American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware

ABCOPAD Sidebar!


Regional Ministry Associates


As a regional family we have been focusing on Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains and the challenge of what it means for us as ministries to go ‘off map’ and engage our current culture in new and creative ways for the furtherance of the Gospel.  We are all called to live ‘At the Edge’ (the theme for our upcoming Biennial Leadership Conference) and entrust our life and ministry into the hands of the Faithful One as we seek be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Just as that challenge is true for local congregations, so it is also true for us as a regional family of churches here in ABCOPAD.

Following significant work by our regional Long Range Task Force, our ABCOPAD Board approved the deployment of a number of Regional Ministry Associates to help us in our efforts to come alongside of local congregations to assist you in being all that God is calling you to be for the Kingdom. These newly called leaders have broadened our own regional Corps of Discovery and we’re excited about the addition of these ministry partners for a number of reasons:

1. Given our key vision theme of ‘Partnership’, the addition of these leaders to our ministry truly does live out our vision as we seek to partner together for the cause of Christ here in ABCOPAD. Each of the leaders listed below represent sisters and brothers that have a passion for our life together and have said ‘yes’ to partnering with us in a number of key areas of service beyond the walls of the local church. All of them either serve in existing ministries or hold other forms of employment (or retirement) and take this on as a part-time responsibility at very part-time compensation, but we believe that God will honor their passion and efforts for the betterment of ministry in ABCOPAD. 

2. In a recent podcast Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of Life.Church, said the following:

The strength of your organization is often reflected by how deep into your organization you empower people to say, “yes.” If you push the ability to say yes deeper into the organization, you're gonna build better leaders, you're gonna retain better leaders and you're gonna be able to take more risks. 

In many ways that is what we are seeking to do through the ministry of ABCOPAD. Our vision of Partnership is really trying to meet leaders and congregations where they are and engage them in ministry and mission. To come alongside of them and partner with them in becoming all God longs for them to be. Adding these Regional Ministry Associates seeks to enhance that opportunity and allow even more individuals to craft and color the outworking of the vision that God has given us.

You will be hearing more from each of these leaders as they begin to make their mark on the various areas of service to which they’ve been called, but for now allow me to list their names and their responsibilities first and foremost so you can pray for them as they launch into their ministries but also that God will go before them to lead the way as they blaze some new trails of ministry in our midst. 




Interim Ministry RMA
Rev. Gary Firster

Gary has served as the Pastor of the Colonial Park Community Baptist Church in Harrisburg since 2005. He has served as the President of ABCOPAD and is involved in an LLC and has been a member of our Conflict Mediation Network. Gary will be working with the Regional Pastors and the leaders from Transition Ministries to help secure Interim pastors for the congregations in our region that ask for our help.


Women in Ministry RMA
Pastor Sue Wilson-Radel

Sue has served as the Pastor of the Forest Baptist Church since 2009, coming to us from the United Methodist Church. She is currently a student in our ACTS program in the Certified Lay Ministry track and has been an active participant in our Pastors Retreats. She brings a passion for ministry and a heart to advocate for the cause of Women in Ministry. Pastor Sue also is a member of the ACTS Coordinating Council and serves as its Chair. Sue will work to encourage female pastoral leaders in ABCOPAD congregations and seek to support women feeling a call to ministry.

Student Ministry Associates will work collaboratively to support youth ministry throughout the region and work together to plan events to encourage leaders and students.
 Student Ministry RMA [Southeast]
Rev. Josh Trojak 

Josh is no stranger to ABCOPAD. His father is the Rev. John Trojak, who pastors the FBC of Sharon where Josh grew up. Josh was active in leadership at Camp Judson as well as serving in a staff position at FBC, Sharon with youth before becoming the Associate Pastor of Youth, Young Adults and Discipleship at Christ’s American Baptist Church in Spring Grove, PA.

 Student Ministry RMA [Northeast]
Ben Kraihanzel

Ben is currently a senior at Eastern University and has most recently determined that he has a call to ministry. As the son of Eric Kraihanzel, Ben spent many summers at Camp Ichthus and has developed such a love for the camp that he is also serving as the Ministry Coordinator, overseeing the summer program of the ministry.

 Student Ministry RMA [Northwest]
Pastor Mark Hillwig

Mark is the pastor of the East Brady Baptist Church where he has served for a number of years. He has been involved with ABCOPAD and Camp Judson on a number of levels, serving as a member of both boards.

Search Committee Associates will help our existing Search Adjuncts and the existing Regional Pastors in providing resourcing to the search committees throughout the region.
 Search Committee RMA [East]
Mr. Fred Ewald

Fred is a layman who worked in the Human Resources field before his retirement. He is a lay leader at the Hatboro Baptist Church and has been working very effectively as one of our Search Adjuncts in the southeastern portion of the region.

LLC Coordinators will encourage and support the ministry of Leadership Learning Communities within the region, paying special attention to resource the mentor pastors who provide the backbone of leadership for the LLC groups throughout the region.
 LLC Coordinator RMA [North of Turnpike]
Rev. Robert Rice

Rob has been the Pastor of the Muncy Baptist Church for a number of years and serves in the region in a number of capacities: Chair of the Mission Allocation Committee, member of the Long Range Planning Task Force, leader of an LLC, as well as a newly called member of the ACTS Coordinating Council.

 Protect My Ministry RMA
Minister Valerie Black

Valerie is currently a student in the ACTS Program. She has been involved in Minister’s Council activities and serves on our 2018 Biennial Planning Team. She lives in the greater Scranton area and is a member of the United Baptist Church of Taylor, providing pulpit supply in neighboring churches. Valerie will resource churches in the effective use of Protect My Ministry and will encourage the congregations of ABCOPAD to develop effective protocols in the screening of volunteers. Additionally, we will continue to use this resource to provide clergy background checks for candidates in congregations seeking new pastors.

 Barnabas Care RMA
Rev. Carol Ross-Irwin

Carol is currently serving as a Chaplain with the Trinity Health System in western PA. She served as a local church pastor for a number of years in the Pittsburgh Baptist Association and has been affiliated with our ABCOPAD Foundation Board. Carol will work collaboratively with the Regional Pastor with Congregations to come alongside of congregations that believe that they have come to the end of their life as a congregation. She will work with the remaining church leadership/laity to determine a path forward to wind down ministry and celebrate the years of the church’s existence.

 ABCOPAD Web Coordinator RMA
Rev. Bud Russell

Bud is a retired ABCOPAD pastor, having served congregations in Harrisburg and Pottstown, PA, as well as Dover, DE (plus stints in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Philadelphia). He now teaches English Composition at Delaware State University. If he's not riding a bike somewhere across the country or correcting a freshman's grammar, he's probably working on some aspect of ABCOPAD's website or social media.