idea what we were doing, but we all pitched in and God brought in results, as many families who sent their children have come back to our church on several occasions.
This year we already have more children signed up than last year without the walk-ins who usually come in the first day.
Our team is excited, the decorations are going to be awesome (how could the not be with a Western theme!), and the lessons are powerful.

cowboy

I look forward to playing cowboy this wee!

When we invited a lady we know from a store in the neighborhood she was so excited to have a place to send her kids after school got out.

I also brought some invitations to the superintendent of all the schools of the district where Noah attends.  There simply are not many opportunities like this one.

However, the greatest number of sign-ups are from church members inviting their friend and neighbors.  Praise the Lord!

In light of the great opportunity we are facing for the Gospel I ask you to please pray:

  1. For me as I teach and lead the worship.
  2. For Melodee, who is in charge of crafts.
  3. For my sister Elizabeth who is in charge of coordinating everything.
  4. For my brother in law Daniel, who is in charge of the English lesson and all the technology.
  5. For all the teachers and volunteers.
  6. For protection for all of us, but especially for the children.
  7. For children and their parents to entrust their lives to Christ

We all know that prayer makes a difference.  But do you realize that through your prayer God works to change someone’s life and eternal destiny forever?
We would love to have you on board from Monday through Friday and again on Sunday when we will invite the parents to our worship time, where the children will be able to share what they did and learned.

Thank you for making a difference!
Jon and Melodee, Noah and Eva
The Whitmans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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