Deacon Nominees’ Testimonies

Brian Blalock

I accepted Jesus when I was 13 years old. I grew up going to church with my parents but I remember sitting in the pew being ashamed of my sins and wanting Jesus to forgive me. After the service, I approached the pastor and told him about wanting to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. We met later that week to discuss my decision and what that really meant. I knew that the next step was baptism, and I was baptized at Braggtown Baptist Church in Durham. I was very active in the church.

During the summers, I enjoyed going to camps with the youth group. Traveling as a group would get us closer as a group but most importantly growing closer to Jesus. I also enjoyed doing backyard Bible clubs in communities around the church talking and sharing Bible stories with neighborhood kids.

While I was a sophomore in high school, I met Stacey and we began dating. Stacey was also a Christian and very involved in her church. As our relationship grew, we began to selfishly put our relationship with each other before our relationship with Christ. That lack of focus led to sin. We followed that sinful path and ended up having sex outside of marriage. In spite of our sinful, selfish choice, the Lord blessed us with a baby. Though I did not think of it that way at the time, looking back it was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. God radically stepped in and altered the course of our lives. We were terrified, to say the least, but we had a great support system with our parents, who though disappointed, supported us in this time. Stacey and I very quickly acknowledged our sin and asked God to forgive us and repented. We made very conscious efforts to change the focus of our relationship back to our individual relationships with Jesus before each other. Stacey was a leader in her youth group and she and I felt that we needed to publicly repent of our sin as leaders. She and I stood before the church during our youth service and confessed our sin and asked for forgiveness. Our daughter Allison was born September of our senior year.

We got engaged in February, graduated in June and were married in July. We did premarital counseling and were very intentional in our walk with the Lord as we felt we were starting our life together with the “deck stacked against us.” We continued to do marriage conferences and receive counseling to help us grow. God was so faithful to grow our love for Him and for each other over those early years. Stacey even began to counsel young girls at Pregnancy Support Services to try to show them Jesus in their time of need. Through that ministry I also was able to share with teens—We travelled to local churches and schools and shared about God’s plan for sex and marriage and more importantly for their salvation. It was amazing to see God using our sin and repentance for His glory.

In 2000, we joined New Hope Baptist church. Stacey and I became really involved with the youth ministry assisting the leader whenever we could. Being a small church, they went through several youth leaders over 9 years. Because of the turnover, I would end up leading during Sunday morning and Wednesday nights whenever we were in between paid youth pastors. I enjoyed teaching the kids and watching God change their lives. Often, I would find that leading and studying for the lessons, God would speak into me more than the students. I grew tremendously during this time of Bible studies and preparing lessons. I met with the boys individually regularly for breakfast and bible study. This church was like family to Stacey and me. During our time there, we had our 3 younger kids. I enjoyed serving at that church as a lay leader and a deacon. Stacey and I were very involved in many areas of the church and we traveled with the youth and children for almost every camp, retreat, and event that the church did. Eventually, the youth boys started a worship band and we also travelled to local churches leading worship for events. Over the years, that grew into a full ministry and one of boys that I was closest to accepted a call to vocational ministry in worship music and I have been his road manager now for 5-6 years. We have traveled to many churches and camps sharing Christ through music and service. I never get tired of watching God work in the lives of teenagers and others.

Fast forward to a few years ago…God led our family to FBC Durham. Stacey and I had been praying for an intentional, Gospel centered church in close proximity to our home so that we could be very involved when our 3 youngest children would be in Middle and High School. We believe FBC was the answer to that prayer. To be able to be at a church that was just as focused on the importance of the Gospel, but equally focused on discipleship is such a blessing. As a husband and father, as well as a man in the working world, I want to be the example of Christ. I want to lead my family as the head of my house. I want to teach my kids the importance of the Gospel. I want to show Christ love to my co-workers.

Tony Fisher

I was born and raised in a Christian home but didn’t have a real relationship with Christ. As I transitioned away from my parent’s home and moved to college I lived to please myself. I was intent on being a “success” in life, and I wanted to be the one to define what that success would look like. I wanted a wife to share my life with, I wanted to have a family, and I wanted to have a successful career. I wasn’t negative toward the church, but spiritual things weren’t important to me as a young adult. I wanted to have a “Christian home”, but that was something I’d worry about when I got older.

In spite of my spiritual situation as a young adult, God blessed me by bringing Susan into my life. We were married in 1981, and we both began our careers in Charlotte. We were happy, we got along great and enjoyed each other’s company. We had very few conflicts in our relationship, and oftentimes when we did, the conflict was about her desire for us to build our lives on spiritual principles, and my desire to pursue “happiness” outside of the church.

As we moved to Durham in the mid 1980’s my career was going extremely well. I was hitting all of my financial goals, and Susan and I had started our family. By worldly standards I had it made. However, as I considered my life and how it was going, I continued to be troubled that Susan and I often had disagreements and arguments over the fact that I wasn’t willing to establish a church home with her and our two boys. In response to that conflict, and in my arrogance, I remember reasoning that my parents had taken me to church as a child, and that I had grown up to be a pretty good guy. Soon afterwards I decided I was ready, and that it was time for us to find that church home.

Well I attacked the process of finding a church home just as I did most other things in life. I made a list of what we were looking for in a church – nice facility, good children’s program, etc. What I didn’t anticipate was the spiritual warfare that would come when we started visiting churches. All of a sudden, I became totally aware of the fact that I was not a Christian, and I was terrified of attending church with the family. The Holy Spirit made it abundantly clear that it wasn’t children’s programs that my family needed. My family, and specifically I, needed a relationship with the God and creator of the universe. Satan at the same time was mercilessly attacking me with the message that my life was going too well to be making any big changes. In a matter of weeks, I went from a person who thought he was happy with life to one who was an emotional wreck. Susan continued to push me to attend church, and I seized upon any excuse I could find to avoid it. I was scared to death as I became more and more aware that God was asking me to surrender control of my life to him.

Based on an invitation from one of our neighbors, and based on the fact that some of the members of FBC continued to invite us to visit this church, I attended FBC often enough to develop a relationship with the pastor, Allan Moseley. I eventually confessed to Allan that I didn’t think I was a Christian, and he invested time with me as I tried to “manage” my way through the process. I particularly remember one Saturday evening when Susan and I were arguing about whether we would attend church the next morning. The phone rang and she told me it was Allan Moseley and that he wanted to speak to me. I knew it was the timing of God, and I remember Allan telling me that faith was not something I was going to discover by reading books or by reasoning it out in my mind. He said that faith is the simple child-like act of believing the gospel and turning my life over to Christ and then allowing Him to change me as he desires.

Well I was at my emotional wit’s end, and I decided later that night to surrender. I got up the next morning and came to FBC and gave my life to Christ. Since that time my family has grown, and Susan and I have four wonderful children who grew up in this church. I’ve served in various ministries at the church including the youth department, city outreach, the Host ministry, and the deacon ministry. Since I accepted Christ in 1991 I’ve had times of intense and joyful growth, and I’ve had times of spiritual barrenness. In all of it Christ has been faithful to remind me frequently of Paul’s encouragement to the Philippian church in Philippians 1:6 when he says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” That is my only hope, and it is my joyful confidence. Christ will complete the work he started in me many years ago. My role is to joyfully join him wherever I see him at work, and to praise him and worship him and enjoy him always.

Gary Gronewald

I grew up on a 500-acre farm in Washington State. My family attended the Methodist church in our small town. My mom saw to it we were in Sunday school and Church on Sundays. My dad attended irregularly as he often used that time to be in the fields working. He was a High School Ag teacher and generally put in 10-12 hour days Monday through Friday during the school year.

I was involved with MYF and it was definitely more fellowship than anything else. During my high school years, I was negatively affected by the division of the church, and that turned me away rather than drawing me in. It seemed every issue brought division. It seemed so hypocritical and at that time that’s all I could see.

From about 18 to 30 years of age, I went my own way and had no interest in following the Lord, whatever that meant. I was content to follow my own idols without seeking any direction from the Lord    or anyone else. It was about at the end of that time that I was blessed in that the Lord put my wife in my path. We were married and she was the one that assumed the spiritual leadership role for our family. I didn’t resist, but I didn’t step up to lead. That is a fact that I take no pride in.

I pretty much always knew there was something working in my heart but I chose to put myself first and I resisted repenting and being willing to give my life over to Christ. Sometime shortly after our marriage, I did accept Christ. There were some immediate changes but my deep personal relationship with Him took a long time to develop.

Due to my juniority in my position with the airline as a pilot, my work schedule dictated that I work most weekends and Holidays. That was a very convenient excuse for me to not take the spiritual leadership role for our family. Unfortunately, like father, like son.

In 1994 we moved from Pittsburgh to Smith Mountain Lake in VA. In the church there were a few Christian men that came along side me and were good examples for me as to how to be a spiritual leader. When the kids graduated from school we move to Durham and joined the Summit Church. The teaching of the Gospel and what it really meant definitely impacted my personal walk with Christ.

My role as family leader finally took root 5 years ago when we felt led to join FBC. My faith and understanding of the Gospel has grown stronger and stronger by spending more time in the word and for the willingness of the Lord continuing to work in my heart.

I am thankful for God’s wisdom in putting the people in my path that he has to help guide me in the right direction. Not the least these is my wife who was willing to spiritually guide our family when I was not.

There are two very pivotal occurrences that stand out in my journey that did have a big impact on me.

My sister died when she was 34, leaving a husband and 9 and 12-year-old children. While praying for her when she was taken to the hospital, I had a vision of her going to heaven. In that case the picture was worth more than a thousand words.

The second was when some friends sponsored me to do the Emmaus Walk weekend. While praying alone one afternoon, I felt the Holy Spirit come over me. It was a warmth, the likes of which I’d never felt before.

My Sanctification has been a slow but steady journey and continues on a daily basis. I’m not sure why it has taken the course it has, but I’m thankful for God’s patience and willingness to wait for me.

I now feel led to be in a position to serve the body as a Deacon, if chosen, and will continue to strive to move forward in the process of serving our Lord.

Simit Oliver

I was born in India to believing parents. My father was a pastor and taught in seminary. My mother’s father was a pastor as well. Shortly after moving to the US when I was 4, my family started attending a Baptist church around the corner in Brooklyn, NY. Over the years I came to know and understand the gospel and my need for a Savior. I am not sure of the exact date, but I believe it was around when I was 10 or 11 after a VBS that I came to faith.

In my mid-teens I began serving at my local church, largely due to the influence of a missionary, who for a time lived in our neighborhood. I began helping with preparing bulletins, PowerPoint slides, flyers, along with other things. During the summers my brother and I helped out with VBS and street evangelism. Through this I eventually went on to go to Baptist Bible College, where I would meet my wife, Joy, while leading a ministry team to NYC.

Joy and I were married in 2002 and have 5 children. As we were expecting our 5th child, God worked out for us to relocate to Durham, NC. It has been a privilege for us to be a part of the First Baptist Church, Durham family and serve with this body.

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