Memo: April’s Cancer Update – September 2020

As 2019 spun out of our control, we longed for normal. Even boring sounded nice as we ducked in and out of ER rooms and traveled 900 miles for medical appointments seeking to realign April’s health which had been rocked by stage four breast cancer. Earlier this week, God blessed April and I with the gift of normalcy.

Her latest round of CT and bone scans revealed that April’s cancer has continued to weaken. The tumors in her breast and lymph-nodes have gone down every so slightly.  The tumors in her bones remain stable. And, the small tumors in her liver continue to shrink. One has disappeared. Though the cancer still rumbles about in the background of our lives, both the medical team and the Witkowskis breathed a deep sigh of relief this week wound down. God had heard our prayers. April’s health has mostly returned.

Though the Coronavirus has reduced the American way of life down to an one lane traffic zone, April and I have been able to maximize the slowdown as we merged back into the life that we once knew. I’m able to keep somewhat stable offices hours under the watch of mini Calvin and Luther statues. April has jumped back into the kitchen equipped with a knife and a wealth of culinary knowledge. Hello, fresh meals! Every Monday-Friday, our kids bounce down the stairs to the kitchen table to report the weather, sing songs, and recite Bible verses that define their homeschool circle time. The simplicity that seemed forever out of reach has returned to the Witkowski family in a large measure.

The quarterly cancer checkups will remain a fixture on our calendar for the foreseeable future. April will continue to work with her Mayo Clinic Team and her University of Virginia Team to track her cancer, update medicines, and maintain her health. But in the coming days, April’s health visits should shift away from thoughts of life-saving collision repair to intense-but typical maintenance. For example, her back-pain and fatigue are some other areas that require constant checks. But none prove life threatening. Though her medical teams embrace her with the warmth of heated leather seats, the tests themselves remain cold, possessing the charm of drills removing lug-nuts. They will never be her or mine favorite activity as they point to the brokenness of this world. We much prefer driving through the scenic Blue Ridge mountains to sitting in an office with a gurney, a bench, and a nondescript watercolor painting on the wall. But we rejoice that these visits have begun to transition from being THE thing on our calendar to being merely a thing on our calendar. God has been faithful.

When He calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

Psalm 91:15-16
April At Mayo

Thank you for praying for April. Thank you for rejoicing with us. Please join us in offering up thanks to the Maker of heaven and earth. Please keep praying for April’s healing. Her back pain and fatigue rumble out of alinement at times. Her back pain remains a symptom of her muscle fatigue and the initial tumor growth. The doctors think her fatigue which can bring her day to a sudden stop during the early evening hours is caused by her medication. Adjusting dosages will be one of those ongoing maintenance issues.  Pray that God will bless her with strength. Lastly, please ask God to give us wisdom as we seek to engage in hospitality and to love of our neighbors in this time of COVID-19.


If the space between these updates grows, please rest assured no news is good news. We are busy traveling through the world of normalcy.

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You can reach us via snail-mail at : P.O. Box 637/ Amissville, VA 20106

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Thank you for your love, prayers, and never-ending support.

Sustained By Grace Through Faith,

Peter and April

Don’t Forget: We Are Not All Elite

Bravado has swept through the church as local congregations have begun to defy the lock-down guidelines issued by their local governments. I type today not to condemn or support such action. Undoubtedly there is a time and place for civil disobedience. Depending upon where you live, that day may be today.

But as we decide the best way forward for our congregations, I want to remind elders, deacons, and church members that their churches are not comprised of special forces platoons equipped to run roughshod over all that stands in their way. Rather like Moses, we lead camps filled with young mothers, vulnerable children, weak cancer patients, irresponsible teenagers, and aging senior adults. When we oppose the government, we risk the health and safety of both the weak and the strong.

Indeed, the day for such stands will come. They existed in years past. I have the greatest respect for Corrie Ten Boom’s eighty-four -year-old father who willing died in a German concentration camp, preferring the gospel command to love his neighbor above his personal safety.

But for most of us (the residents of Nevada sadly reside in a very different paradigm), the restrictions have not singled out churches. Christians have not been persecuted, yet.

According to history, these pandemic guidelines will be brief. Pandemics usually run their course in about one to two years. Most will not last that long. Life will go back to normal and society will forget the ‘horrors’ that once dominated the news cycle. For example, few to none of us remember that the city of New York killed 72,000 cats and 8,000 dogs in 1916 in an effort to prevent the spread of Polio. Our collective forgetfulness proves that the guidelines of today will soon fade into the wasteland of lost memories. In a few weeks or months, the world will return to ‘normal.’

Until then, I believe the Jesus who welcomed vulnerable little children into his inner circle would desire for us to sacrifice our Sunday morning norms to create environments where all members could worship without facing harm.

If men and women become sick and/or die because we hastily return to our per-COVID19 practices, we will weaken our churches and do harm to our gospel witness. The church needs its weak brothers and sisters, even those over eighty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted,

Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also the strong need cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.

Before we embrace a plan for the future, we must determine whether or not it benefits both the strong and the weak in our midst. A plan that helps one group while harming the other is incomplete.

Times of persecution will come as the Ten Boom’s life make clear. When the days are dark, churches and their members will need to take stands that risk the wellbeing of all of their members. But such stands should always be the last option, not the first or the second.

If we can move forward and worship in such a way that protects the most vulnerable among us, why would we risk harming them?

Psalm 84, Trusting God When Church is Not an Option

rest blogThe coronavirus should bother Christians for it has rebirthed a host of government restrictions that prevent churches from assembling together. But the local church’s inability to meet together as the church is not a new phenomenon that will undermine the vitality of God’s people. In 1918, churches were suspended for more than four weeks as the Spanish Flu ravaged America. Luther spent 300 days mostly self-isolated in a dark tower, translating the Bible while the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor sought his life. More importantly, the Scriptures have addressed how we are to care for our souls during seasons of isolation.

Though David never knew the terrors of invisible germs, he experienced the terrors of the visible king Saul who prevented him from worshiping. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit David chronicled his experiences in Psalm 84.

David’s response to his separation from the people of God should inform our response to our separation from the assembled church. While we wait for our churches to reopen and resume normal operations, Christians should heed David’s counsel place their trust in the Lord Almighty. “O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” Such well founded trust produces holy discontentment, divine dependence, and divine hope.

Holy Discontentment

Those who trust the Lord will find the love for the church growing. David longed for a church like a lover kept from the object of his affections, like an athlete kept from water and like a wounded animal unable to find comfort. He cries out for the house of God. He is envious of the insignificant birds who hang about the altar that he can no longer see. David understood that God was specially present in the gatherings of his people (Mt 18:20). He wanted to be there with every ounce of his being. When Christians are kept from corporate worship, their love for the assembled body grows and they become discontent with their lot in life, crying out for God to act.

Separation from the normal graces of God should stir Christians to yearn for God even more. Deuteronomy 8:3 reminds us that God let the people of Israel hunger in the wilderness for the purpose of teaching them, “that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

Christians in 1918 experienced this Biblical reality. Washington D.C. Pastor Francis Grimke noted,

The fact that for several weeks we have been shut out from the privileges of the sanctuary has brought home to us as never before what the church has really meant to us. We hadn’t thought, perhaps, very much of the privilege while it lasted, but the moment it was taken away we saw at once how much it meant to us.

Those who trust the Lord while separated from the church will find their love for church growing.

The Bible has no category for Christians who willingly isolate themselves from the body of Christ so that they can drive about the country, go to softball tournaments, and spend weekends at college sporting venues. Instead of excusing those who social distances themselves from their local church, Christians need to call their friends to repentance. Christians should have the heart of David and prefer church above all else.

The Christian ultimately does not seek fulfillment in this life for she is a “sojourner” and an “exile” on her way to heaven (1 Pt. 2:11). The Christian lives life longing for the heavenly assembly. As she waits for that moment, she delights in the local church which pictures that reality. Since all Christians should long for heaven, all Christians should long to be at their local church which is a small, imperfect representation of the whole.

Divine Dependence

Those who trust God make God their strength while they wait for church to reassemble. When Christians are kept from worshiping together, they will undoubtedly experience hardships. Those who trust the Lord go on pilgrimages that lead through desert valleys. A quick survey of first-responders, soldiers, and the homebound will reveal that isolation from the body leads to hardships. Souls will feel weary, lonely, and faint. But such pilgrimages do not end poorly for the Christian. Those who appeal to God in prayer to mend their troubled hearts find relief. The desert valleys are redeemed by gospel grace and turned into pastures of peace. Our troubles do not represent the end of God’s plan or the failure of his plan. Thomas Boston correctly noted, “There is not, in anybody’s lot, any such thing as a crook, in respect to the will and purpose of God.” God works through troubles to usher in spiritual blessings.

The Bishop Dionysius said the plague of 260 A.D. “proved to be an instrument for our training and probation.”

The apostle Paul concurs.  In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, he writes,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Divine Hope

Lastly, those who trust in the Lord will discover divine hope. God both shields and blesses his anointed. Though humanity should hide in the shrubs like Adam and Eve when God approaches, Christians do not have to fear the presence of God. They are no longer sinners stained by all their evil deeds. Those who have repented and believed on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus have been made righteous by Jesus’s work on the cross. Paul writes in Galatians 3:13,

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.

The curse has been removed and Christians can reside peacefully in the presence of God. Thus, the psalmist can say, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

God has shielded his people from the pains of death absorbing all the blows of God’s justice and of Satan’s accusation. He became our curse.

But God is also proactive. He gave us righteousness and holiness. He made the Sun of God’s love shine upon the hearts of the redeemed. He brings Christians to heaven. And he sustains them while they journey about earth, growing their faith and giving them victory of their sin. Indeed, God withholds no good thing from his people. Even the trials and the troubles that strike the Christian work together for the Christian’s benefit.

David began Psalm 84 envious of the insignificant sparrows and swallows who could flutter about the alter while he stumbled about the mountains in exile. Yet the glorious truth of this Psalm and of the entire Bible is that God cares infinitely more about his people than he does the sparrows. Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows (Lk. 12:6-7).”  God loves his children dearly and will not withhold anything good from them.

The Christian who finds himself or herself unable to go to church should trust in the almighty Lord. Those who trust in God will not be disappointed. God will bless them with a longing for his church, with the strength to persevere, and with hope. Are you trusting?