I want to encourage you to take time to get to know your North American missionaries that serve in Montana. When you give to the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (North American Missions Offering) you support thirteen missionaries from the northwest corner of the state to the eastern plains; from the towns bordering Canada to places along the I-90 corridor. You are supporting churches being planted on the campuses of Montana State University in Bozeman, and the University of Montana in Missoula. Over the past couple of years, your churches have helped plant our first Hispanic church in the history of our state. Praise the Lord! We have much to be thankful for! Since the Holy Spirit is raising up families and sending them to Montana to engage communities, make disciples, and plant new churches, we should take the time to get to know them. So, allow me to introduce you to Jeremy and Veronica Bourne, church planting missionaries in Billings, MT.
Tell us about your family.
My name is Jeremy Bourne and I’ve been married to Veronica for 14 years. We adopted Kaden, who is 17, and have three biological children: Zeke is 12; Kie is 11; and Levi is 7. Kaden spends all his time working at Pizza Ranch or hanging out with his friends. Zeke loves sports and is very outgoing. Kie likes to work by himself, often reading a book or building something crazy with Legos. Levi loves everything. He is always excited to try new things.
Veronica and I were both born in other states but have lived in Montana long enough to consider it home. We both moved to Billings to attend Yellowstone Baptist College, which is now Montana Christian College in Kalispell. I graduated with a BA in Pastoral Ministry, while Veronica graduated with an Associates in Christian Studies. We were married in 2009, just a few months after I had graduated.
While Veronica had become a follower of Jesus as a child, I did not know Jesus as my Savior until I was 25. I spent those prior years living as a fool before God rescued me. While I am a recovering addict, Veronica was a leader and favorite in her youth group. Our differing stories provide us with a picture of how the gospel unites, but it’s also been fascinating to see the nuanced ways we see things differently based on our past experiences.
Share your church planting story with us.
Not long after we were married in 2009, we bought our first house in the South Side of Billings. We did not know it at the time, but this would be the community we would plant in nine years later. Since neither of us were from Billings originally, we didn’t realize that we were buying a house in the low income/high crime part of town. We just found a house we loved and could afford. When we first began to hear people’s thoughts about our new neighborhood, I was excited. I knew God could save the people in this community because He saved me. Veronica and I immediately began talking about me pastoring in the South Side.
In our first two years of marriage, we went from zero to three kids. When Zeke was one and Veronica was pregnant with Kie, my nephew Kaden moved in with us at 5 years old. Kaden came with some mental health challenges due to all the trauma he had already experienced in his short life, and Veronica was pregnant and still suffering from postpartum depression after having Zeke. And while I had already begun to love God, I still really didn’t know anything about loving people. The challenges in our home were significant and we barely survived those early years. The dream of doing ministry full time in our community was put on hold as it became clear that we were not ready.
As Veronica and I matured through many hard years and much counseling, God was preparing us for the work we would eventually be doing. During this time, we attended LifeWay Church of Billings, and after serving faithfully through all those years, I was offered the job of being the youth pastor. While I was on staff, I began having conversation with the lead pastor about my desire to pastor in my neighborhood. Eventually, he asked me what I thought about LifeWay planting me there, and we began to talk about what that might look like.
Over the next year we recruited a team of 30+ people, including kids, to join us on our adventure. As we were making plans, we became aware of a church that was in danger of having to close their doors, and prayerfully decided to merge our two groups together as a Replant. As of January 1st, 2018, I became the lead pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in the South Side of Billings.
What has been the most challenging thing about planting a church on the South Side of Billings?
Ministry in our neighborhood has been slow and hard. Many of the people are still dealing with unresolved childhood trauma, while also piling on new trauma from the unhealthy coping skills they may have developed along the way. Substance abuse and criminal behavior run rampant in our community.
From our experience, people come to church desperate for God to do something. What we have found is it doesn’t matter if life gets better or not, they usually don’t stick around. If life gets better, they leave because “it worked,” and they don’t need it anymore. If life doesn’t get better, then “it didn’t work,” so there’s no point in continuing to come. Usually, it comes and goes in waves. Several new people begin to come, and it looks like we are growing, only to see them all drift back out to sea. However, occasionally we will see one or two continue to come and begin to grow in their walk with Jesus. So, while the majority do not stay, we have seen a small number come to faith in Jesus and begin to follow Him. This is why we continue to do what we do.
What is one of the most important things God has taught you while on this church planting journey?
One of the things God has shown me is that apart from Him we really can do nothing. It doesn’t matter if we have skills or resources, we need miracles. So, we need Him.
How can our MTSBC churches pray for you?
- That God would have mercy and save people in our community
- Discipleship process- equipping new believers to learn and live it out
- Youth ministry leaders/volunteers
- Mature believers to join the work
- Financial Support – we are small and the few we have coming are mostly low income.