Leadership

Missional Leadership Team

Administrator

Nicole Alesse

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Ben and I were high school sweethearts, and we have been married for over fifteen years. We married in 2006 as Ben was finishing up tech school, and shortly after, we received orders to our first duty station, Kadena AB. We have two boys, Benjamin Jr., and Matthew. Benjamin Jr. was born in Okinawa in 2007, and Matthew was born in Arizona in 2014. Both Ben and I made Jesus our Lord and Savior for the first time in 2018, and we have been growing exponentially while serving alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ. After praying together over a big career choice, the Lord brought us back to Okinawa. We will be here serving the Lord and the body of Christ until Ben’s retirement in 2027.


Children's Ministry Coordinator

Shanika Nolen

I was born in IL and raised outside the city of Chicago until our family moved to Minnesota in 2006. It was here that my husband Ishmael and I met. In Minnesota, God showed himself to me in a very real way, and I developed a passion for teaching others to come into a relationship with Him.

Ishmael and I have been foster parents for the last five years, and we felt that God has prepared us to pour into his little ones and ensure that our children develop a deep understanding of who Jesus Christ is. Foster care has also birthed the desire in me to pursue a degree in Religion and Christian Counseling. I believe this will help me connect with the lost, widow’s children, and orphans. The Lord has blessed us to pour into the children of others and with four of our own. Makayla 13, Moriah 9, Maliyah 5, and Malachi 4.

Nearly ten years after Ishmael and I married, we were at a crossroads and prayed deeply about what the Lord was calling us to do. By way of the military, we felt led to Okinawa and Pillar Church. We are excited to serve alongside this family for the next five to six years.

GTO Executive Director

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.

Women's Discipleship Coordinator

Lauren Dalton

I grew up in Florida, where I was raised as the oldest of ten children, five of whom joined our family through the gift of adoption. It was during this time that the Lord instilled in me a deep passion for spreading the gospel to the nations, specifically Asia.

In college, I sensed a deepening desire to integrate my Christian faith with public policy. I had the privilege of joining the policy team of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in Washington, DC, where I served until moving to Okinawa.

It was in Washington, DC, at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, that I met my dear husband, Ethan. Ethan and I were married in September 2019, and shortly after our wedding, we moved to Japan to serve a three-year tour with the Marine Corps. Ethan and I desire to pursue a gospel-centered marriage, fully believing God can and will use us to build His kingdom wherever He leads our family.

I began developing a passion for ministering to women while in seminary at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and I cherish the opportunity to point Pillar women to Christ by equipping them to love God’s Word and live on mission in whatever season the Lord places them.

Elders

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

Ethan Dalton

I met my wife Lauren at church in Washington D.C., and we married in Fredericksburg, VA, in 2019. We headed right out from there to begin our three-year honeymoon in Okinawa, courtesy of the US Marine Corps.

A few weeks after getting on the island, we attended Sunday service at Pillar and heard Jon Ransom preaching on Daniel. The call to living out our faith while working in public service, as exemplified in Daniel's life in the Babylonian court, resonated deeply in Jon's preaching.

We are passionate about living on mission in Okinawa and reaching our fellow servicemembers and Japanese neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ and what He's done for us.

Elder

Kento Eyre

Bekah and I moved from Stafford, Virginia, to Okinawa in February of 2019. I am currently serving in the Marine Corps, and Bekah is enrolled in seminary through The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Bekah and I met in college at NC State University. We have been married since 2017 and have been blessed with our daughter, JoLee.

It was through a church ministry in college that we both began to truly desire to be disciples who make disciples. We are passionate about discipleship and evangelism, and we have a desire to help others live out the truths of the gospel in their everyday lives.

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 3 children Elliott, Pippa, and Wilder.

Elder

Ron Coia

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

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

They have served with Pillar Okinawa since early 2016, and they 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).

Ron graduated from Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, and from Boston University in Massachusetts. They 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.

Lead Preaching Pastor

Jonathan Ransom

Jonathan and Linnea were married in 2004. God has blessed them with three children, Emma, Johnny, and Owen. In February of 2013 Jon and his family moved to Jacksonville, NC, to join the team working together to plant Pillar Church of Jacksonville. One year later Pillar Jacksonville sent the Ransoms 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 the Ransoms to Japan to plant Pillar Church of Okinawa. Jon holds 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.