Officers' Testimonies

Elder Candidate Alex Fuller

My wife Kathy and I have been attending Peace for 28 years. We have 3 married children and 6 grandchildren. I have been an Elder at Peace since 1995 and I am a candidate for a second 3-year term on Session.  

 

I was born about 100 miles south of here. Like others born in America, I was a Christian since almost everyone was a Christian (or so I thought).  Having grown up in the church, I did my share of good deeds. I made a profession of faith in Jesus and became a member of the church when I was twelve. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Later I became the president of both the junior and senior high youth groups. I attended retreats, conferences, and other events representing my church. When I went off to college, I had freedom I had never known before and I took advantage of it. Why go to church when mom and dad aren't around?

 

I continued that approach into my early married life. When the children arrived, I decided it might be time to get involved with the church again for their sake. It wasn't long before I became very involved again as president of the men's group and chairman of the missions’ workgroup. I also stood before the congregation at pledge time and exhorted them to give. I prayed regularly and gave 5% of my salary to the church. One time in Sunday school I remember telling someone sitting beside me that I ought to start reading the Bible because I claimed to be a Christian and I really didn't know what the Bible said. Over the next year, I read through the entire Bible although it didn't seem to make any real impact on me.

 

In my mind, I was a Christian because of my good deeds and I was surely better than a lot of other people. I was in control of my life. I did what I wanted when I wanted. My job was number one in my life. My wife and children probably came in fourth and fifth place. In 1985, after 12 years of marriage, that approach to life was shown to be a failure. My wife asked me to move out of the house.  My life was shaken as it had never been before.

 

After spending several months going around like a lost puppy, I called out to God. I told Him that no matter what happened in the future, I was going to follow Him. Very shortly thereafter, I began reading my Bible with interest and understanding. I began listening to Christian teaching on the radio. It was probably a month before I realized I had actually become a Christian. Prior to that time, I had an impersonal relationship with God (which is no relationship at all) instead of a personal relationship with Jesus. Previously I could not even say the name "Jesus" without feeling uncomfortable. I had not understood that I had to repent of my sins and believe Jesus had already paid the price for my sins. I now realize I had not surrendered control of my life to Jesus nor trusted Him to save me. I was shocked to know that all that time I had not been saved by my good deeds.

 

This all translated into a dramatic change in my priorities. Things that used to be important were no longer important. I began to become concerned that the other people in my Sunday School class might be like me; thinking they were Christians and not knowing otherwise. Eventually, I stood before that class and told them the story of how I became a Christian and how they could become one also.  In that church, it was unusual to talk about Jesus in a personal way. Shortly after becoming a Christian, God graciously put me in a weekly prayer group. The fellowship was great and I learned much from the others in the group. I couldn't get enough.

 

Earlier in this story, I told you that I was divorced back in 1985. I prayed for 24 years that God would draw my ex-wife to Himself and then we would be able to reconcile and serve the Lord together.  When she died, I realized that wouldn’t happen. I decided that I would like to get married. Now the problem was to who. I met a woman here at Peace, Kathy Worrell, who had lost her husband to cancer 4 years earlier. As it turned out, she had been a member here since the early 1990s as I had.  As many of you already know, we dated for a short time and then got married. The story of how God brought the two of us together is another story for another day of God's sovereign hand in the process. Now looking back on all of this, I can see that God gave me a woman beyond my wildest dreams. He answered my prayer, just not in the way that I had expected. Married life has been fantastic. We are now almost 12 years into our honeymoon. Life hasn't been all roses. We lost a son 9 years ago to drugs, but through all this, God has brought us closer to Him and closer to each other.  Now I have a godly wife and we’re looking to see how the Lord would have us serve Him in His church.


Elder Candidate Rick Paules

 

By way of introduction, I am Rick Paules, married to Lou Paules, and together we have three adult children, Anna, Kristin, and Richard, who grew up here in Peace Church, and five wonderful grandchildren. I am approaching the end of my first term serving as an elder and have been nominated to serve you for a second three-year term in the office of elder.


As I reflect on my first three-year term, I am amazed at the ways God has grown me in my faith and proved Himself trustworthy. I confess I have not always been the compassionate servant that my wonderful wife Lou is, for which I ask for forgiveness and forbearance from you all, but God has given me a heart of flesh to love and serve in ways that I have not experienced before. I count it all joy to have been given these opportunities. 


With regards to my background, I was brought up in a home where we went to church every week and it was assumed that we were all Christians. In our Lutheran Church, I learned in Sunday School about Jesus, heard Bible stories, sang hymns, recited the liturgy, and learned from my parents that we were to give an offering every Sunday. I had moments when I would feel close to God but in my teenage years, I grew to be very self-absorbed and concerned more about popularity and peers than about God. Then one weekend a very strange thing happened … 


It was a Saturday night in February 1971 and I attended a Christian music group coming to our church that Saturday night, not because I wanted to but because it was a good excuse to get out of my house. It turned out to be a concert unlike any I had heard, a Jesus-centered rock event, and I stayed for the whole thing. The evening ended with something I had never seen before, an altar call. Out of sheer curiosity, I went up to one of the young men to hear their pitch and see what material they were passing out. Turns out, the young man who spoke with me had been blessed by the Holy Spirit that evening and was very excited about telling me everything he knew about the miracle that God had done through His Son Jesus to pay for my sins and give me His perfect righteousness if I would only believe on His name and follow Him. He talked for over an hour, not noticing that I was saying very little. Then at one point he looked at me and said to me, "You know, I think you believe in God but are just afraid to give up your life." He was dead right and because of that, I was dead in my sins. 


The next night, February 28th, 1971, after wrestling with what this young man had told me and by the Spirit of God working in my heart, I turned to God and told God that I gave up, He could have my life.  I figured I would probably turn into a monk or something, but it better to be with God than without Him.  God gave me a love for His Word and a faith that has grown from that baby seed to a strong anchor for my life. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is a phrase that is found in all four Gospels six times "Whoever would save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." I would love to tell you that I became a perfect saint at that point, but God has taken me on a wonderful journey with Him to grow my faith and change me to become more like Jesus over the years. 


To be honest, I have spent my whole life wrestling with the process of allowing Jesus to be the Lord of my life and dying to myself, and as I grow in a deeper understanding of the Holiness of God, I have also grown in my awareness of my sin and my need for a great savior. Romans 8, which many consider the pinnacle of Paul's letter to the Roman Christians, is an amazing confession of praise to the glory of God who saved us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, not because of any worth or merit on our part but through the work of His Spirit to draw us to himself and who now dwells in us. However, I find it very meaningful that Paul gets to this point following his heartfelt cry in Chapter 7 of Romans, which is a cry that I too feel when I turn my eyes back on myself instead of on God, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I am a great sinner saved by a Great Savior and “THEREFORE, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). 


So, how has this worked out for me in my 50 years walking with Jesus? God has blessed me with many amazing blessings and led me through many very difficult situations. Throughout my life, there have been situations that would initially appear to be failures, at least to the world, but which God has used to accomplish good in my life. A very important phrase to me in Scripture is the little phrase, "But God." For example, in Romans 5:8 Paul writes "But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God is faithful and He always has a better plan than my plan. God has used many varied ways to grow me in my faith in Him. Just one example is the way He has used our adult children to stretch my heart to care passionately about God's people in all the nations and to pray for the global spread of His Kingdom.


More specifically, concerning these three years of serving Peace Church in the office of elder, God has given me an amazing number of opportunities to serve and to experience His love for His people.  I have been given opportunities to walk alongside individuals in marriages in distress, families under spiritual attack, individuals wrestling with addictions, those suffering from illnesses, and those mourning the death of a loved one. One that was especially impactful on me was an opportunity I had to share the gospel with and pray with a dying man who was a friend of a visitor to Peace Church just before he died of cancer. God has used this and similar events, including a recent health crisis in my own family, to remind me that from the first breath we take at birth, we all begin the inevitable journey towards death. For some, this is a lengthy process. For others, it is all too brief. But for us all, it is a certainty.  As followers of Christ, we alone among all the peoples of the earth have a certain hope, knowing that sin is conquered, evil is defeated, God’s victory over death is sealed – paid in full on the cross through the precious blood of God’s righteous Son and sealed with Jesus’s glorious resurrection. God has been reminding me that my life and my existence are not about me but that I am here to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.


So why am I standing for a second term in the office of elder? I would like to make myself available to be used by God to help each member of Peace Church to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and in doing so to worship and glorify God. And I would like to help each of us to enjoy God by accepting His gracious invitation for us to join Him in His Kingdom purpose to redeem His children from all peoples as they hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus and as they call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.  All he asks of me is my life, which is His anyway.


Elder Candidate Michael Pendley

 

I am Michael Pendley, the husband of Rebecca Pendley and the father of David (age 7), Eliza (age 5), Caleb (age 3), and Miriam (15 months). My wife and I lead a community group made up of young families. I am a candidate for the officer of ruling elder.

 

Growing up, my brothers and I were greatly affected by my parents’ difficult marriage. We were often exposed to arguments and adult situations unsuitable for children. The bitterness in my parents’ marriage caused me to question the existence of God. We stopped attending church when I was in kindergarten, as their relationship declined. When they would argue, I would go to my room and ask God to heal my family. But as the years went by and this prayer went unanswered, I gave up on God. In high school, I started to believe that perhaps there was no God. I concluded that maybe we were all just the result of random evolutionary processes, without purpose or significance.  

 

I came to know Christ over several months spanning my senior year of high school into my freshman year at college. Through the influence of a friend, I began attending a Baptist church in Marietta, Georgia, that hosted a Sunday school class led by theologian William Lane Craig. The class presented arguments for the existence of God absent the Bible. By my freshman year of college at Georgia Tech, I was a deist but had not accepted Christ as my Lord and savior.

 

During my freshman year at Georgia Tech, God used my life circumstances to draw me closer to Him. My family situation worsened. Then I went through a breakup with my girlfriend. At the same time, the rigors of college became overwhelming. The Lord was tearing down everything that I thought was important for the sole purpose of relaying this one message to me – the Lord is a jealous God. The Lord was unwilling to be second in my life; I had accepted His existence in high school but had not given Him reign over my life. God had me consider the great witness of His disciples. I could not explain away their willingness to suffer for the Gospel, even to the point of death, if Christ had not truly died and risen. When I finally submitted to Him and accepted Christ as savior, God began to restore the broken things in my life. He provided me with a Christian fraternity on Georgia Tech’s campus where I grew in my faith alongside several other young men. The Lord also introduced me to my wife, Rebecca, in my junior year. There will always be tension in my parents’ marriage, but I am grateful God has repaired much of the hurt in their relationship and has kept them together despite the strain.

 

Up until the time I married my wife, I would have described myself as Arminian, that is, I believed that I chose God and played a role in my salvation. I believed that I was also responsible for the salvation of my family and that their willingness to accept Christ was dependent upon the persuasiveness of my arguments. But after being exposed to and accepting Calvinism through attendance at a PCA church in Atlanta, my views on God’s sovereignty changed. Whereas the five points of Calvinism once repulsed me, I began to take great comfort in them. I came to accept that if God is sovereign over all things, then He must be sovereign over man’s salvation.

 

As I’ve grown in my relationship with Christ, I have become more acutely aware of my sin. I often fail to trust the Lord for my future and can be anxious about providing for my family. I regularly forget God’s faithfulness and seek to control any situation where there may be uncertainty. I struggle to accept the Lord’s love and truly believe that the Lord knows me by name and considers me an adopted son. I lack confidence in the abilities the Lord has given me and worry about my performance as a husband, father, and employee. I fear that I could repeat the mistakes of my parents and damage my children to the point where they are angry at the Lord. But despite these struggles, I trust the Lord is stronger than my weakness and will preserve my faith despite my failings.

 

The Lord has placed a great burden on my heart to serve and protect the church. I work full-time in law enforcement. In my profession, we strive to be sheepdogs. We must forgo personal safety to protect the flock from the wolves. We understand God has given the rule of law to protect the innocent, and without its enforcement, depravity will overrun a society. I believe these concepts also apply to the elders of the church. An elder must be willing to put aside personal comforts and desires to care for the church. The flock is constantly under assault from societal pressure, internal sin, and Satan. God has placed within me a strong desire to protect His bride from external and internal influences seeking to discredit God’s Word or change our denomination’s views on moral issues. As an elder, I would aim to maintain the integrity of the church, serve the church in her need, and nurture her love for Christ.


Deacon Candidate Rick Thomas

I was born in Rock Hill, SC. and grew up there with loving parents who supported me in all my activities. Sports such as football, track, and competitive water skiing were a part of my life. In 1976, I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in mechanical engineering and worked as an engineer for 42 years. Now retired, I enjoy woodworking, gardening, hunting, and fishing.

 

My wife, Judy, and I live in Sanford and have attended worship services at Peace for nine years. We joined Peace five months ago. We delayed joining because my work schedule would not allow me to make a strong commitment. Retirement now allows us both to make that commitment.

 

I am 68 years old. At about the age of 12, I responded to an altar call and professed faith in Christ then was baptized in a Baptist church. However, the next several years of my life did not show much of a life in Christ. There was no fruit. I was the person James spoke to when he said, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do”. You might have looked at my life and seen Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him”.

 

Then I met Judy and things began to change. We married as I started my junior year of college. We knew that we would have to change our lifestyles if we wanted to succeed as a couple, so we began to search for a church home. We found and became active in a good PCUSA church in Columbia, SC.  That church might have been liberal, but it led us to search for a Presbyterian church when we moved after graduation.

 

In Greenville, SC, we found Shannon Forest Presbyterian Church, a Bible-believing and preaching church. As an aside, that is where I met Peace’s former pastor, Steve Bostrom. The preaching and teaching at Shannon Forest grabbed and shook me. Bible preaching was like nothing I had heard in other churches. One particular Sunday in the spring of 1977, a sermon was preached on Christian suffering from I Peter 4. The pastor pointed out that if we live a Christ-like life we will suffer. I looked back at my life and realized that I had never lived a life for Christ, I never endured the mildest suffering because of my faith. I then truly confessed Jesus as Lord as well as Savior and have since tried to be more Christ-like. 

 

Early in my Christian life, you might have seen Romans 1: 21 in me.  Today, I believe you see Romans 7:21-25 especially verse 25. Hopefully, you will see I Peter 5: 10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”


Deacon Candidate Matt Pearson
 

When I think about the verse Jeremiah 29:11, “'For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future,’” I pause and reflect on my life thus far, and look at how God has taught me and lead me through life’s difficulties with His love, discipline, and perseverance. I have come to realize that I am a miserable offender, and it is only through God’s grace, love, and Jesus Christ that I am made clean and able to walk upright without shame….counted as an heir of His Kingdom. 

 

I was raised in a Christian home filled with unconditional love, encouragement, and resiliency. Life’s challenges do not come easily. Some of my most difficult challenges have been the death of my mother from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and my wife Jessica’s bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer. While very trying times, the love of The Church (Trinity Presbyterian in Norfolk, VA and Peace Presbyterian in Cary) cared for us, cried with us, prayed with us, and persevered with us. I did not resent God, but struggled along….sometimes numb, sometimes overwhelmed, and sometimes tired... but mostly encouraged by the believers and non-believers God put around us that got us through. 

 

God has shown me much grace in my marriage with Jessica and our two boys, Sam and Luke. Our marriage reveals my selfishness. Thankfully, I have a partner in life where I am encouraged and inspired daily to be in God’s word, to pray more diligently.

 

I believe that serving in the position of deacon is a great opportunity and prompting of my heart. The church has done much for me and my family and I see this charge as a great way to give back and help share some things I have learned about Christ with others along the way.