Officer Candidate Testimonies

2022 Officer Candidates

Steve Armstrong    Drew Boyuka   Jono Darville   Dan Prins

Steve Grube   Bruce Innes   Kurt Rundle

Jonathan Schultheis   Ryan Swanson   Steve West

Dear Peace Church Family,

It is with pleasure that the Session of Peace Presbyterian Church (PC) informs you of the men whom God has raised up as eligible candidates for the offices of Elder and Deacon this year.  These men were nominated by the congregation, completed an extensive 8-week Officers Training Course, and were examined and approved by the Session to stand for election - see below testimonies.

Since the election of church officers is one of the most important responsibilities we have as members of PC, we urge you to pray earnestly in preparation for Officer Elections, which will be held during a brief congregational meeting between the morning worship services on Sunday, June 26, 2022.  As you pray for these men and God’s guidance for our congregation, consider our Lord’s instruction regarding the spiritual qualifications of Elder and Deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9).  

What is the office of Elder?
The elder is a man to whom God has given the ability and the passion to serve God’s people as a shepherd (1 Pt. 5:2).  An elder is a shepherd who knows and cares for members of the church and helps others to grow in grace through prayer, guidance, teaching, and visitation.  The elder also shepherds by overseeing (Acts 20:28) the spiritual health of the church’s members and ministries.  The elder leads by guarding God’s people (Acts 20:31) from spiritual harm and by protecting the faithfulness of the gospel as it is taught in the church.   Lastly, the elder shepherds by reflecting an example (1 Pt. 5:1-3) of what it means to live a life of faith, hope, and repentance as he becomes more like Jesus.

What is the office of Deacon?
The office of deacon is one of sympathy and service (Acts 6:1-7) that reflects the community of God’s people, especially in helping one another in time of need.  The deacon is a man in whom God has fanned into flame the ability and the passion for mercy ministry.  The deacon reflects the gospel of grace as he ministers to those in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress.  

The Lord established two distinct offices to reflect two distinct and necessary sets of gifts to serve the Church. Neither office is superior to, nor a training ground for, the other.  The office of elder and deacon are partners in the gospel as they reflect two areas of Jesus’ own personal ministry (Mk 10:45, Jn 10:11).  

Please review the following candidate biographies and pray earnestly for our Father’s guidance and provision through the upcoming officer elections on June 26th.  

With deep appreciation and affection, 

Pastor Chris Florence

Deacon Candidate - Steve Armstrong
Returning Deacon

My name is Steve Armstrong and my wife Jimmie and my children Abby and Jack have been attending Peace since early 2000. Although I have lived in the Raleigh area for nearly 30 years at that point, my reason for starting to attend Peace was directly related to the beginning of my walk with Jesus.

I was raised in a very loving home with great parents without want, but not really a Christian home. I was actually baptized as a Presbyterian infant, and my folks took my brothers and me to church until I was about 6 years old. Throughout the rest of my adolescence and early adult life, I would have told you if asked that I was a Christian, really based on my belief that I was a generally good person and attended church occasionally. Jimmie and I met in 1988 and married in 1990, and I am extremely grateful that she as a born-again Christian, still chose to marry me. You see in God’s providence, Jimmie in the years of our courting and engagement had slipped a bit in her walk, but God is good and His plans and that window of opportunity brought her and me together. I am so thankful that His plans allow me today to say I am married to the bride of my youth and looking back at how instrumental her faith also was a part of His plan of my salvation.

Well in 1994, Abby was born and that was really a huge wake-up call for me and my journey. You see a couple of things happened with her joining our family. First, I sensed for the first time a real unworthiness, that my sin was something real that I couldn’t deny, but the Lord still blessed me with a daughter. The second was I watched Jimmie draw closer to Jesus again and start to attend church regularly. I even went along on the Holiday occasionally, because it was the “right thing to do”. Sadly, I only sat back the rest of those Sundays when Jimmie faithfully took Abby to church on her own.  When I ponder those years I really sensed the Lord working on me in many ways drawing me to himself, but it still was not time. Then in 1997, those feeling all resurfaced with our son Jack’s birth, but even more of a sense of unworthiness before God in my limited understanding of what and who the person Jesus really is. Three more years of stirring occurred, and in that time I continued to try and press on, faking my “Christian” goodness when needed, attending church very irregularly, and really for the first time sincerely seeking answers to those big questions on my quest to know God. I was reading all kinds of spiritual stuff, engaging folks that would listen to me from all walks.

 By God’s grace, He put two folks into my life that are born-again followers of Jesus. One was a buyer of one of my customers, the other was my recently assigned boss at the company I was with at that time. Both of these conversations happened within about 2 weeks, but my curiosity about eternal things, questions about faith, and what motivated them led them both to strongly suggest I search for truth in scripture. In fact, they both said to read John. I did and not long after, the stirring of my soul was at a tipping point. I finally knew I was not a “good person” worthy of God’s love or respect in light of the standard He expects, but He had provided a way for me to gain that in the truth and hope of His son, my Savior at Calvary.  It was a quiet night alone at the age of 35 that I prayed the sinner’s prayer and can honestly say that I felt an overwhelming sense of the Holy Spirits' presence that early morning alone in our basement.

 The next day, as I shared this news with Jimmie, she, of course, was elated but even more, I said, I want to go to church this Sunday. This time it was very different. She said great, at the time she was attending Salem Baptist, but I said I want to go to Peace Presbyterian even though I couldn’t even tell you what a Presbyterian was at that time. She said let's go and we have been here ever since less 5 years out in Phoenix, Arizona.

Since that time, I’ve been molded and shaped more radically at times and others less obvious, but I know my Savior is at work in and through me. I am still a sinner, but I know with full confidence that the sins of my past, today, and future are covered by the blood of Jesus.  My prayer and hope are that while still on this side of Glory, the work He has begun in me will continue to be revealed and used by Him for His glory. Even more that the new man will increase and the old man in me will decrease.

Deacon Candidate - Drew Boyuka
Returning Deacon

I’m blessed to say I’ve known Christ for about as long as I can remember. I grew up in a Christian family and accepted Christ as my savior when I was about 7 years old, at an evening children’s church activity. My understanding of that faith grew over time, of course, with some spiritual crises over the next several years where I wrestled with what it meant to believe, but I can trace God’s saving work back to that point. There was a time I was embarrassed to not have a more “dramatic” conversion experience, or worried it reflected weakness in my faith; as I’ve learned more about God’s covenant family and his promise for the children of believers, though, I instead consider this a blessing.

The next major development in my spiritual life came in 2004 when I was 15, and my family moved and started attending a new church (PCA). The teaching there opened a whole new perspective for me. I’d read the Word often before, but had never had it taught to me with the same depth. I watched my parents’ faith deepen under the same teaching, as well, and their witness during that time was a major factor in my own spiritual growth.

During college, I attended various churches, a small group on campus, and RUF, and generally “stayed the course” but not much more. When I started graduate school in 2011, however, two things happened: in Raleigh, I came to Peace PCA, and back home, a new pastor came to my family’s church. From both sources, I began to really learn more about reformed theology, and the new understanding had a deep impact on my spiritual life; in particular, coming to know God’s salvation as unconditional, perfect, and permanent lifted a weight from me I didn’t even realize I had been bearing. Sadly, I also learned the perniciousness of sin in the church during this time: after a couple of years of strife and infighting, my home church ultimately split over the teaching and reforms led by the pastor. It’s a tragic story, but to me, it underscored the need to strive for unity in the church and to be submissive to her government, imperfect though it is, as well as the vital duty and weighty responsibility of those who shepherd.

God has continued to minister to me through Peace church. My community group has had an immense impact on my walk with Christ, through thoughtfully discussing and wrestling with God’s Word as well as prayer and accountability with others in the group. So too has the friendship and mentorship of godly men in the church, who have invested a great deal of time in my spiritual growth. As God has revealed more of himself to me over time, I have come to more fully see my own sin and weaknesses; but fortunately, he always reveals still more of his grace!

I’ve been blessed to serve as a deacon at Peace church for three years now. It has been a special encouragement to me to witness firsthand God ministering to the needs of His people through His church and to watch and work alongside godly men. It has also been a continual reminder both of how I fall short in my own strength, and of how God is gracious to demonstrate His strength and bring about fruit.

Elder Candidate - Jono Darville
First Time Candidate

My name is Jonathan (Jono) Darville. My wife, Jillian, and I have been married for eight years and have been members of Peace for six years. We have one child (baby Jono), who is five months old. 

My early childhood was significantly shaped by a Christian influence. However, the formative Christian practices that shaped my early outlook on life began to fall by the wayside when I was about eight years old. Unexpectedly, the church movement that my dad was a part of imploded. He ended up leaving the ministry, entered the business world, and moved our family from Houston, Texas to Cary, North Carolina. After the move, I don't remember church or spiritual conversation being as prevalent in our home.

In high school, I became a testimony cliche (partying, etc.). Then, during my sophomore year in high school, life kicked back: my dad and mom separated, my maternal grandmother died of cancer, and my girlfriend (who I had transferred the weight of all my unmet family expectations onto) cheated on me. I started running from God as hard and fast as I could. After I graduated, I continued the trend of running from God—going to four undergraduate institutions in two years, before finally dropping out of school and moving to New York. An opportunity presented itself for me to sign a contract with a prominent modeling agency.

I moved to New York at 21; and to no one's surprise, I quickly got caught up in the nightlife scene. I became desperately lonely. As it says in the Psalms, "the sorrows of those who run after another god will multiply." Then, one day in God's grace, a guy at a casting asked if I wanted to grab lunch. During lunch, he invited me to come to a Bible study for people in the fashion industry. I went (reluctantly) and met a group of guys who were all a few years older than me. They were actors, models, and artists who also happened to be devout Christians. What was interesting to me after observing their lives for a few weeks was that their faith didn't just shape the way that they lived on Sundays; it shaped the way they lived Monday through Saturday as well. I often say that watching them was like hearing life spoken in its original language for the first time. 

This group of men went on to befriend and disciple me, sharing both the gospel and their lives with me. Finally, one morning after a long night out, I came to the end of myself. I crawled into my living room and cried out to God. Essentially I said, "God, I've tried being good as a younger man, and I've tried being bad as an older man, and both have left me empty. Clearly, something deeper than my behavior is wrong; something is wrong with my heart, and I can't change that. So, God, if you're there, would you change me?" The Spirit of God invaded and transformed the condition of my heart that morning. He resurrected my soul. I got off my living room floor a different man—forgiven by the blood of Christ and cleansed by the living water. God proceeded to put my life back together: he put my parents’ marriage back together, he freed me of an addiction to partying, and he slowly freed me from all the hurt and pain of my past. 

I went on to finish a degree in Biblical Studies and Apologetics at The College at Southeastern—after serious health issues forced me to move home in 2008. I then spent a number of years working with a company called The Center for Leadership Studies in Cary. My health issues took me away from work and almost claimed my life in 2017 and 2020, but God graciously intervened and used UNC Hospital to restore my health in 2020. I am now finishing a degree at Southeastern Seminary and pursuing ordination with the PCA, while joyfully serving as the Youth Director at Peace. Jillian and I are grateful that God chose to restore my health and bring us back to Peace Church. If elected, it will be an honor to serve as an elder of Peace Church. 

Elder Candidate - Dan Prins
Returning Elder

I grew up in a Christian home where we read the Bible and prayed, and went to church and Sunday school each week, where I went to Christian schools from Kindergarten thru college.  I knew the Bible stories, the theology, and right from wrong – and those around me would say I was a good person.  But that didn’t make me a Christian.  

I have an engineering and puzzle-solving mind, and so what I learned had to make sense and be true in order for it to be the basis for how I would live my life.  That slowly came together during my college years and finally gelled after marrying and preparing to move to North Carolina.  What was true was that I was a sinner and that someone had to pay for those sins for me to be right with God.  That someone was Jesus because I could never do it.  The facts about Jesus became knowing Jesus as a person.  In trusting him, my head knowledge became heart knowledge and I committed my life to follow Him.

That was almost 50 years ago now.  There have been many trials to challenge my trust; but, God brought me through them; and, the challenges only deepened and strengthened the relationship.  If you’d like to hear about some of those challenges, I’d be happy to share those with you in person.

I have served multiple terms as a Ruling Elder at Peace Church dating back to 1980 when I was first ordained.  In the years since then, I have served as Clerk of Session several times and on almost every committee.  I currently serve as the Stated Clerk of Eastern Carolina Presbytery and on the PCA Committee for Review of Presbytery Records.

Deacon Candidate - Steve Grube
Returning Deacon

My name is Steve Grube, husband to Terry Grube and father of Alyssa, Bethany, and Christina. As a member of Peace Church for over 20 years, I am excited and honored to share my testimony with you as I stand for the office of Deacon. 

My walk starts in rural central Pennsylvania where I grew up. We were essentially holiday  Christians attending the local Presbyterian (USA) church, mostly at Christmas and Easter. I attended Sunday school fairly regularly in my late middle school years and early high school. I enjoyed Sunday school but had no interest in going to service as I felt it was full of hypocrites. Living in a small town meant that we were all intimate with everyone’s sin, so I found it a bit “fake” as I surveyed the congregation knowing what I knew about people (including myself). I firmly believed in  God and his providence in this world, but Jesus was nothing more than a historical figure  (shown perfectly by my broken view of sin and who and why people would be at church).  Reflecting back on this now really brings to life “having eyes to see and ears to hear,” as I’m sure I heard the gospel many times but had no understanding of it or of Christ himself. 

In my late high school years and throughout college, I stopped attending church altogether. I never wavered in my belief in God’s existence, but Christ still was completely absent in my life. I was a repetitive “deal maker” with God where each challenge in life would be met with the statement “Just work this out for me God and I promise I will be a  better person”. In a beautiful display of obsessive-compulsive disorder, I often would leave Christian music playing in my dorm room as I headed off to exams; what better way to win a little favor from God? Pretty funny looking back on it now. 

After college, I started working at IBM in upstate New York and met my future wife,  Terry, a few months later while visiting friends in Washington D.C. (ok, they were fraternity brothers and the trip was a continuation of college life). We married about three years later after carrying on a long-distance relationship for two of those years. We were married in a Presbyterian church in Vienna, Virginia, and completed pre-marriage counseling there. I recall the pastor being thrilled that we said grace before meals but,  again, I came no closer to Christ (another case of eyes to see and ears to hear, I suspect). 
Our life continued in NY and we would often talk about attending a DutchReformed church near where we lived (although we never acted on this). The winters of the north were wearing on us and we had designs on moving somewhere warmer. Out of the blue,  Terry received a call from a woman she had met at a conference a few months earlier, with a job offer in North Carolina. They would move us to North Carolina which gave me the leverage to request a transfer from IBM or simply find another job in the Research Triangle  Park area. So we moved to North Carolina in August of 1994 and moved into the Brampton  Moors apartments down the street from Peace. I recognized how good God was being to us and started attending church for this reason. It is ironic how broken theology was leading me on a path toward Christ. I would like to say that I had a lightning bolt conversion, but quite honestly, coming to Christ was a process for me. As I attended Peace for the first several months I came to know Christ and placed my faith in him as my personal savior. Ironically,  at roughly the same time, my parents and sister were also returning to church and re connecting to Christ. While it wasn’t apparent at the time, looking back now I can see God’s fingerprints all over my life as he lead me to Christ. 

I had come to Christ, but I hadn’t entirely turned my life over to him – I believed that  I was still in control. Terry and I decided it was time to start a family, but we found out that this was not medically possible. While we were good in vitro fertilization candidates, we were not going to have children naturally (we still have the video to prove it ☺). We considered this option along with the possibility of adopting. This was a critical moment in my walk as I acknowledged that Christ was in control and he would work this out in his time and in his way. We prayed, got a dog, bought some white furniture, and waited to hear from God. About three months later, Terry called me at work to inform me that she was pregnant … with twins. No drugs or medical procedures, just a miracle from God (later affirmed by the doctor who delivered the twins via cesarean section). This was also the first time I felt the strong presence of the Holy Spirit. I recall lying in bed, freaking out at the prospect of having twins and a family to support when a wave of calm washed over me and I instantly knew everything would be ok. God is good and would care for me and my family. Lightning would strike two and a half years later when God would bless us with our third child. 

Over these last 20 years at Peace, my faith and reliance on Christ has continued to grow. I wish I could say this at a steady pace, but as a new Christian, I often struggled with the question of why God would choose a sinner like me, and today I still wrestle daily with my old nature. 1 John 1:9 tells us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive  us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I am a sinner, I do a lot of confessing,  and he is faithful and just. My favorite scripture is Matthew 22:37-38 – Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as  yourself.” While I don’t keep this perfectly, God has been calling me to love those around me more – from the righteous to the unrighteous, from the pastor to the guy that delivers the mail at work. I am humbled and honored at being nominated for the office of deacon and look forward to the opportunity to love God and my neighbor through service to him,  Christ’s body, and the community at large.

Deacon Candidate - Bruce Innes
Returning Deacon

It is my privilege to be able to testify to the wondrous grace of God in my life.  I am much more aware of that grace at this point in my life than when I became a Christian, and I can see more clearly the path along which 
God drew me to Himself.

I was not raised in a Christian family; though I would say that I was raised by hard-working, morally conservative parents.  I attended church as a young teen primarily because my friends were there, and I enjoyed singing in the youth choir.  These were also some of my roughest years in that I went through a period of doing things to try to please myself and my friends: shoplifting, cursing, fighting.  I put up a good front around adults and was always considered an "all-American" boy.

I looked back a few years later and realized that I had lost the desire to use profanity, shoplift, or fight.  Years later, I could see how God had been at work in my life, and I have been grateful to Him for His grace in protecting me and others from the consequences of some of my wayward activities and thoughts.

My high school years were filled with academics, sports, and continued church activity, but I had no relationship with the Lord.  During my junior year, I became involved with Young Life and began to hear aspects of the gospel presented in ways that made sense to me.  The summer after my junior year, I went on a bike trip with Young Life which ended with a week at Windy Gap, their camp in the North Carolina mountains.  It was during that week that I asked Jesus into my heart to be my savior.  As I look back at that experience, I can see that I had only a very shallow understanding of the gospel at that time.  I knew I had sinned and that Jesus was the savior I needed.  I did not at that time realize the depth of my sin, nor the extent of God's redeeming love.

Since then, God has continued to reveal more and more of His grace, and my understanding of the gospel has increased.  I had chosen to go my own way, chosen to do wrong when I knew better.  I was enslaved by the very things I thought would bring me freedom.  I was spiritually dead in my sin, separated from God, and helpless to do anything about it.  But I have also begun to understand the depth of God's grace.  Though I deserved death, for "the wages of sin is death," God loved me so much that he sent his only begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to pay that death penalty for me.  Not only that, but God clothes me with the righteousness of Christ and has drawn me into a living, loving relationship with Himself.

Does this mean my life is perfect?  Let me assure you that this is not the case.  My growth in faith has at times been slow or seemingly non-existent.  I still battle with lusts of the flesh and desires of the world, but I also know that if I confess my sins, God is faithful and will forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.  I am also confident that He has begun a good work in me, and that He "will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

I have also grown in the knowledge and understanding of God's grace through many of the countless ways he has blessed me.  He has provided me with a lifetime companion and best friend, my wife Darcie, through whom he has taught, rebuked, comforted, and encouraged me.  He has also blessed us with four children, now adults: Bethany, Shannon, Alexander, and Jeremy.  He has given me great joy through them and has also taught me much about His relationship of Father to me as His adopted son through my relationship with my children.  It has also been a joy to me to see the Lord at work in their lives as well.

The Lord has also blessed us as a family to be a part of this particular body of believers at Peace Church.  Here we have experienced what it means to be part of the family of God: to be among brothers and sisters in Christ, to hear God's word faithfully taught, to worship the Lord together, to weep with those who weep, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to be able to help others in need, and to be helped when we were in need.

The Lord is continuing to teach me what it looks like to be a servant, and this passage from Philippians remains one of my favorite passages: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:3-8)

God is showing me each day what it means to acknowledge my weakness and live in His strength, and it is my prayer that He will use me to bring glory to Himself. 

Deacon Candidate - Kurt Rundle
Returning Deacon

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL by two loving, Christian parents. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and maintained membership in that same denomination for about 40 years. I met my wonderful wife Dolores in high school and after we were married, we moved to the Western suburbs of Chicago and joined the Lombard CRC where we both became involved as leaders of the elementary, middle school, and High School youth programs. It was during this period that the Spirit moved me to commit my life to Christ which I did by making Profession of Faith at the age of 25. 

Because of mergers and acquisitions during my insurance career, we relocated frequently and at one point lived in 5 states within 7 years. It was a challenging time. There was a time when we did not join any church for 9 years. With the separation from life-long friends and family, the early years away from Chicago were a very difficult time for both of us. It was during our time in Atlanta that Dolores and I endured years of infertility treatment only to be met with frustration and the inability to conceive. I have vivid memories of a discussion with my mother about my frustration and our lack of church membership during which I said, “God and I aren’t getting along right now”. I was frustrated that life was not going as I planned it or wanted it to go. Little did I know I needed God more than ever. 

In 1998 we moved to Richmond, VA and it was during our time there that the Lord started working to bring us back to Him and to bring Jared into our lives. After the failed infertility treatments, we were led to adopt, and the Lord worked His plan perfectly to bring Jared to live with us in January of 1999. This was only temporary custody granted by the birth father and grandparents and not the courts. What a blessing he was! Dolores and I both believed that church life was important to both of us as children and we wanted to afford Jared that same opportunity, so we began to attend the Salisbury Presbyterian Church in Midlothian, VA. Richmond was short-lived and in 2000 we moved to Dallas, TX because of yet another job transfer. Jared’s adoption was still pending, and I realized I had control over nothing either professionally or personally, and I didn’t like it, yet I still didn’t see that this was all God’s working with me to mature my faith and my dependence on Him. 

Dallas was God’s lifeline. We were led to Bethel CRC, a church that had a great pastor and an outstanding associate pastor by the name of Rip Pratt. The scripture was preached boldly and challenged us weekly to change our lives. Meanwhile, Jared’s adoption proceedings continued on and on…. I had no control and frustrations remained, however, the church and our friends provided wonderful support and prayer during the entire adoption process. I became involved in the church as a leader in the Cadet Program and we participated in small groups. We made many good friends in Dallas including my personal relationship with Rip and it was Rip who kept me levelheaded and pointed me to the book of Proverbs which came to be a book that I loved and to this day, remains my favorite book of the Bible. He was a Godly man and a wonderful influence in my life. 

In April 2003, nearly 4 years after first meeting Jared, and after numerous court delays, his adoption was finalized. The church, my mother, and two of my sisters celebrated right along with us. Jared was baptized by Rip when he was 6 years old. I’ll never forget Rip explaining to Jared what adoption was about. He kept it simple by having Jared hold his hand up and drawing a cross on Jared’s palm and explaining to him that it was God’s sign that he was now a child of God, and no one could take that away. It was through the adoption process that the Lord, through His Spirit, moved me to understand that He, not me, controlled my life. It was humbling to acknowledge yet it was a total relief to turn my life, and its direction, to the Lord. In hindsight bringing Jared into our lives was yet another example of God’s great plans for our life.

Late in 2003 we moved to Collierville, TN but were only there for 18 months. We quickly found a church home at St. Patrick’s Presbyterian Church. It was a smaller church, meeting in an old office building, with about 200 members but it gave us the opportunity to get involved quickly. I was a member of the Home Missions Committee and Dolores, and I was responsible for the ‘Clothes Closet’ which was a clothing outlet operated out of the back of the church that was for the underprivileged people of the area. Jared was even there to help occupy the children as the parents selected their clothing. It was a family ministry that we looked forward to. 

We moved to Holly Springs. NC in 2005 and God led us to Peace in August of 2005.  I was very busy in my new position which I used as an excuse not to get involved in church activities. After a while, my heart was moved to join the Home Missions group but that was short-lived as my business travel schedule made it difficult to make the commitment that needed to be made. After several “invitations” from Dolores in 2006, I joined the men’s Monday night Bible Study Fellowship group. What a blessing that has been to study scripture with a group of believers and gain a clearer understanding of how to apply scripture to my life! 

Things at work were going great! We were a successful organization, and I unknowingly became engrossed in being the best I/we could be. The problem? I became self-sufficient, and I was not glorifying God in what I did. I lost sight of the fact that God was making me successful, and I had nothing to do with it. I became prideful and arrogant in my accomplishments. I had changed, but God did not, and I unknowingly moved farther from Him as I continued to drive for success. This was all brought to the forefront of my mind after being let go in late 2008. This was one of the most humbling experiences in my life and through God’s grace, mercy, and the Spirit’s guidance, I know now that God allowed this to happen to draw me closer to him and provide me with an opportunity to serve and glorify Him in all that I do. 

During my career transition, I was tested by anxiety, frustration, and doubt, yet I felt the peace of God guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.  Through God’s grace, many good things have come from my career change. I traveled less and it allows for more family time, my circle of friends has changed to allow for more Christian fellowship, and I find that I have more time to spend in Scripture and prayer. 

Following my time in the corporate world, the Lord led me to work at the Autism Society of NC where I continue to work with autistic individuals to help them develop job skills, interviewing skills, social skills, and communication skills, and eventually locate employment where I support them in the workplace. Most of the time this is an extremely satisfying job but sometimes extremely frustrating too. Just knowing that the Lord led me there and that I have the privilege of serving an otherwise underserved disabled population is immensely fulfilling. 

In September 2019 I was involved in a serious car accident and spent nearly a month in the hospital. I don’t remember much about the first 5 days or so but what I have been told is that elders prayed over me, Doug prayed over me, and the prayers of the Peace Church family started immediately. Our family was provided meals and most anything else that was needed during my long recovery. I had visitors from church who would brighten my day and make me laugh in those trying times. The response of the church family during that time was undeniably Christ-driven and means more to us than can be expressed here. God blessed me with not only a wonderful recovery but a real-life example of Christ’s body caring for one of its own. I don’t wish the experience on anyone, but it was simply amazing to experience, and we can’t thank the church body enough. 

During our 16 years at Peace Dolores and I have been involved with Peace church activities through the Junior High youth group, I was on the Deacon Board serving as Mercy Chair, I was a member of the Peace Church Staff Relations Committee, and I was a member of Comfort & Care Ministry until I became a Children’s Leader at Bible Study Fellowship about 12 years ago, I was a class facilitator at Jobs for Life at Dorcas Ministries, and I continue to volunteer my time at Wesleyan First Church of Deliverance.  

I have my struggles and am far from perfect, but I continue to pray for God’s version of success in life, and not mine. Experience has taught me that God uses adversity and opportunities in life to strengthen us spiritually and to open our eyes to the direction He wants us to take.  I feel His call now and if selected as a deacon I look forward to serving the Lord and the Peace Church congregation using the variety of experiences God has provided me with, the spiritual gifts He has blessed me with, and the servants’ heart I am so fortunate to have.  

Deacon Candidate - Jonathan Schultheis 
First Time Candidate   

Hi, I am Jonathan Schultheis. I have been a member of Peace Presbyterian Church for over 30 years. I had very loving parents who shared the gospel as an important part of my life growing up. I remember praying to be saved and to follow Jesus at a very young age while I was in elementary school.  

I was vacationing with my family in Canada and was outdoors with my dad at a place that looked out on the large expansive lake where we were staying, far away from the city limits. I could gaze into the sky and see many brilliant stars. My dad and I were talking one evening and I had this bad feeling inside. I felt very guilty about the sins I had committed, and about the consequences of not being “good enough” and being separated from God and the love of my family. Honestly, I was scared about going to Hell! Scripture admonishes us in many places about this.  Luke 12:5 says “But I will warn you who to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell”. During this time with my dad, I shared a heart-felt confession of my need for Jesus and to follow him. With my dad, I prayed that evening for God’s forgiveness and my need for him in my life. We can have God’s assurance with that simple prayer of need and repentance, and the faith that God enables us to believe. As a child of God, He writes to us “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1b

Fast forward to deciding what profession I pursue and where God wants me…. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continuously. I very much enjoyed working with plants. God made clear my path to degrees in the plant sciences at Michigan State University, and the University of Florida. Upon graduation, I landed at North Carolina State University in the Department of Horticultural Science in 1989. I still work there. God has richly blessed me in ways to be able to help many others in this arena as well as to train graduate students towards future plant sciences contributions. God blessed me to be able to work with a diverse group of people and to have a heart for others. 

While I was in graduate school one of the verses that was very meaningful and still is to this day is Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by pray and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” An important request/prayer I had was to find the person God had for me with whom to share my life. God answered this prayer and provided in more ways than I could have imagined. God brought me Nancy (my wife) as our lives came together while at the University of Florida. God has sustained and deepened our marriage and our walk with him for the 37-plus years we have been married. He has blessed us with two beautiful daughters, Katie and Sarah, with two wonderful sons-in-law, and to date with two grandchildren. We are thankful for God’s wonderful plan. 

There have been many challenges in my life and we all face these. God is all about drawing us closer to Him so He can be glorified through the lives we lead, and we can better understand the fullness of this life and the certainty and hope of the life after our physical death on this earth. It is only through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross that I can have this hope. Christ has paid the price for my sins. I cannot be good enough on my own. Romans 3:22-24 NIV says “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” 

My more recent and current challenge has been working through a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. Having this cancer has caused me to value each day so much more. I appreciate how much emphasis that Peace Church places on prayer and have been humbled and grateful for how people in this church have prayed for me. Such a blessing Peace Church has been to Nancy and me. I am truly thankful for God’s steadfast love.

A particular verse that has stuck with me for many, many years is one that my mom shared with me to encourage me many years ago. I hope it encourages you. It is Philippians 1: 6 which says “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day Jesus Christ.”  God continues to work in me. He does not give up on us. Praise God!

Deacon Candidate - Ryan Swanson
Returning Deacon

My name is Ryan Swanson, and I am a candidate for the office of deacon. I have been married to my wife Kristina for almost 13 years. We have been blessed with four children: Oksana (11), Canaan (8), Ellie (3), and Annie (4 months).

One of the Lord’s first and best blessings in my life was being born into a home with parents who knew and loved God. My mom grew up in a Christian home, hearing of Christ’s work on the cross from a very early age. My dad did not but came to know the Lord during his early thirties. Their marriage was one founded upon Christ, and the Lord has richly blessed their lives (and those of their children).
I can’t remember a time when my family wasn’t in church. I grew up in what I would describe as a fairly “fundamentalist” household, with very strict rules and standards.  Church attendance was essentially a requirement for us. For the first few years of elementary school, I attended a Christian school that was formally associated with the church we attended. I remember making a profession of faith at the age of six in my Kindergarten classroom, and I believe I was saved at or around that time in my life.
For the rest of my pre-college school years, I attended a private Christian academy where Bible courses and chapels were a regular part of the curriculum. For me, this allowed me to become quite lazy in my personal walk with God. It was easy to think that I was getting enough Bible “exposure” and time with the Lord through Bible classes and church meetings. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I experienced spurts of becoming energized to draw closer to the Lord through personal devotion and prayer time. These periods would never last very long and I would slip back into a comfortable existence that was devoid of real one-on-one time with my Savior.  
After graduating high school, I spent two years at Bob Jones University completing my pre-pharmacy school coursework. These years were incredibly formative for me.  Although I remained in an educational “bubble” of Bible classes and chapels, I met professors and students alike who lived lives wholly dedicated to God (verses many lives I’d witnessed before this time that served more “lip service” in how their faith was lived out). At BJU, personal devotion time was encouraged (and sometimes required for various classes), and I experienced growth in my Christian walk on a level I hadn’t known before now.

I married Kristina at the age of 26 and became a dad at 29. These two roles, more than any others in my life up to this point, essentially forced me into a closer walk with God. With my marriage, not only was I responsible for my personal walk with God but also became the spiritual head of our household with all the responsibilities that role entails.  Becoming a father made me appreciate and see my relationship with the Heavenly Father through a completely new lens. I got to experience firsthand, almost on a daily basis, the frustrations of a child straying from a father’s instruction. Inevitably during these scenarios, I was convicted to think about how God feels when I sin and stray from Him.

My last two church experiences (Grace Community Church in Angier, and Peace) have framed my faith in a very different way than what I knew during the first 20 years of my Christian walk. During my childhood and teenage years, the emphasis almost always felt like it was on me—what is your relationship with God like today, what sins do you have before God, how much faith are you placing in him to help navigate the difficult situations of life? I believed salvation was a free gift of God, but that I possessed that gift because I had chosen to accept it. Over the last fifteen years, I have learned how much the emphasis should be placed on God and His saving grace. There was nothing in and of myself that caused God to choose me as one of His own; there was no prayer I could say or thing I could do to bring salvation upon myself. Rather, through the mystery of God’s all-knowing favor, I have been chosen and adopted as a child of God. He called me to Him with a grace so irresistible and unstoppable that I couldn’t help but make the choice to follow Him. Certainly, I am far from perfect, in my roles as husband, father, co-worker, and friend. However, I praise the Lord that He is working to sanctify me every day.

Elder Candidate - Steve West 
Returning Elder

My family went to church. A lot. Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night, and then on other occasions, like revival week, every night. My parents held a large Bible study in our home. They read a nightly devotion to one another. They prayed before meals. I don’t remember them saying one word to me about God, yet their lives shouted “Gospel.” For me, it was just ordinary. I thought all families were this way! 

At 12 or 13, I was a card-carrying member of the Science Fiction Book Club, devouring way too mature novels by the likes of Asimov and Heinlein, and so it was natural that I was deep into Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and haunted by the apocalypse/rapture films they showed at church, films which had the same effect on me of those “scared-straight” reel-to-reels they showed in drivers ed classes in high school. I lay in bed wondering when the world would end, and who would press the button to start the war that would lead to Armageddon. I worried. 

Then, at 14 my father died of a heart attack, and suddenly I was in my own personal apocalypse. I didn’t know how to help my mother. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. No one told me how to grieve. And yet questioning God’s existence never even occurred to me. I don’t recall ever asking “why?” or pondering the deep questions. But I was unsettled and anxious.

One night I sat up in bed, awakening from a deep sleep, and audibly heard Someone say my name. Just my name, that’s all.

I began reading books my mother had in her library. Missionary stories. Barclay’s commentaries. Eugenia Price’s Find Out for Yourself, one my mother wordlessly handed to me. Jay Kesler’s I Never Promised You a Disneyland. Gospel truth filled the pages. It all made sense to me. One night, at a revival meeting at our church, I went forward in response to an invitation. An elder haltingly led me in “the sinner’s prayer.” People were weird after that like I was a pastor like I was headed off to seminary next. But that wasn’t it. I already believed before that awkward prayer was prayed. I didn’t need a Gideon’s Bible. The books had schooled me. God spoke to me.! 

There is more to tell, of course. Since then I have lived 49 years. I went to college where I was captivated by the fellowship and books of Inter-Varsity. I married Juliana, the one God set my heart and will upon. I love the settledness of life: same house, same church, and same wife for the greater part of my adult life. I’d like to say, with Eugene Peterson, that it’s been a “long obedience in the same direction,” but that seems too much to claim. Better that I simply say that I’ve faced Godward through it all, like a compass pointed due north, yet even that I can’t claim. God draws me in, his pull magnetic. Me, I’m an exile in Babylon longing for Home.