Church Elders

Elder Chairman Rick and Debbie Vielhak


Rick Vielhak grew up in a Christian home with godly parents and a Christian grandmother who tremendously influenced his life. It was at the church where his family attended that he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. At the age of 12, while reading his Bible, Rick felt the calling of God into full-time ministry. Following his calling, he attended Tennessee Temple College and Bible School where he graduated with a degree in Theology. After graduation, he served as a youth pastor in his hometown of Peoria, Ill. Several years later, he met “the love of his life” Debbie, who was in Peoria attending nursing school. They married in 1973, and Rick eventually began a career in Christian camping, mainly working with economically disadvantaged and judicated youth. The Vielhaks were members at Chillicothe Bible Church (EFCA) in Chillicothe, Ill., where they served in a variety of positions for 26 years prior to retiring in 2015 to Del Webb Spruce Creek in Florida. One of their first priorities was to find a Free Church in the area. They found Live Oaks Community Church online where, after visiting one time, they knew they were home. Rick’s life verse is Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Elder Secretary Michael & Barbara Cooper

Tom Albert

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

Tom Albert

My life journey began in Lansing Michigan in July of 1947. Although I had a carefree childhood, I had no exposure to the Gospel. After high school I enlisted in the Navy for 3 years, where I served in the print shop on the USS Mount McKinley. After finishing my time in the Navy, I married Connie Baker and started working in the printing business.  In 1973 after visiting a church with my wife, the Pastor called on us and challenged me to read the book of Matthew. Through reading the Scripture and the prayers of my wife and our pastor, I made the decision to invite Jesus into my life. Three weeks later Lowell Friar, a man involved with the Navigators ministry, knocked on my door and asked me if I would like to be in a bible study he was starting up. I had never met Lowell before, but I was hungry to know God better, so I agreed to join him. Lowell spent the next three years faithfully mentoring me and impressing me with the importance of Bible study, scripture memorization, prayer, seeking God’s will daily, and sharing Christ with others. I will always be grateful that God sent Lowell to mentor me at this critical time in my life! I continued in the printing business until 1998 when our printing business closed, and God opened the door to a job at Michigan State University.  I continued to work at MSU for 15 years, where I had many opportunities to share Christ with the staff and students and to encourage them to grow in their faith. During those 15 years I also served as Chairman of the Deacon Board in two different churches. In 2002 I helped start up a “Celebrate Recovery Group “ at the Church I was attending. Over the years I have also had the opportunity to personally mentor several men and encourage them to have a closer walk with God. In 2010 God called my wife Connie home to heaven after a long battle with cancer. We were married 40 years and had 4 children. After Connie died, I began asking the Lord to give me another wife to walk beside me. In June of 2011, Bonnie Skinner and I began seeing each other. She had also been widowed after 40 years of marriage. One year later we were married. Together we have 7 children and 13 grandchildren. We moved to the Villages in 2015 and have been at Live Oaks from our first Sunday in town.! Together Bonnie and I are enjoying leading an Encore group and the POP prayer Ministry at LOCC.A verse that has been a great encouragement to me is Job 42:12a “and the Lord blessed the later days of Job more than his beginning.”

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

Tom Albert

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

Tom Albert

Kirk Carver is the son of a Navy submariner; born in Connecticut, he has lived abroad in Africa and Europe, as well as in South Carolina, Mississippi, California, Missouri, Maryland, and now Florida. He and wife Kay have been married 35 years. In 1998, Kirk became a follower of Jesus at a small, evangelical United Methodist church in Dunkirk, Maryland. A few years later, he and Kay transitioned to the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and in 2006 accepted a call to cross-cultural missions work with what was then Grace Brethren International Missions (now Encompass World Partners), serving full time in Chad, Africa, from December 2008 until July 2014. Today they continue to serve remotely with Encompass World Partners, a disciple-making mission among least-reached peoples, where Kirk is the coordinator of Chadian Ministries and Kay works as a volunteer in donor communications. A retired Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine (graduated from Logan University in Chesterfield, Missouri), Kirk had a practice in Huntington, Maryland, for 19 years (Kay was his office manager). Kirk also trained at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, Maryland; Kay has a degree in Radio, Television, and Film Journalism from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Carvers began attending Live Oaks Community Church in 2014 after relocating here to be near Kirk’s parents, who also live in The Villages. Kirk previously served as an LOCC elder from 2016-2018, and then as the Mobilization Pastor from September of 2019 until October, 2021. In their spare time, Kay is an avid cyclist and triathlete, while Kirk enjoys powerlifting. Both enjoy family, friends, leading an Encore group, and reaching out to those who have not yet met Jesus.

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

Patrick 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

William Olthoff

Bill Olthoff was born and raised in South Holland, Ill., the son and grandson of farmers. He accepted the Lord at the age of 10 at Bethany Camp at Winona Lake, Ind. Graduating from llliana Christian High School where he and Ruth started dating, he then earned a degree from Wheaton College in Economics and Business. He and Ruth were married during college, after which he took a position as a loan officer at a bank. Two years later he began farming with his father and eventually moved to Bourbonnais, Ill., where he has farmed for more than 50 years. A stay-at-home mom, Ruth eventually returned to school for a degree in accounting, after which she not only helped with the books on the farm, but also worked for 20 years with an accounting firm. Over the course of their marriage, Bill has served as both an elder and a choir director, and Ruth has served in evangelical outreaches and taught Precept Bible studies. Together the couple has been involved in small group ministry. Since retiring from farming in 2019, Bill and Ruth are spending more time at their home in the Villages. Today, Bill continues to serve on the Kankakee County Board and on the Board of Regents for Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The Olthoffs have four children, 18 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

Elder Dan & Helen Rude


I was born and raised in a small farming community in western Wisconsin.  After graduating from high school,   I attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and graduated with a degree in Business Administration.  During my last two years of college, I worked part-time for JCPenney and then went full-time after graduation. I spent the next 38 years working for JCP in the accounting area. This career required us to move several  times. Helen and I grew up in the same small town, went to the same church, the same youth group and both attended Luther College.  We have been joyfully  married  for 55 years and are best friends. We have two sons, one in Texas and one in Arizona, 9 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.  We are blessed. I was blessed that my parents raised my two sisters and me in a Christian home. They were very active in our local church and Youth for Christ. I accepted Christ at age 9 at a Youth for Christ Rally. I really didn’t grasp what had happened and as such I didn’t grow in my faith.  After Helen and I were married, we each re-dedicated our lives to Christ as our Savior and Lord. We have a heart to share our faith as the Holy Spirit leads us and to help others to do that as well. I have a favorite Bible verse that I memorized when I was a teenager-  Revelation 2:10b-KJV  “ Be ye faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life”.

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.”