Damien Avery

It has been a privilege to work with the Internationals, and have the opportunity to teach the Bible to foreign guests and scholars visiting our country. It is deeply humbling to observe the providence of God in drawing international students to this program to improve their English, gain exposure to American culture, and, in so doing, hear repeated presentations of the Gospel. Even more exciting is the fact that they are receiving these gospel teachings in the context of scripture as it is unfolded every week. I was excited to hear a Chinese Economist Scholar wrestle with the implication of Christ dying for our sins: I could see his struggle to square this idea with a balance sheet, and he wanted to know if this sin simply “disappeared.” It was a rewarding experience to see his comprehension when he understood that sin didn’t merely disappear, but was fully paid by Christ through his suffering in our place. While I do not know if he has become a Christian yet, I get the distinct feeling that the Holy Spirit is preparing his heart to know our risen Lord.

My desire and passion is to proclaim Christ in a real, and sincere way. I feel my gifting is in teaching the scriptures in its flowing context. While I have taught for a long time and feel like I am growing in this spiritual gift, I feel deeply humbled at my inability to regularly bridge the language barrier with our internationals. At the same time, I am enjoying the reminder that all grace is communicated by the Holy Spirit, through what Christ has done, and that if I make myself available, and learn to lean more heavily on the Lord and His Body, the Church, He will supply my lack.

If it is felt by the leadership that I can contribute to this ministry in a genuine and productive way, I would like the opportunity to continue participating in this ministry. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Richard Mounce

I was born into a loving Christian family in Columbia, South Carolina in 1990. Growing up, I consistently attended a healthy Baptist church where the gospel was preached and people loved Jesus. Unfortunately, Christianity became all too familiar to me and I considered it just another part of life. I knew that I was supposed to honor Jesus Christ, but I did not know Him at a personal level—and He was not Lord of my life. Football and baseball became especially important to me in my teenage years, and they dominated my life through college. My identity was in my success as an athlete, and everything else in my life served this “god.”

My freshman year in college at Clemson University was not a good year for me. My athletic career in baseball was going downhill, and I felt this previously secure ground giving way underneath me. After my freshman year in college, I came home to live with my parents and play summer baseball with a local team. During this time, I remember having intense moments of hopelessness as I considered my failing career and how my life was meaningless without sports. Looking back, it is clear to me that God was breaking down the idols in my life so that I might see the beauty of Christ.

That same summer, in mid-August of 2009, I got the chance to hang out with a family friend from our church. He was an itinerant evangelist who loved Jesus deeply and was always talking about spiritual things. During that time with him (a long car ride), as he talked about the Bible, I had what I can only describe as an intense sense of the presence of God and of the truthfulness of His word. That night, I wept as I came to realize that I was a sinner and I needed to be saved by Jesus Christ.

My life changed dramatically after that night. I realized later that I was born again, which was confirmed by the fact that I was now filled with hope even though my former way of life was brought to nothing. Since my conversion, I have continually been amazed at the grace of God in my life and the way God has led me to FBC Durham. I am grateful now for the chance to serve as deacon for this body. The blessings of the gospel have brought me out of darkness and given me an unconquerable hope. My desire is that through my service as a deacon I can help the church both grow in grace and advance this gospel to a lost world.

Ben Zweigle

Jesus calls out, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Around age thirteen God graciously began applying weight after weight of painful events onto my life which He would ultimately alleviate at the cross.  Some of these weights included uprooting from schools with my newly retired parents, the death of my closest brother, an involuntary commitment to a hospital, an assault by a teacher, suspensions from school, and finally moving out of my parent’s home due to my  angry and rebellious behaviors at age fourteen.  Of all of the places I could have gone God lined up my oldest sister’s home who happened to be a new born again believer.  During my months of continued rebellion there, as I was dragged along to church and youth group with my sister’s family, His word began to accomplish its purposes in my heart.  God began to soften my heart to the gospel through the kindness of the body of Christ and the ministry of His word.  One evening, exhausted by my sinful course and growing in attraction toward a better captain, with my sister and God as witnesses, I repented of my sin, confessed my need for a Savior and Jesus Christ as my Lord.  Now looking back on those painful weights which brought me to a breaking point I can say with David, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

I can remember lots of stress in my early walk with Christ over whether or not I was secure in Christ.  Though my past sins had been cast as far as the east is from the west the allure of sin seemed as strong as ever.  Had I really confessed Christ to be my Savior and Lord?  Yes. I was a new creation through eyes of faith and what had begun in me was the process of sin, conviction, repentance and peaceful gratitude that is with me to this day and will be until I reach heaven or Christ returns.  The difference between my confidence then and now is huge.  God has given me many victories over sin as well as an affection for Him, which, when I read the New Testament are sure marks of being in Christ.  So now I rejoice in full confidence that if I were to die today I would join Him and all the saints in glory forever.  That is an amazing thing!

How has God done this?  In the same way that He began the work in me He has been faithfully completing it, primarily through the ministry of His word (Is 55:11).  As taught by my pastors, as daily food for my faith (Mt 4:4), as equipment for temptation through the memorization of fighter verses like I Corinthians 10:13, and as reorienting my mind to realize that I exist for His pleasure and that in pursuit of Him is where I will find my hearts desires (Eph. 1:12, Ps 37:4).

What am I doing now?  The psalmist writes, “Teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10).  If I am going to spend forever someplace and I have a little bit of time here to prepare and invest in that place I had better get busy.  My goal, as feeble as my attempts are, is to pursue Him and His works, hasten His kingdom and heap up His rewards while I have time, aka sanctification.  I try to pursue this by being faithful in the roles He has graciously given me: Christian, husband, dad, church member, employee, neighbor, friend etc.  Regarding faithfulness to the roles God provides I am blown away by Daniel’s example of discipline, faithfulness, wisdom and diplomacy.  I am very motivated by the conclusion of this book which says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).  How awesome is that!

One big way God has directed my sanctification process has been by convicting me to get behind the ministries of our church.  What are the needs?  I then try to apply myself in that direction to the extent possible.  Having something to teach, be it one week from now or one month from now, is a huge reason to dig into God’s word.  I realize that no amount of studying, meditating or prayer over a text will ever allow me to reach its depths or to do it justice during a lesson.  In this way I feel constantly under a good pressure to study His word.  I am confident participation in the ministries at FBC is a tool in God’s hands helping me to grow wiser, shine brighter and, Lord willing, lead many to righteousness.

I would have never imagined before I came to Christ that He would have poured as many blessings into my life as He has.  Forgiveness?  Lordship!  Adoption?  Security!  Perseverance?  Fruits of the Spirit!  Were all these not enough, and they are, He has blessed me with a marriage to a God worshipping, word obedient, wise, faithful and fun trooper of a wife for ten years.  He has since entrusted us with three boys to raise and disciple in His word and ways.  Whoa, feel the weight of this responsibility!

First Baptist has been a beacon of strength, encouragement and direction as I have sought to take up these weighty responsibilities.  Thank you for your part in this local body of Christ and thank you for considering Christ’s work in my life!  I would be excited to serve First Baptist as a deacon should I be called to do so.