Rob and Jackie Ernst joined Faith Baptist Mission in 2021. Though they are new to our mission, they are experienced missionaries, having served overseas for over 20 years. Today, we want to tell you their story.
Rob was 15 years old when he heard the Gospel for the first time. A friend had invited him to youth group. That night he realized his need for a savior, repented of sin, and trusted in Christ alone for salvation. Jackie came to know the Lord at 12 years old, after a family friend invited her and her family to church. On October 4, 1980, Rob and Jackie got married. Their impression of the Christian walk had always been one of following a book of “rules”, not of having a vibrant relationship with a loving Father. After they married and moved away from any spiritual influence, they turned away from those “rules” and their walk with God.
After several years of wandering, Jackie expressed a desire to start going back to church. By this time, Rob & Jackie had started a family and Jackie saw the importance of church. God led them to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Lakeland, FL. There, God used the pastor and other godly men to disciple and encourage Rob in his walk with Christ. While attending Cornerstone, Rob & Jackie recommitted their lives to following Christ.
Both Rob and Jackie had felt called by God to go into Christian ministry as teenagers. However, when they walked away from the Lord, they felt like that was a thing of the past. They were happily serving Him in their local church, but God had other plans. God reminded Rob of his commitment, and so at the age of 39 and with a family to support, Rob returned to college to complete the degree he had started so long ago. Rob and Jackie were reminded that God promised to complete the work He started in them – even if it was many years later!
When Rob went to school, it was to be a pastor somewhere in Florida where they could be close to their family. It was while he took a class on missions that God began to change their hearts and direct them towards foreign ministry. As they learned of the spiritual needs in Australia through a couple that were going there, God began to reveal His will for them to serve as His hands and feet in that beautiful country. Although Jackie had always been extremely close to her family, God began to refocus her heart towards the country of Australia. They visited the field in 2001, and God confirmed His call on their lives. What a joy it was for them to realize that it’s never too late – and you’re never too old – to follow God’s calling on your life!
In 2004, Rob & Jackie arrived in Australia. They arrived as brand-new missionaries with two daughters. Stefanie was 17 years old and Victoria was 12 year old. Their son, having just been married, stayed in America as they left for the mission field.
They spent their first term serving alongside other missionaries, learning the culture and getting settled into their new home country. They found Australia to be a very secular country. In fact, Rob & Jackie found that most Australians will “sport” as their religion. It is certainly not common for people to attend church on Sunday. During their first term, they felt God calling them to plant a new church.
The Lord lead them to Craigieburns, Melbourne and they began Cornerstone Baptist Church in July, 2007. They began the church in their own home. Early on, God impressed on their hearts the need to build a group that was “deep” and not worry about the “wide.” In other words, they focused on spiritual growth instead of numerical growth.
While numerical growth was not their primary concern, their church did see growth. In fact, within the first year, they outgrew their home and had to relocate. God opened the door for them to meet at a local school. This new location also brought some unique outreach
opportunities. These outreach opportunities center around Easter and the Melbourne Show, an annual event which attracts roughly half a million people. During these outreaches many children and parents from the school and surrounding community attend. It is a great tool to present the Gospel to those who would probably do not attend a church.
In 2020, everything changed for Rob & Jackie. Covid struck and Australia locked down. In fact, Melbourne holds the dubious record of being in lockdown the longest of any city in the world. The physical, spiritual and mental hardships these lockdowns brought cannot be put into words. Church went virtual. Fellowshipping was outlawed. Visiting the sick was not allowed. Preaching to faces was replaced with preaching to the computer screen. It was a difficult time.
And yet, God was still faithful! He provided ways for them to minister through livestreaming. Rob and Jackie conducted everything from Bible studies to games nights via Zoom, desperately trying to maintain fellowship together. Jackie hosted children’s church while Rob preached. God even brought other people from around the world to tune into the sermons.
The lockdown also brought additional challenges. Travel was banned, forcing Rob & Jackie to delay a furlough visit to the United States. During this time, some donors also had to lower their support or stop giving due to hardships brought on by Covid. These travel restrictions made it difficult for Rob & Jackie to re-engage with their ministry partners and recruit new partners. Currently, Rob and Jackie are short of their monthly support goals. They are praying for God to provide an additional $2,000 month.
In spite of these hardships, there are many reasons to Praise God. The lockdowns are lifting! Travel is opening up. Rob & Jackie were able to spend Christmas with family in the US. Their church in Melbourne was recently able to meet together for the first time. New families have joined the church. Please pray for God to give them wisdom in leading their church to reach the lost in Melbourne.
Will you partner with Rob & Jackie Ernst as they serve the Lord in Melbourne, Australia?