Pieter Westerbeek, Deacon Candidate
Hi, my name is Pieter Westerbeek Jr. My wife, Glynda, and I have been attending Peace Church since 2012 and members beginning in 2013. In July of this year we will have been married 20 years. We have two kids: Pieter (17) and Laura Cate (15). I am looking forward to the possibility of serving at Peace Church as an elder/deacon.
Unlike a lot of folks in the evangelical church, I cannot recall a specific conversion experience. I have always been a part of a church community, except for my college years. I grew up in a Presbyterian Church in Clinton, NC. My parents were very active members, with my father being both an elder and deacon during my youth. Christ was spoken of often, reinforced continually, in youth activities and family gatherings. In particular, my grandparents and extended family gathered every New Years. Part of that event, and the one I only appreciated later in my faith walk, was the reading of Psalm 90. The Psalm speaks of the faithfulness of God, his unwavering guidance of his people, and how we are to view our limited time in this world. Now that I have my own family and children, and as I have now lost grandparents and have aged parents, I better understand the meaning and significance of that Psalm.
Certainly, my faith has been reinforced, and challenged, throughout my life. Getting married was the best thing I have done for my faith because of how God blessed me with a person I can only describe as a better follower than I at the time. Glynda’s influence and in insistence on a strong church life, along with the example of her parents and their devotion to the faith and their church, guided me back toward an active relationship with Christ. God led us to a wonderful Church in Raleigh, where faithful members and clergy strengthened my belief in Christ through challenging me to take leadership positions with the youth ministry, trusting me to become a deacon and later blessing me with the gift of being a elder. It was at this church the creeds and confessions of the church became more important and more real to me. Declaring my sins weekly in the confession of faith is something I recognized as vital to my fellowship with Christ. Teaching Sunday school classes not only strengthened my knowledge of Jesus and his message, but gave me an outlet to express that faith to others. Christ’s message really took hold of me through the discipline of lesson preparation and the expression my faith as I taught.
In 2014 it became apparent to me that the PCUSA was no longer the denomination where my family and I should commit ourselves and our resources to. That decision was made with considerable prayer. We left longtime friends and a church that had provided incredible support to our family but we also felt Christ calling us to a new and biblically solid part of his church. Peace Church offered us the theological ideals and Christ-centered body we sought.
As much as the church reinforced my faith in Christ, it was through the most difficult of times that the church expressed Christ’s overwhelming grace to me. Glynda’s cancer diagnoses just after the birth of Laura Cate shook my faith as nothing else could. It was partially through the incredible sacrifices of fellow believers that Christ was revealed. We received unbelievable support from members we knew and those we didn’t. Christ worked through people we knew to be non-believers, moving them to show God’s grace and love in ways they didn’t understand. I needed that love more than I could and probably have expressed. I doubt that I will ever comprehend the depth of God’s working for me during that difficult period.
While the illness Glynda suffered through was beyond difficult, it was a very difficult time for me spiritually as well. Indeed, I have never reached out to Christ more or as vociferously as I did for those years. I would like to say I trusted God during that period, but I am sure I was as guilty of the sin of doubt then as ever. It was truly a overwhelming time in my life, with the emotion of why me at times gripping me to tears. I have wondered in the years since emerging from that period if I prayed enough, trusted enough in Christ.
Like most, I have experience spiritual struggles though my life. College was a particular period where I didn’t so much as leave Christ and his church as I developed a level of indifference to his influence on my life. I am sure some of that was being away from home, with my first taste of independence. I was in control of my life, or so I thought. I was challenged in those years with great temptations and things that could have moved me far away from Christ, and while I was far from the person and disciple Christ would have me be I was always aware of his desires for my life.
An additional struggle I continue to face daily is the proper placement of my work life and identity versus that of my faith and spiritual life. I have been blessed by God with a job and work environment that is enjoyable to me, and in which I thrive. My failure is properly balancing that blessing with my responsibilities as a husband and father as well as a follower of Christ. Most of my customers are believers and hard working men and women and the culture of agriculture is one of hard dirty work that is virtually limitless. That along with the incessant technology in the workplace today leaves very little opportunity to include Christ in the daily work routine. I am thankful that the office of Deacon will allow me an opportunity for church work. I am confident the structure of the diaconate and the work required in that office will encourage me to do a better job of finding the balance Christ would ask me to have.
In addition to work, my biggest spiritual struggle continues to be a lack of empathy that is required in a man of Christ. I have always struggled with this issue, made worse at times by a lack of willingness to allow hear the needs and difficulties of others. I pray often to God and Christ for a heart more willing to be empathetic to others and know I need to do that even more as I seek to protect family and my lifestyle. I am looking forward to the challenge of the diaconate position and Peace as it will force upon me situations and experiences where Christ will demand from me a level of compassion I otherwise would find difficult to express. Indeed, one of the blessings of a more Evangelical church is a group of believers more open with their vulnerabilities and reliance on Christ in their lives. I fully expect the diaconate role at Peace will help me with my struggle with expressing Gods love though me to others.
The role of Deacon at Peace is a call I feel blessed to fulfill. I have been fortunate to have the examples of my grandfather and father who willingly and faithfully served their churches through out their lives. This call to Peace will allow me to use Christ gifts of my business experience in the more operational areas of church life. I have seen from prior church officer experience how important at times a business approach can be to some aspects of church management. Christ has blessed me with many experiences in church officer which I hope to use for the betterment of his church at Peace. In addition to the practical aspects of being a deacon I feel this call is the next another step in Christ’s plan for my life. I am confident he will place challenges in the time of my service that will grow me spiritually, place new people and issues in my path that I will have to reach out to him for guidance upon, and demand from me growth in my walk with Christ.
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