Leadership

Deacons

Deacon of Apologetics

John Holmes

I am excited to serve our community of believers. I grew up in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I met my wife Lydie in 2005 in Curacao, we now have 3 beautiful daughters Julionna, Cailean, and Charis. It's been a fun ride traveling the world and growing together as a family and with God. I grew up within the Church and became a Christian in high school. Over the years, God has placed a passion in me for Christian apologetics through my own experiences as a young adult unable to answer difficult questions about my faith.  My desire is not only to be able to have tough conversations guided by biblical truth but to equip my kids and fellow believers to have confidence in the same.

Deacon of Youth

Ben Alesse

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and met the love of my life, Nicole, at the age of 18. We married young and started our life together right after I enlisted in the Air Force in 2006. We are continually blessed with two amazing sons, Ben Jr and Matthew. This is our second time being stationed in Okinawa, and we are very thankful to our Father for this opportunity to see His mercy and grace while our family grows. Nicole and I started the youth program here at Pillar Church of Okinawa and have been blessed by it in many ways. We desire to see the youth of our church grow in their relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Deacon of Single's Discipleship

Lisa Miller

I was born and raised in Oakland, California where my parents immigrated to from The Kingdom of Tonga. I lived there until I moved away for college at San Francisco State University, where I spent 4 years. A few years later, I moved to Southern California where Keon and I met, dated, and eventually married. We moved to Okinawa in 2016 and soon after had our daughter Amina. We’ve been blessed to be a part of the Pillar Church family here in Okinawa. We are joyful for the continued opportunity to serve the Lord by serving His church and looking forward to the day the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Deacon of Women's Care

Lydie Holmes

I'm very blessed to be part of the Pillar family and I look forward to how God will allow me to serve each treasured individual He brings into my life.  Beyond my church family, God has blessed me with three amazing daughters and a patient and loving husband.  These five are really my greatest achievements; JESUS, John, Julionna, Cailean, and Charis.  I learn so much about the love of our Father from having these special people in my life.  For John and I, our story started in 2005 over breakfast at a resort in Curacao; it's an ever-evolving one that grows more beautiful as we travel around the world and watch our children grow.  When I think about the gifts my Father has given me, compassion definitely comes to mind.  God took such compassion on me in my own brokenness that it is a complete joy to see Him set people free and a blessing when He allows me to help in His work.  While I don't know how long we will be in Okinawa, I do know that God has a plan and a purpose for this chapter of our lives.  I look forward to watching the story unfold and am grateful for the opportunity to serve.  

Deacon of Facilities

Jared Gerlach

Greetings from the Gerlachs! Lauren and I have been married since 2017 and were previously stationed at Whiteman, AFB in Missouri. I am an Aircraft Engine Mechanic in the Air Force, and Lauren is a substitute teacher. Due to military orders, we moved to Okinawa in 2020 and had no idea what God had in store for us. Lauren and I quickly discovered we enjoy Okinawa's Japanese culture and island life. We have also been incredibly blessed by Pillar and the Christ-centered community that comes along with it. God’s presence has been so evident for us through these last two years. We are excited to see how we can continue to serve God during these next two years in Okinawa.

Deacon of Environments

Kaitlin Kirby

I grew up in North Carolina and attended Virginia Tech where I earned my degree in Interior Design. After graduation, I moved to Washington D.C. to work for a Commercial Architecture firm for four years. During this time, I met Jonathon while he was in training with the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. Only 5 months after we started dating, Jonathon moved to Okinawa and thus started our journey into long(very long)-distance dating. Jonathon and I dated long-distance for 19 months and as our love for each other and the Lord grew, we also faced incredible heartbreak and pain. It was through these challenging months that the Lord stripped us of our own selfishness and showed us an undeniable need for his redeeming grace in our lives. A truth for which we are extremely humbled and thankful! 

In March of 2021, the Lord made a way for us to be married via double proxy, and in June of 2021, I was finally able to join my husband here in Okinawa. We have loved our time here and have been so thankful for our Pillar Church family!

The Lord has given me a passion for design and an appreciation for beautiful and functional environments. I believe that creativity is a gift that the Lord has graciously shared with us, His Created. I also believe that as we look at His creation we will see a precedent for God-honoring design encapsulating excellence in beauty and function. I love walking into a space and imagining all of the potentials and being able to use the gifts He has given me to help elevate the environment to meet that potential. I not only believe that beautiful and carefully-designed spaces love and serve people well, but that they also celebrate and bring glory to the Master Designer.

Women's Discipleship Coordinator

Lauran Flores

I grew up moving all around the United States, and found such beauty in change and exploring new places, and living in Okinawa has been no exception! My family and I enjoy exploring the island and seeing the beauty that the Lord has created. My husband and I were married in 2010 and have added Weston (8) and Lorelai (6) to our family among our many moves. 
The Lord has matured my faith and trust in Him so much in the last few years, helping me to truly see my need for his work on the cross for my sins. During our last duty station in Valdosta, Georgia, I grew to know the Lord for who He is and who He has shown himself to be in His Word. Since then, my desire to know Him more has led me to learn to study the Bible, teach the Bible and teach other women how to study the Bible. As the only inerrant, inexhaustible resource we have, it is vital that we as women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends know how to read and apply God's Word. 
The desire that the Lord has placed on my heart is to equip women to read their Bibles for themselves and help them glorify the Lord through their service to the local church and community using the gifts that the Lord has given them. I am excited to facilitate studies, fellowship events, and training opportunities at Pillar as the Lord grows and matures the women in our family.

Staff

Administrator

Alicia Terwilliger

I was born in Buffalo, NY, and raised all over NY state. Growing up as a Pastor’s kid, the church has been my second home. After high school, I completed two years at Word of Life Bible Institute. In 2009, Derek and I started dating and in 2011 we were married. In 2012, Derek received orders to MCB Hawaii where we lived for 4 years. Within those four years, I finished my Associates in Accounting, we had our daughter, Avery, and we did a lot of hiking and golfing. In 2016, Derek received orders to Tulsa, OK for 3 years of recruiting duty. God used those three years of recruiting duty to open my eyes to the fact that I truly needed a Savior and I couldn’t keep living my life my way. Those years were extremely stretching, but also very much needed. In 2019, Derek received orders to Okinawa, Japan, but we didn’t move to Okinawa until the beginning of 2020. God led us to Pillar a few months later and we’ve loved every minute since. It’s been such a blessing to come alongside our Pillar family and share the love of Jesus with them. I am humbled and blessed to serve with such a great team of servant missionaries learning to live everyday life with gospel power and purpose.


GTO Executive Director, Pillar Finance Coordinator

Jon Simburger

Melissa and I moved from a small town in southern Illinois to Okinawa with a desire to make Jesus famous in Japan. I have served previously as a youth pastor, deacon, and on short-term missions to India, Albania, Montenegro, Guatemala, Russia, and Uganda. Melissa has served as a worship leader and as director of a pregnancy resource center. In the Fall of 2016, we joined Pillar Church of Okinawa. Together we lead regular English conversation outreach gatherings and serve in the Gospel to Okinawa church planting initiative. On mission with the church, our greatest joy is making Jesus famous in the hearts of Japanese people by bringing the hope of the gospel to the outcast, the downcast, the lost and the hopeless.

GTO Coordinator

Rinko Ganeko

I was born and raised in Okinawa. I met my husband Den at a Bible study that Den was leading, and we married in 2018. Den felt called by God to plant a church, and our mother church, Joy Chapel, sent us to start Sunset Church as a branch in September 2019. We have joined Gospel to Okinawa (GTO) since 2020, and it has been a blessing to us. Den and I have been very encouraged by other local churches and are excited to see what God has in store for Okinawa.

Elders

Elder

Vince Hogue

Brenna and I have been married since September 2016. We have two little girls, Nellie and Noa. We have always had the desire to serve the LORD in an overseas context and are very excited about joining the Pillar family. I am currently an M.Div. student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and have experience in missions and serving as a youth pastor. I hold an M.S. in exercise science from Liberty University and have experience as a weightlifting coach. Some of my most fruitful time discipling others has been in the weight room and I hope to continue to make that a part of my life. Brenna also holds a degree in exercise science and specializes in training pre/ postnatal women. She is a postpartum doula and passionate about serving women through pregnancy and early postpartum. Nellie is super sweet, very shy, and loves to read. She’s obsessed with dogs and waking up in the middle of the night. Noa is a super happy baby, who loves being outside, eating watermelon, and also waking up all hours of the night. It is a privilege to be a witness to God's work at Pillar Okinawa. May he be glorified in all our efforts.

Elder

Youngjae Han

Chanel and I arrived in Okinawa in September of 2021. Colorado is where we call home, but prior to Okinawa, we were stationed in New Mexico and Florida with the Air Force. We were married in 2017 and God has blessed us with two children: Aiden and Alec.

Finding a Gospel-centered community was our number 1 priority during our transition to Okinawa and Pillar has been the answer to our prayers. God provided Pillar as a place of community, accountability, and growth, but most importantly, a place where we can worship and serve our Redeeming King, Jesus Christ. We desire to build relationships with our friends on the island where Jesus is the recipient of honor and glory.

Elder

Keon Miller

I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised between the cities of Newark, Irvington, and East Orange. After high school, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 2012, Lisa and I started dating and in 2015 we were married. In 2015, I received orders to Okinawa, Japan. In 2016, Lisa joined me in Okinawa, and shortly after we were blessed with Amina. We started attending Pillar Church of Okinawa in February 2021. Our family mission is first to serve and obey God, starting at home. And second to serve others and share the gospel as God presents those opportunities.  We are blessed to be part of the Pillar church family. God has given me the passion for Men’s Discipleship and Lisa a passion for Single’s Discipleship. We trust in the Lord to guide, equip, and deploy us as He sees fit to share His Gospel and continue building His Kingdom.

Elder

George Madrid

Erika and I arrived in Okinawa in March of 2020 after serving in the Air Force for four years in northern Japan. Erika and I met in North Carolina in December of 2008 while stationed at Seymour Johnson and were married in July of 2010. The Lord has blessed us with two beautiful children, Bria and Judah. It’s our desire to preach the gospel to all nations, telling people about Jesus, calling them to repentance and faith, and discipling them in everything that Christ taught. We’re so thankful to be here and have the opportunity to build a Christ-centered community with you!

Elder

Jason Rochester

Cathryn and I were married in December of 2017 and it has been a wonderful adventure since then.  We have three amazing daughters; Grace, Sophia, and Joy.  I serve as a reserve Navy chaplain. During our time together, we have been stationed at I MEF in southern California, and are now grateful to be here in Okinawa for this recall.  When not doing reserve work, I was most recently a chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. After having been introduced to the Pillar Family at Pillar Oceanside, we are excited to be part of Pillar Okinawa and to serve God here until fall of 2023.

Elder

Darren Pautz

Traci and I moved to Okinawa from Spangdahlem, Germany, in the fall of 2019. I have served in the Air Force for 18 years. The Lord has grown Traci and me in our desire to be fully immersed in the local church and build intentional relationships with those around us. The Lord has also given us a great desire to instill in families the importance of family worship and discipleship within the home.

Elder

Zachariah Pittman

Rachel and I met in Seattle during college, and we married in 2010. Since then, we have moved around with the Air Force and arrived in Okinawa at the end of 2017. Finding church families during each move had always been challenging. God provided Pillar Church almost immediately. Having a place to serve and be served has been such a blessing and a reason we want to call Okinawa home for as long as possible. We want to come alongside others through gospel-shaped relationships for a meaningful season of life on island. We have been blessed with 4 children Elliott, Pippa, Wilder, and Marielle.

Elder

Ron Coia

I arrived in Okinawa in 2008. As a teacher for the Department of Defense schools, I currently teach English and government at Kubasaki High School on Camp Foster.

My wife Kristie and I love serving the local church in a military context, as it is a ripe mission field with constant movement and change. Because of this, we strive to help others connect and grow in a gospel-centered community.

We have served with Pillar Okinawa since early 2016, and we want to encourage military members and their families to “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

I graduated from Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, and from Boston University in Massachusetts. We have three children: Hudson, Josiah, and Grace.

Worship Pastor

Grant Ellis

Hi, I'm Grant. I am married to my high school sweetheart, Lorna. In high school Lorna said that we would someday be missionaries; I was pretty hesitant to believe her. But...in the summer of 2001 I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and effectively became a missionary to the military communities that we would be stationed with. Lorna and I tied the knot in 2002 and we are blessed with three amazing boys, Gideon, Ephram, and Judah. Since God saved me as a teenager, I have firmly believed in worship as a way of life as outlined in 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God also put a great desire for music in my heart and the desire to connect our mind and affections to the God of the universe through music. I have been leading worship through song for various churches and parachurch ministries since the late 1990's. In early 2016 I felt called to be a partner with the planting of Pillar Church of Okinawa by leading the weekly gathering in worship through song and I have loved this church family ever since. I retired from the Air Force in 2021 and have not looked back, but look forward to what God is doing through us all at Pillar here in Okinawa.

Lead Preaching Pastor

Jonathan Ransom

Linnea and I were married in 2004. God has blessed us with three children, Emma, Johnny, and Owen. In February of 2013 we moved to Jacksonville, NC, to join the team working together to plant Pillar Church of Jacksonville. One year later Pillar Jacksonville sent us to Oceanside, CA, to partner with the Martinez family for the purpose of planting Pillar Church of Oceanside. In early 2016, Pillar Church of Oceanside sent us to Japan to plant Pillar Church of Okinawa. I hold an M.Div. degree from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA, and served as a youth & associate pastor for five years prior to moving to Jacksonville.