ELDER NOMINEE

Ron Halbrooks

I became a believer through confession of sin at FBC Tyler, TX at 7 years old and then was baptized at that time. Both of my parents were committed believers and very committed to the ministry of FBC Tyler. My father was a doctor and during the last 6 months of his life he went on continuous 4-5 months of mission trips going to mission hospitals. That gave me a keen insight into missions and the name of Christ going forth.

At the age of 14 years old my youth pastor challenged me to morning Quiet Times. That and a newer version of the Bible, which I could read and understand (aside from KJV) helped me grow in faith. During and just after my father’s death at the end of my 16th year of like.

As I finished high school I sensed God’s leading me to go to medical school to do medical missions. I was involved with international ministry in my undergraduate and medical school time and was involved in the ministries of the churches I was in while I was at Texas A&M (Central Baptist Church) and UTMB (First Baptist Church, Galveston). During my residency I was at the University of Oklahoma Health Science center and faithfully attended Northwest Baptist Church.

After my training I moved to Ethiopia to work with the IMB and worked in the famine of the late 1980’s where the IMB fed 600,000 a month for 4 years (1984-88). I was the medical relief coordinator for this effort. During this time we built on the work of missionaries who went before but had been forced out due to the Marxist revolution in 1974. We were able to share the gospel in the harsh time of the revolution. Due to this sharing in 1989 after the Marxist revolution ended the first Baptist church in Ethiopia was started and now there is a network of 60 Baptist churches in Ethiopia.

During my time in Ethiopia I met Mary my wife and we married in Australia and spent the last 14 months of our time married in this work in Ethiopia. We returned to the US in 1989 with the intention of returning to Ethiopia in two years. After this return in 1989 we ended up in Durham by God’s providence and started attending FBCD. We did not return to Ethiopia in 2 years related to attempting to obtain permanent residency status for Mary and then that same issue became an issue with the IMB and was resolved in 1999 when we went with the IMB to China.  During that whole time we ministered with at FBCD in college and young married and in missions work here.

We returned to the US in 2005 and have been in the US since then ministering here at FBCD.

I believe that elders are critical to the ministry of local churches for the following reasons detailed out in Acts 20.28-31

  1. ‘Keep watch over yourselves’- elders need to make sure they don’t fall into sin
  2. ‘Keep watch over the flock’- elders need to make sure that the flock does not stray from Scripture
  3. ‘Of which the Holy Spirit has made you Guardians’- elders need the Holy Spirit to help in this use of the Word to shepherd the flock
  4. ‘To feed the church of the Lord’- elders feed the flock with the Word
  5. ‘Which He won for Himself by His own blood’- elders know and teach that the flock and the lost were purchased by the blood of Christ and teach and hold to this truth.
  6. ‘Savage wolves will come in among you from within and without’- elders know people will come in from within the flock and without the flock and whose intent is to destroy the flock and they are there to protect the flock from these wolves/people.
  7. ‘Therefore be alert’- elders must stay alert to be guards of the flock and to help the church be alert.

Humbly though a sinner saved by grace I desire (1 Tim 3.1) to help shepherd the flock of FBCD to grace in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and for us to be a light to the nations for the salvation of the nations to Jesus Christ.

DEACON NOMINEES

James Batchelor

I am pleased to share a testimony of my relationship with Christ, my willingness to serve as a deacon, and my interests in service to the church.

I hold firm to the belief that on the cross, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sin and all the sins of those who believe.  I believe that on the cross, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God that I deserved.  I trust that Christ secured for me an eternal home, has laid out for me good works to accomplish through the power of his Holy Spirit, and will one day return and draw me up among all those who believe to reign with him in the New Heavens and New Earth.  I thank God for teaching me through His word and through faithful Christian men and women during my life so that I can hold onto such beliefs.

I was brought up in the church nursery and Sunday school, where the teachers faithfully taught Bible stories and taught about Jesus and forgiveness.  When I was five I talked to my mother about asking Jesus to live in my heart and that I wanted to go to heaven.  At seven I met with Pastor David Hollingsworth of Cambria Baptist Church and shortly after, having been interviewed for baptism, I was baptized.

I grew in faith and knowledge as I grew up and as our family moved from California to Florida then finally to North Carolina.  At fourteen I had a distinct spiritual experience.  I attended a youth camp, Mission Fuge, where I was refreshed to be surrounded by so many believers of good Christian character.  I resolved to live consistently as a man of God as I had been doing at camp.

During high school and then college I began to grow more in theology.  I led Bible studies at the Northern High School chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, taught Bible study in college through Campus Crusade, and taught Sunday School at Cresset Baptist Church.  In 2002 I organized and took a mission trip to Haiti with two others, an experience that has left me with a longing love for the church in that country.  In 2004 I married my high school sweetheart, Sonya.  That year we began attending First Baptist of Durham and joined the following year, in 2005.  We had our first child Abel in 2007, Charlotte in 2009, Samuel in 2011 and Esther in 2013.  It has been a challenge and joy learning how to be a Godly husband and father.  It brings me pleasure reading the Bible as a family after mealtimes and singing the worship songs that we sing in church.  It has been a particular delight to see some fruit in my children’s lives such as Abel enjoying reading the Bible, or Charlotte’s heartfelt prayers.

I earnestly desire to serve God through his church.  Previously I served as a deacon over the worship ministry at FBC.  Recently I travelled to East Asia on two trips and was greatly encouraged to see God at work there.  I have a growing heart to see God faithfully proclaimed and worshipped among the people group we as a church have adopted, the Northern Bai.  I also have been involved teaching English Conversation class on Wednesday nights and as one of the Bible For Life teachers in the International BFL class on Sunday mornings.  I have also enjoyed teaching home fellowships, Sonya and I hosting some years.

God has given me a great interest in seeing our church grow in faithfulness to the word.  I desire to see the church grow in greater community with one another building genuine love toward one another.  I also desire to see the nations reached with the Gospel and have been encouraged seeing that work unfold through the international connections team among whom I look forward to serving as deacon.

Ken Lastowski – 2nd Term

In being nominated for a Deacon position at FBC Durham I have been asked to describe my relationship with Jesus Christ. I would describe my relationship as “personal” and one of constant discovery. I grew up in the Catholic Church and did not understand what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. When I came to know Jesus Christ I was entering high school. I was attending a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp over the summer and it was there that I was lead to Christ, accepting Him as my Lord and Savior. However, I still did not understand the personal relationship Jesus desired to have with me. It was not until I completed a bible study with my wife (Knowing God) that I understood what it was like to have a personal relationship with Him and that He desired to have one with me as well. Since then, I look to Jesus as a friend, counselor, and leader in my life. Through study of His word I continue to learn what it means to live a life for Christ. My belief is that being able to serve the church in a Deacon position will work as a catalyst in my life to further grow my relationship with Christ and it is for this reason He has presented this opportunity.

My desire to serve to the church as Deacon comes from a willingness to serve and a desire to develop stronger relationships with the church body. My wife Mary has taught a children’s Bible For Life class for a few years now and I have seen how service in the church has helped her cultivate relationships in the church as well as her relationship with God. If re-elected I would continue to work in the church body to help support the Elders, in any way they see fit, in achieving the church’s Vision:

We exist to delight in, display, and declare the glory of God, equipping His people to spread that delight to all nations through Jesus Christ.

In addition, I would also commit myself to assisting those looking for a relationship with Christ find one and support & nurture those that have already created that relationship. I also view the position as a Deacon as a way to lead my family and personally display the behaviors of service and leadership to my children. It is not enough to merely attend church, you must participate in it and support it with the gifts God has provided you with.

I believe that God has given me the gift of compassion for people. I believe that people are important and are not to be overlooked or dismissed. I chose a career in Human Resources because of that belief. If re-elected as a Deacon I would take my passion for people and apply it to the church in a way that was pleasing to God and glorifies Him.

I pray that you will be prayerful in your election decision and I humbly thank you for your consideration in allowing me to be considered to serve a second term as a Deacon at FBC Durham.

Walter Lee – 2nd Term

I grew up in a small town in Illinois whose parents were non-practicing Buddhists. I was superficially exposed to Christianity but really did not think it was something that I needed. Indeed, I believed religion to be archaic and a remnant from a time when people did not know any better. I officially called myself agnostic, but in reality I was anti-Christian. I enjoyed getting into debates with Christians to demonstrate to them how misguided their beliefs were. I considered myself a ‘Good person’ since I felt I had a deep sense of what was actions were “right” and “wrong”. However, at the core, I was troubled by the relativism that formed the foundation of my personal ethics.

This issue led me to seek answers by choosing philosophy as an undergraduate degree, with a concentration in ethics, while attending college in Washington DC. These philosophical studies only led to more questions rather than answers. I met Christ the summer after my freshman year in a series of events that demonstrated God’s existence and sovereignty. Briefly, I was approach by a Christian cult and was pressured to participate in a Bible study. Through intentional reading the Bible for the first time, God not only showed me his Truth in the person of Christ Jesus, but also demonstrated to me how this group was twisting His word for their own agenda. By God’s grace, I was able to leave this misguided church with my faith intact, and help others do the same. I was able to grow in my Christian walk throughout undergraduate and medical school from solid teaching and community. This came from a Bible based church as well as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

I met my wife Julia after moving to Cleveland for my residency training and we have been married for nine years. While there, we were blessed to be members of the Chinese Christian Church of Cleveland. I was chosen to serve as an English congregation elder for three years. We moved to Durham in 2008 and became FBC members in 2009. We currently have three boys: Isaac, Benjamin, and Joel.

If approved, I would be honored to serve once again as Deacon at FBC, particularly in the area of missions. It has been a blessing to help cast a vision for a culture of mission at FBC that involves God’s work locally, nationally, and internationally. I consider this deacon position to be an opportunity to humbly serve the church body through the gifts and experiences God has blessed me with. I am alive because of God’s grace and mercy in my life through my relationship with Christ Jesus. As deacon, I will seek God’s wisdom and strength to serve FBC.

Tim MacArthur – 2nd Term

I was born while my parents were on furlough from the mission field in Suriname, South America, where they served as church planters for 14 years. As I grew up in Suriname, my parents faithfully taught me and my four brothers about our sinful natures, the necessity of a Savior, Christ’s death for our sins, and how His atoning sacrifice made it possible for us to be reconciled with God and enter into a right relationship with Him. I accepted this gift of salvation at a young age, and was baptized by my father a few years later at our church in Suriname.

Several years later, back in my youth group at our church in Pennsylvania, my youth leader challenged me to begin to make my Christian walk my own. It was then that I began to seek God on my own initiative, spending time in His Word, in prayer, and studying theology and writings by various Christian authors. I developed an appreciation for God’s Word. Before my senior year of high school, after seven years in Pennsylvania, my parents asked me if I would be willing for the family to move to Indonesia. After a long time thinking and praying, I agreed, and we moved several months later. Looking back, that year in Indonesia changed my life. It was there that I felt God’s call on my life to serve Him and spread His love as a high school math teacher.

While at Duke, I majored in Korean and Mathematics to prepare myself to teach math at a missionary school overseas, ideally in a Southeast Asian country. While at Duke one summer, God changed my plans through an internship in a dropout prevention program in Durham. As I worked with the students in Durham, I began to feel His call no longer to a missionary school overseas, but instead to urban, public schools in the United States, particularly in Durham. After receiving my Master of Arts in Teaching from Duke this past summer and getting married, I began teaching math and computer science at Northern High School. Teaching has been one of the most challenging things that I have ever done, and I have no choice but to rely on God for His strength to love my students each day and for my own spiritual and emotional refreshment. As I hear stories from the lives of my students, my heart breaks not only for their physical needs, but even more for their spiritual situations. So many of them desperately yearn for God’s love, and yet they are unaware of what would truly fulfill the desires of their hearts.

Some of my closest times of communion with God have been through playing worship songs on my guitar at home. Through worship, praying by myself, with my wife, with fellow brothers in Christ, and time in Scripture, I continue to seek to grow as a Christian, teacher, and husband.

I seek to serve at FBC in whatever way best fits my gifting and the needs of the church. If the members of FBC should choose to re-elect me, I would gladly serve as a deacon at FBC to the best of my ability, to God’s glory.

The international ministry at FBC has proven to be very fruitful over the years, and I am excited to serving and working with them. As someone who grew up on the mission field for nine years and studied in Korea for two summers, I feel that I have an appreciation of what it means to be an alien in a foreign land, which has given me a compassion for those whom I find in a similar situation in the United States. I hope to be able to use my past experiences and talents that God has given me to serve Him in whatever way is most beneficial for the body of Christ.

Bill Oakley – 2nd Term

To my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I wish to convey my deep appreciation for the opportunity to serve you and our savior together as a deacon of First Baptist Church. I feel so blessed to be a part of this congregation. All my life I have been the beneficiary of God’s blessings. My parents always showed me it was our purpose in life to help and serve others in need regardless if they were family or stranger. Growing up in the church at the age of 19 I felt the call of the Holy Spirit to turn my life to Jesus and I began to serve others. It was also that same year that I began my work in the funeral profession. I felt a strong desire to do this so that I might be a comfort to others in their time of need. This was not only a job for me but a ministry as well. During this time I witnessed the hurt and pain of strangers during their loss and suffering I wanted to be encouraging in any way I could. During this time of working I did become sedentary in my walk with God. Being in the world I lived of the world and grew apart from the fellowship of the church, with the trials of life falling on me I became a patient of several life threatening health issues. Starting with a massive heart attack and later being told I had malignant cancer. During my many days of chemotherapy treatments I had thoughts and questions of why had this malady fallen on me and what was to happen to me. It was at this time I knew that I needed to reconcile my life and turn everything over to God and let His will be done in me. It was also then I knew that whatever happened to me I was going to be just fine in any direction God had chosen for me to go. When I finished my treatments I was told my cancer was in remission and from the beginning the doctors said they had given me about a year to live. Knowing God brings strength and endurance from suffering it was then I knew God had a plan for me with His grace, love and healing upon me, a rededication of my life to Him brought me back into full fellowship of His church. It came on my heart during this new season of my life to make the rest of my time on earth one of love and service to others as we are told to do in Romans 12th chapter. I felt the urge to do anything I could in the church I was attending by serving in many ways to help that congregation and my pastor. As a worker, deacon and former chairman of deacons I learned that there is always a need for more workers willing to serve. For more than four 1/2 years now I have a been a member of the Pastoral Care Staff at Duke Medical  Center  serving as a hospital chaplain, and currently I am enrolled as a student of Clinical Pastoral Education at Duke. Along with this I also serve as a volunteer chaplain with Durham Emergency Chaplains which serve the first responders of the Durham Police Dept., Durham Co. Sheriff’s Office and Durham Co. EMS Workers not to mention the countless families in crisis that they are serving. I am currently ending my first term as a deacon with FBC serving with the Encouragement Team. I have been most blessed in the past to serve the members of this church in this capacity and in other areas of need within the church, and look forward to whatever path God choses to send me down in the future in service to his people and for his Kingdom. Remembering 1 Corinthians 7:17 “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him”

Charles Todd – 2nd Term

I was raised in a Christian home by Godly parents. I had the blessing and privilege of being surrounded with family that trusted in Christ –a Christ centered home. When I was 6 years old I was very curious about how God cared for me, what he had done for me, and confused about how he could forgive sins. I realized that I did not deserve forgiveness, but that God’s mercy erased my sins and made me clean. It was a simple realization at a young age of God’s grace and mercy. As I grew up, Satan always tempted me and sometimes he succeeded in making me stumble. Having Godly parents as well as a strong foundation in scripture really helped me to work through my failures and to figure out God’s purpose for my life. I attended a Christian School throughout my childhood K-12 and it was a great encouragement and I was blessed with godly relationships. I was raised in a small non-denominational church where I enjoyed learning about Christ in Sunday school and later in youth group. I met Holly when I was 14 at a Christian family conference. Holly was raised in a Christian home as well and the Lord blessed our relationship and we were married in 1993. She has been a wonderful partner and an encouragement through the years and my partner in raising our five children, Emma, Lucas, Simon, Aaron, and Cora.

I had been baptized at the age of 4 prior to my acceptance of Christ. In 2010 just before I joined in membership with First Baptist Church of Durham I desired to be truly baptized as a Christian. My baptism was my profession of faith in Jesus Christ and was a picture of what had transpired in my life. It was symbolic of what had already taken place and was my outward testimony of my inward faith.

In 1999 while living in Charlotte, the Lord opened an opportunity for me to work in Durham. The Lord encouraged and provided grace through the study of His Word. We attended Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Mebane, NC for many years and in 2010 the Lord re-directed our family to join First Baptist Church of Durham. As I am attempting to raise my children in the Word of God and to provide doctrinal training and practical education, I am thankful for the strong teaching and church order here at FBC. We are also thankful for the strong Sunday School programs that add another dimension to our parental Christian training – to be strong and knowledgeable in the Word of God, to be discerners of good and evil, and to stand up for Christ. We have been involved with the home fellowships for the last two years and are practically encouraged on a weekly basis.

I am a practicing architect in Durham and serve as the studio principal for Little & Associates Architects. My profession has provided me opportunities to live my faith and to provide an example to those that I work with and work for. After Hurricane Katrina I was blessed with the opportunity to serve twice in Mississippi rebuilding homes through Samaritan’s Purse. This was a life changing series of trips that really made me realize the fragility of life and the need for Christ in our community and country.

I am honored to serve as a deacon for First Baptist Church. I have enjoyed participation with the building committee and support with the health fairs. I have also been serving with the Bible For Life Program, 4-5th grade boys. I would love to continue this service and to find new ways to serve as a deacon.

David Unwin

God has been so good to me. When I was a young child, my mother shared with me the good news of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that I understood and believed, despite my early years. Two years later, I decided I wanted to be baptized. I understood that baptism was the biblical way to publicly express my faith in Jesus. As I grew up going to church, my love for the Lord and knowledge of Him deepened. In high school, I decided to devote myself to the daily study of God’s Word and to prayer, and, in college, I developed a stronger desire for evangelism and a deeper passion for God’s Word through serving and leading in campus ministries. My love for the church grew in law school as I sought ways to serve in various ministries at FBC.

My love for the Lord and passion for His church comes from only one place: God’s love for me. “. . . I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) As I reflect on Christ’s crucifixion for my sins, though I am a vile sinner and a son of Adam, and on Christ’s resurrection and active ministry to me as He intercedes for me to the Father, and on the Father’s sovereignty and wisdom in executing such a great plan of salvation, and on the Holy Spirit’s powerful work in my life and my brothers and sisters’ lives, my fears and inadequacies dwindle away, and I seek to trust and obey Him more. As I combat my idols of self-justification, legalism, and anxiety, I look to the cross, to Jesus Christ, the precious source of grace, and the author and perfector of my faith. And I am sure that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!

I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve this church as a deacon. I have particularly enjoyed serving in the children’s and youth ministry—teaching in the Wednesday night classes and on Disciple Now weekends. God loves the children and youth of FBC and desires that all of them may trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation. It is a blessing to witness His work in their lives. I would also be honored to serve in any other ministry where the church may have a need. My prayer is that God would glorify Himself as we seek to worship Him and share the good news with others so that they may join in our worship of Him. God is worthy!