Chaplain Joshua Stoley

 

Stoley family

TESTIMONY

CHAPLAIN JOSHUA STOLEY

While I did not grow up attending church, I can look back now and see God’s sovereign hand at work drawing me to Him even at a young age. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad reading the Bible to my sisters and I before bedtime. As far as I can recall, he only did this for a short time, yet even these early exposure so God’s Word sewed seeds that would one day mature. I first heard the Gospel a few years later at the funeral of my Great Grandmother. While I cannot recall the exact words of the preacher that day, I do vividly remember being profoundly moved by his words as he presented the Gospel call and thinking that everyone in the room would certainly respond to the invitation. To my surprise, only one person in the audience visually responded to the invitation that day, so out of fear of embarrassment, I did not respond to the preacher’s invitation that day.

A year or so later I received a Bible as a birthday gift from a family friend. In my young mind I thought that this was a sign that my family and I would begin attending church, something I secretly longed for yet never had the courage to share. My best friend at the time did attend a local church with his family, and I can remember bringing my Bible with me to his house one night for a sleepover, hoping that he would explain it to me and teach me about God. We did talk a little about God, as much as young boys could, and prayed together that God would make Himself known to us. In the weeks following I opened up a little and began asking my dad questions about God, Christ, and the church and he answered as much as he was able. Yet I still found myself extremely jealous of my friend because he got to go to church and I did not.

Some ten years later I was invited to a Christian concert/conference by a high school friend in a local youth group, and at that function I heard the Gospel presented and was moved by the Spirit to accept the forgiveness offered in Christ. Following that event I prayed with my friend’s father, the local Baptist pastor, and the other youth in attendance and acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior.

Over the next two years God continually worked in my life convicting me of my sin and motivating me to live a holy life. I found myself hungry for the Word of God and regularly read my Bible, especially the New Testament, while away at college. I also began fellowshipping with the local campus ministry attending Bible studies and evening worship services, and listening to multiple sermons and teachings by well-known biblical preachers.

When I returned home from my freshman year of college I began regularly attending the same Baptist church which invited me to the youth function the year prior. I got to know the new pastor and his family well and developed a relationship with them over that summer and on into my sophomore year of college. Later on that year while I was home on break from school I gave my testimony before the church and was baptized by my pastor friend.

As the year continued God began calling me to the ministry. I vividly remember God’s strongly impressing on my heart that it would be my responsibility to preach and teach the Gospel to my friends, family, and beyond. In addition to this, God laid Matthew 6:24-34 heavily on my heart assuring me that He would care for me always and that I did not need a high paying job to survive in this world and that I could leave the engineering program I was currently enrolled in trusting Him to provide for my needs. Walking by faith, I left the school I was attending and started preparing for ministry, specifically for chaplaincy ministry.

I prepared for ministry first by attending Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids Michigan. There I studied Ancient Languages and Bible, served as a tutor at the college and also interned at the local veteran’s home. During my undergraduate studies I met my future wife Janet. We met my senior year and were married weeks after I finished my degree. Upon graduation, I entered seminary and began my career as an Air Force Chaplain, specializing in chaplaincy in my studies. While in seminary I continued serving as a graduate assistant of the undergraduate university. This experience cemented in me my love and passion for teaching Bible and theology to the church.

During the three years in seminary Janet and I started our family and the first two of our three children were born. Elisa was born in September of 2004 and Caleb less than a year later in August of 2005. Our youngest daughter Katelyn was born a little over a year later in January of 2007.

God has always proven faithful and has always provided for me as He promises in Matthew 6. After graduation I began working full time as an institutional chaplain for the Michigan Department of Corrections where I served for three years. In addition to this, I followed my passion for teaching the Word by teaching in several different local churches, something I have always valued dearly. It was also during this time that by God’s providence I began to study more fully the Doctrines of Grace and Reformed Theology, areas of study that have been a passion of mine ever since.

During this time I also served as chaplain in the Air Force Reserves and deployed once to Iraq in January of 2009. On 2 January 2009, the Sunday before deploying to Iraq, I was examined by a gathering of local pastors and ordained by the leadership of Friendship Country Chapel, a local Baptist church in Lowell, Michigan. In July of 2009, shortly after returning from Iraq, Janet and I were called to Active Duty and moved to Edwards Air Force Base. During our time at Edwards I have had the privilege of running a robust Religious Education Program, pastoring a congregation of over 150 people, and preaching expositionally week by week through several books of the Bible. The ministry is my life, and as I often told the prisoners I served, I can do nothing else. (Chaplain Stoley now serves in Las Vegas, Nevada.) 

As I’ve grown and matured over my short years in ministry I have come to the conviction that I need to associate and partner with a Baptist body who are committed to sound biblical doctrine, biblical teaching, and biblical preaching. To this end, it is both my and Janet’s desire to join such a church. I firmly believe that it is vitally important for someone working in a ministry such as the chaplaincy to stay connected with the local church, and so it is our desire to join Grace Reformed Baptist Church and it would be our privilege and pleasure to represent GRBC in our ministry to the military.

Joshua Stoley

joshua.stoley@gmail.com