Pastor’s ‘one,’ an atheist, accepts Christ in Kuwait

By Lonnie Wilkey

WARTBURG, Tenn. (BP) – Before pastor Matt Ward was deployed to Kuwait a year ago (see related story), he led First Baptist Church to participate in the North American Mission Board’s “Who’s Your One” evangelism emphasis in which church members are encouraged to pray for a lost person they know.

The church members wrote the name of their “one” on a ping pong ball and placed it in containers near the pulpit in the front of the church as a reminder to pray for the lost. Ward led by example and wrote the name of Jonathan Farmer on his ping pong ball.

Ward, a major in the Army, is a chaplain in the Tennessee National Guard. During his time in Tennessee, Jonathan Farmer of Murfreesboro, has served as Ward’s chaplain’s assistant.

Pastor and Army Chaplain Matt Ward, seen here with his family, was recently welcomed home by his church after serving 11 months in the Middle East. Photo provided by Baptist Press

Though a chaplain must have a master’s degree and be endorsed by an organization (in Ward’s case, the North American Mission Board), there are no such requirements for a chaplain’s assistant.

In fact, assistants do not have to be religious. Their main functions are to help set up meetings and to provide armed protection. A chaplain, even though a solider, is not allowed to carry a weapon, Ward said.

When Farmer was assigned to Ward, he quickly told him that he was an atheist. “He was very open about it,” Ward said.

So, when it came time for Ward to choose his “one,” Farmer was an obvious choice.

Though they had been together for more than four years and Farmer had heard the Gospel numerous times, he never expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus, the pastor said.

While in Kuwait one day, Ward led a service on “Who God Is.” The next day, while walking down a road in Kuwait, Farmer casually told Ward that he was saved during the previous night’s service. Ward was stunned. He said Farmer told him he had wrestled with the decision all night and finally prayed to receive Christ into his life.

“We had a beautiful conversation while sweating together on a road in Kuwait,” he said. Ward later baptized Farmer and soon began discipling him with some other Christian soldiers in a Bible study.

Members of First Baptist were thrilled when they learned of Farmer’s salvation, said Vanessa Taylor, administrative assistant at First Baptist who served as a link between the pastor and the church during Ward’s deployment.

The church purchased a study Bible for Farmer and sent it to him along with a card signed by every veteran in the church, she said. Ward and Farmer also made a video which they sent to the church.

It was a special day for the congregation, Taylor said. Ward later baptized five other soldiers, and each one received a note from the veterans at First Baptist.

Though Farmer had never met anyone in the church other than Ward, church members “felt like we knew him,” she said. “He is a brother in Christ.”

Farmer told the Baptist and Reflector that Ward “is one of the best human beings I have ever met. He is a great man and a great Christian.”

Ward not only talked about his faith; he lived it, Farmer said. “He was a beacon of light in helping me in my slow walk to faith.”

The former atheist noted that faith had never been a component of his life. While in Kuwait, he had a lot of questions that Ward answered. He accepted Christ and was baptized on June 6, 2021. “Through Christ, all things are possible,” he said.

Farmer’s salvation decision taught Ward an important lesson about prayer. He acknowledged that though he continued to pray, he had “stopped expecting Farmer to get saved. It (his conversion) took me by surprise,” he said.

“Somewhere along the way I forgot to persevere in prayer and leave it in the Lord’s hands. He was moving in my friend’s life, and I got the opportunity for a front row seat! I’m so thankful I didn’t miss it!”

Published April 5, 2022

Lonnie Wilkey

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, the official news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.