Elder Chairman Rick and Debbie Vielhak
Elder Secretary Michael & Barbara Cooper
Michael Cooper became a Christian while in junior high during a church camp in northern Indiana. But his real growth as a believer didn’t begin until he went away to college and recognized during the first week of his freshman year that he could not make it by himself. That’s when a fellow student shared Matthew 6:33 with him: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.”
“For me it was like someone threw me a life preserver, and I grabbed hold of it,” he recalls. “I had asked Jesus to be my Savior in junior high, but now as a freshman in college, I was asking Him to be the Lord of my life.”
Upon graduation, Michael went on to teach high school science for 39 years. He and wife Barbara have three sons and eight grandchildren. “Life has had its ups and downs, but God has continued to be faithful to His Word,” he says.
Elder Tom & Bonnie Albert
Executive and Teaching Pastor James and Wendy Armstrong
James Armstrong became Executive and Teaching Pastor for Live Oaks Community Church in July 2022. He brings a rich, diverse background in ministries around the world, and prior to joining the LOCC team, served as the Assistant Director of Church Relations for Samaritan’s Purse.
A decorated U.S. Air Force veteran, James served under four different presidents in ministry to airmen, sailors, and soldiers both at home and overseas in Operation Just Cause, as well in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was an adjunct instructor and professor at colleges in Maryland and Texas, teaching courses ranging from Philosophy and Religion to Management and Criminal Justice. He also taught Military Strategic Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy; and was pastor of The Hill Fellowship, the Academy’s largest worship service. James has served as both an associate and senior pastor at a dozen churches stateside and abroad; a trained crisis chaplain and counselor; and led dozens of marriage, youth, and singles ministry retreats during the course of his 30-year ministry career. Committed to investing in the church on both a local and international level, in 2019 he founded Becoming Missional, an organization aimed at training and equipping leaders and churches primarily in developing nations. His heart and passion, he says, is “for serving God and His people, those living and serving around the globe.”
A military kid, James grew up in both the U.S. and Europe; he became a Christian as a teen at a Baptist camp in Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from East Texas Baptist University (where he met his wife, Wendy), as well as an M.Div. in Biblical Languages from Southwestern Seminary; a D.Min. in Leadership from George Fox University; and a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Midwestern Theological Seminary. The Armstrongs have three grown children – Austin, Alysse, and Ashlea.
Southern Oaks Campus Pastor Sam & Cheri Benson
Dr. Sam Benson and his wife Cheri have been in ministry for more than half a century. He began preaching the Gospel in 1967 and has served not only as a pastor and evangelist, but also a missionary, traveling all over the world with the message of biblical truth. He and Cheri have led several congregations through major expansions, pastoring churches in Ohio, Minnesota, Washington, and other states. Today, as part of LOCC’s pastoral team since 2018, they are more excited about the future than ever before.
Sam uses inspired preaching to stir the hearts of his audiences to purpose-filled action. Cheri is an insightful teacher of Scripture, an entrepreneur, and a certified life coach. She is in demand as a women's conference speaker and mentors both business and ministry professionals around the globe. Sam holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies from North Central University in Minneapolis, Minn., and on January 21, 2001, at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., was awarded the Ecclesiastical Degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD) by the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Methodist-Episcopal Church and the National Clergy Council.
Sam and Cheri met at college in Minnesota and married in June 1969. They have two grown sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren.
Elder Jerry & Glenna Brown
Jerry Brown was born in Providence, Rhode Island. His father was a Baptist minister at the first African American church in Providence, and his mother was a social worker. While in elementary school, Jerry’s family moved to Westfield, N.J., where he concluded his secondary education as co-captain of Westfield’s cross country and spring track team. He went on to earn a B.S. in mathematics at Morgan State University in Baltimore and was commissioned a second lieutenant through MSU’s ROTC program.
Jerry’s business career began in sales with Johnson and Johnson, and continued with Unilever where he advanced to vice president of customer and business development.
Jerry fully committed his life to Jesus Christ in September 1980. Since then, he has served on a mission board, taught Sunday School, and participated in Community Bible Study, Bible Study Fellowship, Navigator programs, and a Precepts Bible Study.
Since moving to The Villages in 2009, Jerry has engaged in One-to-One Discipleship, Real Life Discipleship, Community Bible Study, and Engage Bible Study. He also has volunteered in a mentoring program at Leesburg High School and has been active in Encore Groups at Live Oaks Community Church, where he also serves as an usher and elder.
Elder Kirk and Kay Carver
Lead Pastor Chris & Kathleen Holck
Chris Holck grew up on a farm in Iowa and thought that would be his life! He majored in Agricultural Banking and Finance at Iowa State University (where he met future wife Kathleen; they married in 1978), and took a job in that field upon graduating. The next few years saw the couple pursuing careers (Kathleen worked in early child development and parental education) and starting their family. Then, before taking over the family farm, Chris spent a year fulfilling another dream, earning a certificate in Biblical Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. After a few years of farming, he felt pulled to full-time ministry, and took a youth pastor position in Minneapolis, Minn. Simultaneously, he began pursuing an M.Div. from Bethel Seminary in nearby St. Paul, graduating in May, 1990; the following month, he was ordained in the Evangelical Free (E-Free) Church of America.
From 1991 to 2002, Chris pastored at Faith E-Free Church in Austin, Minn., and then was called to lead a church in Spirit Lake, Iowa. While there, Chris began to notice that churches in general seemed to lack understanding in how to best serve one segment of their congregations – older adults. Feeling a passion to change that dynamic, in 2008, he began contracting with the E-Free denomination as a consultant and speaker, traveling all over the country to help churches promote new ways of engaging and empowering their “Encore Generation.”
In 2010, Bill and Mary Ann Hicks of The Villages were interested in planting a church in their area and called the E-Free headquarters (in Minneapolis). Chris and Bill met; then he and Kathleen agreed to visit Florida; and after much prayer and faith, they moved to The Villages in January, 2012. Live Oaks Community Church held its first worship service just one month later. Chris believes his mission here is to share the Gospel, and at the same time, guide older adults to live a purposeful, balanced second half of life that honors God – to “play hard, pray hard, and finish well.”
In their free time, Chris and Kathleen enjoy sports, both watching and playing (golf and pickleball), dining out, and traveling – especially to see their three married children and six grandkids, or relax at their “other home” by Lake Okoboji in Iowa.
Elder Patrick & Linda Nuss
Pat Nuss moved from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to Green Bay when he was 12, and grew up attending Catholic schools. After college at nearby St. Norbert, he served three years with the Army in Korea and Viet Nam, attaining the rank of captain and receiving both the Army Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Pat met wife Linda while in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. They married in 1968 and eventually settled in Bloomington, Minnesota, where they raised four children. After several successful entrepreneurial endeavors, Pat concluded his career as a self-employed executive search consultant.
Pat and Linda both received Christ in 1975 as the result of a Bible Study Fellowship study of Romans. “I was surprised to learn that salvation was not a reward for anything I could do,” Pat recalls, “but was made possible as the result of what He did.”
Soon the couple joined an Evangelical Free Church where Pat served as an elder, church chairman, and teacher. He also joined the Elim Care board of directors, which brought him to The Villages in 2013 to help explore the partnership LOCC now enjoys with Trinity Springs. Today, Pat and Linda, proud grandparents of five grandchildren, belong to an Encore Group at LOCC, where Pat also serves as part of the GPS leadership and teaching team.
Elder Bill & Ruth Olthoff
Elder Dan & Helen Rude
Elder Rich & Donna Wells
Rich Wells received Christ at 21 years old during what he describes as one of the darkest times of his life. He calls it his “Damascus Road” experience, “me heading in one direction and God’s grace delivering me from the grip of the enemy.”
For the next 22 years he not only immersed himself in church work, but also traveled with mission groups to Poland, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
Rich married in 1972 and had 12 children with his first wife. He considered the local tree service that he founded in 1974 not only to be a means to support his family, but also a “tent-making” job that supported his love of sharing the gospel with others. He sold the business shortly before moving to The Villages in 2016.
Rich married his wife Donna in 1998, and together they share 35 grandkids “who we adore and are so blessed to see them growing up in Christian homes.”
“I don’t deserve all the good in my life, and I remain as one who has been broken,” Rich says. “All praise to the Lord for His redeeming love.”