Memo: The Regathered Storm – March 2021

The words sent our souls sprawling across the sands of life. Stunned, April and I tried to comprehend what her oncologist had just said: “Her cancer has grown and we need to discuss new treatment options.” As the wave of bad news receded, April and I found ourselves unexpectedly pulled back into the murky waters of breast cancer as we stared at the walls of the 10th floor exam room. The doctor went on to tell us that April’s latest scans revealed the formation of 10 new tumors in her liver. All ten had materialized since her lasts scans on December 23rd. One breast cancer tumor measured a centimeter and a half in diameter. She also developed four new insignificant cancerous spots in her lungs. Though the cancer in her bones and breast remain stable, her new cancer growths revealed that her first line of treatment has failed. The first sea wall of protection composed of hormonal treatments has been breached by this dark storm.

We thank God for the past twenty-three months of success. Still, we had longed for more time. Since the medicine had repulsed more than one fear blown wave, we had begun to believe that April’s health was relatively secure. With the storm clouds fading into the horizon, we had begun to build tiny, happy, little structures in the sands of life, basking in the sun of providence. This past Wednesday morning, the waves of breast cancers washed our little sandcastles away and began pulling us back towards the law of averages, a beacon that often proves more ominous than hopeful.

With regards to what happens next, April and I have more questions than answers at this time. On Friday, March 19, April exited the Promise study at The Mayo Clinic and stopped taking her medications. Though she may continue to seek treatment in Minnesota, she and her doctors no longer know which principles of navigation should guide her journey. In an effort to determine what should be the guiding star for the second phase of her treatment, April underwent multiple blood tests and a liver biopsy while at Mayo. The reports should lay anchor within the next two weeks. At that time, she will work with her medical teams at Mayo and UVA to create a second treatment plan. Once we have charted our next course forward through this uncertain storm, we will share that information with you.

Though some things about our circumstances appear set against us, we know our God is forever for us. At times we cannot help but wonder why our good God would allow April’s cancer to flood back into our lives. Our children are so young; our church ministry is so new; and our marriage is so dear. At first glance, his plan for us seemingly does not align with the course that April and I would chart. But if we have been left to our own plans in years past, April and I would not be married; nor would we have our three little kids or our precious church family. Because God did not consult us and our foolish sentiments when forming his plans for us, April and I have the good gifts we that we hold so dearly as the waters rage today. We are confident that the God who has guided our lives by his love to towards the edge of this storm will be with us as we sail into its breakers.

Contact Info:

Email us at: biblefighter@gmail.com 

snail-mail at : P.O. Box 637/ Amissville, VA 20106

call us at: 540-937-6159.

Support us at: April Witkowski Medical Fund (gofundme.com)

We will posting updates here at witkowskiblog.com

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

It is Ok to Mourn: Good Friday and COVID-19

covid 19 2

We should mourn this Good Friday. The coronavirus has enveloped the globe in a cloud of black death. It has also reached into the church and overturned her basket of well-planned Easter events, sending Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Sunday morning services wobbling across the floor to cancelation. When the glorious Easter sunrise fills the horizon this Sunday, there will be no loud congregational singing, giddy children, or sweet hugs of friendship circulating though our church. We will remain home, isolated from friends. Though the world has suffered under the curse of sin for thousands of years, the isolation of holy week brings the sorrow of sin into our souls anew. For the first time in years, many of our hearts feel the words of Psalm 22:1 that Jesus screamed on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

During such times of profound brokenness, Christians should run to the Lord. Like the great King David who faced many piercing trials, Christians should confess their anguish to God. They should ask God,

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all day (Ps 13:1-2a)?

The Coronavirus’s ability to disrupt the church calendar should serve as a powerful reminder of how broken our world is and of how much we need Jesus. We should allow the cancellation of our services to lead our hearts to humble and persistent cries for deliverance. “O you my help, come quickly to my aid! (Ps 22:19),” The Coronavirus is a problem of divine proportions than can only be solved by a divine antidote.

The antidote will come. The message of Good Friday is that Jesus conquers sin and death. For thousands of years, human culture has been trying to find antidotes to the brokenness of the world through education, feeding programs, and medicine. All of human efforts have failed. Men and women remain tied to pride, greed, lust, and selfishness. Sin is a problem of cosmic proportions that no person, nation, or culture can conquer. Yet, Jesus conquered it on the cross. He was forsaken by God so that we might be welcomed into heaven. Jesus died for our sins and then rose again on the third day to prove he had delivered his children from sin. Those who repent and believe can follow Jesus to love, generosity, and selflessness. But to get to salvation, men and women must wrestle with their brokenness. They must realize they are sinners before they can cry out for a savior and embrace his salvation. Only those who know they are drowning will let the lifeguard rescue them.

The pattern of Good Friday serves as a template for the Church as she encounters new symptoms of sin and death in the world. To find relief from this world, we must admit that we suffer and need God’s help. “Save me from the mouth of the lion (Ps. 22:21a).” When we take our grieving souls to God, we find deliverance. “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen (Ps. 22:21b)!” Friends, the Coronavirus is a cosmic problem that God will recuse us from.

While we wait for the virus to end, many of us will become more aware of how much we miss the gathered body of Christ. We will be tempted to find unscriptural antidotes for our pain. Though we should embrace biblical forms of encouragement, we must resist the urge to drink the hyssop, an ancient pain reliever, that was offered to Jesus on the cross. (For more on my view of online church click here). If we turn to virtual Lord’s Supper, sermon binge watching, and zoom calls to treat our feelings of loneliness, we will not solve our sorrows for we still remain physically apart from our brothers and sisters We can touch the screen, but we cannot touch the face on the screen. If we try to fix our sorrows through human ingenuity, we will commit the mistake of the neglected spouse who copes with her distant marriage through romance novels. She may feel less pain while reading them. But when the chapters end, her marriage problems remain, and her heart has moved further away from her husband. The believer who feels neglected by God does not need a drive-in Easter service, he needs divine deliverance. He needs God to mercifully end the COVDI-19 crisis. If he fails to cry out to the Father as David and Jesus did because he is drinking grape juice and eating Ritz crackers in his home, he will neglect the biblical means of hope: prayer. He will find himself further from God. Just as those who fast allow hunger pains to drive them to pray, Christians should allow the pain of missed hugs, Lord’s Supper celebrations, congregational singing, public Scripture readings, and preached sermons to drive them to their knees in prayer. Instead trying to mitigate our sorrow through increased Wi-Fi bandwidth and FM transmitters, we need to join Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and pour out our prayers of lament to the Father for he alone can help us.

If there ever was a religion that made sense of our lonely world and that gave us a space to mourn while we await salvation, it is Christianity. Christians have both the sorrow of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb. We can mourn our loneliness while we wait for our salvation from COVID-19.

Memo: In Memory of My Church Mom: The Loving Jean Miller

Jean Miller

Words faded into tears as the news of Jean Miller’s death sunk into our souls. Though we were separated by age, time, and space, April and I were knit into Jean’s heart.

Shortly after the death of our first-born son, Peter Alexander, Jean gave April and me the biggest hugs and adopted us into her family, promising our families that She and Junior would look after us. From the moment forward, I was her “church son.” And she was April’s and my “church mother.”

IMG_5525She loved us well She put her arm around our shoulders as we grieved the loss of 2nd Peter. She struck that glorious balance between allowing us to grieve and keeping us from despair. Every tear-filled conversation ended with glorious reminders of Jesus’s love and goodness.

When the sun of God’s grace shinned upon our lives, Jean celebrated with us, cherishing both Luke and Lily. She greeted our kids with smiles and found ways to playful extract them from their caves of shyness. Despite’s Lily’s obstinate character, Jean never gave up trying to get our little ice queen to smile. IMG_6055Jean would stick her fingers into ears and would scrunch up her face into the funniest contortions. Somehow, Junior still got Lily to smile first, a feat Jean could never understand.Her lap was always available to them; Luke and Lily used it often. When cancer descended upon April, she and Junior were some of the first friends to call us and to pray for us. Her love for us never ended.

When her insecure “church son” launched a leadership team to minister to the families of FBCE, she and Junior took a chance and linked arms with April and me. Jean walked with April and I through insane VBS weeks, exciting nerf-guns battles, and vintage Reformation Festivals. I can still see Jean dressed in her bonnet covering and uncovering a host of fake relics as she and Junior explained the importance of salvation by grace alone.

IMG-5419I can also see Jean shaking with laughter as she and Junior explained the meaning of the rat emoji that she accidentally texted to the whole team. Though she loved to laugh, she also kept her family and all of us in line. Anytime Junior, Ian Wynn, or someone else took something too far like the expression, “The Face of Discipline” Jean would give ‘the look’ followed by a “Hey now” and return things to order. She brought laughter a joy into every life she touched.

But, the thing I remember most about Jean was her smile. Come the fun of church picnics, the craziness of Wednesday nights, or anniversary of her daughter’s death, Jean always smiled. The joy that adorned her face transcended reality and yet was grounded in the truest reality of all: the saving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though her heart IMG-5421had been nicked and scared by many a hardship, she knew the saving power of Jesus Christ. She seen Jesus transform both her life and Junior’s life. Nothing could take that joy from her. Even when she was worn and tired, the peace of Jesus shone in her face and resounded in her laughter. Her smile shone brightly when she bounded up from our table and washed the our dishes. It was that smile that graciously welcomed April and our kids into her home and kept our kids from wanting to ever leave Jean’s living room. And it was that smile, that lit up the church as Jean taught Sunday School, helped in the nursery, and swung by the welcome desk to ask how

April and I were doing. Indeed, Christ was in Jean. To see her smile was to catch a glimpse of heaven.

Yesterday, that glimpse of heaven ascended into heaven. Jean smile is the now the smile of perfect peace and happiness. Indeed heaven is her greatest gain. “Those the son sets free are free indeed (John 8:36).”  I cannot wish her back into the bondage of this miserable world.

But I also cannot help but miss my “church mom’s” infectious smile.

With much Love,

Peter and April Witkowski