In September 2018, Ben (and Tiffany) Ward will begin his internship at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Naples, Florida. Ben has a great testimony that Home Missions shares now as both an encouragement to your faith and a reminder to pray for him as he begins his internship and discerns his calling to ministry.
Ben writes, “My upbringing was in a traditional middle class family in small-town New Jersey. My parents lived moral lives, we were members of a theologically Liberal PCUSA church, and personal fulfillment was a central part of our upbringing. It was a great upbringing actually, my parents loved me very much and I never wanted for anything materially or in the affections of my family. However, I was always a fairly discontented child anyway, riddled with anxiety over any conflict, and I was deeply introspective. My parents encouraged my love for reading, and as I grew older my tastes grew more serious; specifically by the time I was 13, I was questioning what the meaning of life was all about. I was up for ‘confirmation’ at my parents’ local church, which would culminate in making a profession of faith in front of the whole congregation. As I was going through the class which would prepare me for this I realized I didn’t believe any of what they were teaching, anything about spirituality, Jesus, or God. I found that atheism most closely aligned with what I believed about the universe, so after ‘professing my faith’ to appease my mother I declared myself an atheist. I read all of the big names: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris. I was also a very evangelistic atheist, and even got my own father to dismiss Christianity completely, freeing him to practice the eastern religions he had an affinity for (he was a yoga teacher and massage therapist). My lack of belief in God though, perhaps ironically, left me with a void in my own life.
By the time high school rolled around I was royally depressed. Much of it was teenage angst and hormones, but believing the universe and myself to be of total insignificance certainly didn’t combat my feelings of depression. It was around this time that I discovered Pastor Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God at the local Barnes and Noble, my weekly hangout. I devoured the book, and while it did not “convert me overnight,” it did shift the categories in my mind so that not just belief in a god, but the Christian God was possible. As I began to read the Bible and pray and find more evangelical Christian resources, I had a religious experience which may or may not have been my conversion to Christ.
I have such doubt in this experience because even after a season of zeal for the Lord in my early college days (when I had moved to St. Augustine, FL), I quickly fell away to begin dating a non-Christian girl. This led to a reversion to atheism, as I did not want to live or believe inconsistently with the way I was acting in my life. I knew that a Christian doesn’t go off and live with his girlfriend, and so I went off and lived the unadulterated secular college lifestyle for the next year and a half. I still remained friends with many of the Christians I had come to know my first year, and those relationships prepared me to receive Christ afresh when I had finally seen how miserable and pointless wasting away in my own sin actually was. For my senior year of college, I professed faith in Christ and went to the most faithful church I knew of to be discipled: Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in St. Augustine. In one of God’s happy providences, I had come into contact with the church early on in college because my freshman year roommate was the son of an OP elder in Wisconsin.
When I became a Christian, and especially when confronted with the reconciling message of the Lord’s Table after becoming a member of a local church, I began to restore some of my old relationships. One of these was with the woman who would become my future wife, Tiffany, the godliest woman of my age. After we became friends, we entered into a courtship-type relationship, and eight months later we were married, the summer after I graduated college. Our marriage has truly been the greatest earthly blessing. While Tiffany and I have very similar personality types, she complements me in my many weaknesses and helps to build me up as I consider the fearful possibility of being a minister in God’s church. Tiffany has struggled with chronic Lyme disease since before our marriage, which has been a hard struggle, but one that has caused both of us to seek more of our joy in the Lord rather than in the things of the world. Please pray for healing!
We found our way into this internship because of the warmth and close relationships of the presbytery of the South. I had heard of this church plant in Naples, Florida, and her dynamic and hard-working church planter Eric Hausler, early on in my time of discernment of the call to ministry. I continued to hear good things about both, and wanting to get more exposure to various types of ministries, my pastor put us in touch and we are quite hopeful of good things. I am discerning a call to possibly being a church planter, and there is probably no one better qualified to disciple men in that field than Eric Hausler (other than perhaps my own pastor Eric Watkins). There are many exciting ministries going on at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Naples, and we cannot wait to be a part of them. Yet we are also very nervous, and hope that the Lord prepares us for what might be a very trying time, as I try to grow into a more godly, stronger man, and as we continue to try to combat Tiffany’s Lyme disease and contemplate adopting children. My wife and I especially hope to grow in evangelistic skill and zeal, and hope that the Lord improves my pastoral and organizational abilities.
Please pray again for Tiffany’s health, for many members of our family to come to saving faith in Christ, for God to bless us with children, and for our growth in this new season of life. We hope to serve the church in Naples well as I intern, and if it is the Lord’s call for me to serve in ministry, we especially desire to have servants’ hearts for the church and a burden for the lost. “