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Leadership

Deacons

DEACON OF SINGLES DISCIPLESHIP

Chanel Han

I grew up in the beautiful state of Colorado in a Christian home. I always knew about God and believed He was real, but it wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized Jesus Christ was MY personal Savior. I am passionate about single’s discipleship because I was once a single young adult trapped in the guilt and lies of sin, and thought I had to fight it alone. But the beauty of the Gospel calls us to fight together through prayer, accountability, and fellowship.

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.

Staff

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.

Elders

Elder

Buddy Ellis

My wife, Kim, and I met at the US Naval Academy and have been married since 2007. We have two rambunctious boys Carson and Wyatt, and two dogs.  Kim served in the Navy for nearly 13 years before getting out to pursue other interests and care for our kids, and I’ve been serving in the Marines for nearly 20 years.  Executing orders to Okinawa in 2021 during the height of a global pandemic was a blessing in disguise and a turning point in our lives.  We’ve lived a lot of places and been a part of many churches.  Pillar Okinawa is the first place in a long time where we felt we belonged and were part of a family.  Looking back, we can see that God was guiding us to Pillar Okinawa to serve Him and His wonderful people that make up this church family.

Our passion is God’s Word, and seeing His Will done in our lives and the lives of those around us.  Kim’s passion is educating and equipping others to combat the sex trafficking of children.  Additionally, she desires to use yoga, meditation, and exercise to help others navigate through difficult life circumstances and trauma.  I’m a 2nd year MDiv Student at Liberty University and I really enjoy talking with people about the Bible, theology, and how to follow Christ with joy.  The writer to the Hebrews says it best “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

Elder

Jon Shih

My wife, Maria, and I have been married since 2012 and have three wonderful children, Reagan, Charlotte, and Oliver. I am currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps which has brought us to different churches and communities across the world, allowing us to serve Christ in a variety of different ways. The Lord has guided us in our journey all over the world and we have been a part of the Pillar Church network since 2015. The Lord brought us to Okinawa in the summer of 2021 and we are tremendously excited to serve Pillar Church of Okinawa in this season of life!

Elder

Nathan Massey

Hi, my name is Nathan Massey.

My wife Megan and I met in Alabama in 2017, where I was born and raised. Marriage came soon after, and I followed Megan to East Tennessee (Johnson City) for her to complete medical training. Megan completed civilian training before reactivating with the Navy. We often talked about the Lord allowing us to plant our lives within a new culture. Little did we know we would get two new cultures at once: Japan and the Marines! We moved to Okinawa in 2022. 

Vocationally, I served as a middle and high school teacher for around six years. In 2019, I started seminary and served three years on our church’s global outreach staff in Tennessee. I hold a Master’s Degree in Church Ministries from Southern Seminary and am currently pursuing doctoral studies also at Southern Seminary. We have a little girl (Emma Rose) that brings so much joy to our lives.

I love the local church and God’s establishment of the local body as the main discipleship tool for believers. Nothing brings me greater joy than being a small part of equipping “the saints for the purpose of ministry,” as we all strive and call others (though imperfectly) “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13).

Elder

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 three amazing sons, Ben Jr, Matthew, and James. 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!

Lead Preaching Pastor

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

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.

Elder

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.