by Brian Kittleson, Head Elder
What are Elders?
Elders are: 1) called by God. 2) elected by their congregation. The call to be an elder is first and foremost a call from God. The church then recognizes the elders’ gifts for leadership and elects them to office. Elders who realize that their calling comes first from God will most appreciate the importance and seriousness of their leadership responsibility.
An elder’s job description can include the following:
Spiritual leadership. A consecrated life and the gift of spiritual leadership important. Elders are committed to sharing the gospel, casting a challenging vision for the church, and implementing outreach initiatives both in their immediate community and in the world church. They share leadership responsibilities in the worship service and at the request of the pastor or in his absence.
General oversight. Elders guide, encourage, and support other church officers. They involve church committees and church members in planning, staffing, training, and guiding the entire church program.
Nurturing. As shepherds, elders nurture and care for their flock. In this role, they take interest in individual church members. They counsel, encourage, and pray for the sick, the discouraged, and those with unique problems. Elders are aware of the special needs of the congregation, such as providing Communion to shut-ins. Elders are involved in preparing new members for baptism and creating a nurturing environment of discipleship for new members. One of the most important ministries of elders is to find ways to reclaim inactive members.
Head elders are special assistants to the pastor. Under the pastor’s guidance, they organize the team of elders and give other elders their specific assignments. Each member of the elder team may be assigned to one or more planning groups in the church’s outreach ministry.
The role of elder is found in the Bible, but Scripture does not provide a detailed job description for elders. Further, it is not always clear what is meant by the word “elder” in passages describing New Testament church organization. Sometimes it means an older person. Sometimes it refers to one of the apostles (2 John 1:1). Sometimes it refers to local church leaders apart from the apostles (Acts 15:2, 4, 6).
Combining all the New Testament passages referring to elders provides a general understanding of the work of local elders:
- Elders were appointed in every congregation (Acts 14:23).
- They were highly respected (1 Tim. 5:17, 19).
- They carried significant leadership and administrative responsibilities (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23).
- They provided leadership in prayer ministry and in the anointing of the sick (James 5:14).
- They served as shepherds, overseers, and examples to the church (1 Pet. 5:1-4, 1 Tim 3:2,3, Titus 1:6).
Our 2020-21 Lansing Elders were nominated in the fall and are led by Head Elder Brian Kittleson. The elders have been meeting monthly (3 times so far) for training of new elders and to study the Elder’s Manual and pray together. They are dividing our membership under each of the elders for visitation, so you can all expect a call to set up a phone, Zoom, or in-person visit by the end of the year! They want to listen to you and get to know you, hear your needs, concerns, and suggestions.
The elders recently did something really fun for the holidays. Our Social Committee made gift bags for all our shut-ins that they had names for, and our elders delivered 23 gift bags to these precious souls! They had a wonderful time and were delighted to meet with them as well as team up with our social committee. More to come on this next week!
Brian Kittleson, Head Elder
Brian Kittleson serves as Associate Superintendent of Schools for the Michigan Conference. He graduated from Cedar Lake Academy and has served in Adventist Education since graduating from Union College in 1992 with a B.S. in Business Education and Physical Education. He has served at Broadview Academy, Auburn Adventist Academy, and Spencerville Adventist Academy.
In 2006 he completed a master’s degree from Andrews University in educational administration and supervision.
Brian and his wife, Michelle, have three children, Devon, Brianna and Matthew. His hobbies include backpacking, running, reading, and leadership development. He is passionate about the ministry of Adventist Education and serving the Michigan Conference Office of Education, as well as the Lansing Church as head elder. Brian’s wife, Michelle, is one of our new teachers at GLAS. He hopes to meet more of you soon, which has been a challenge due to COVID-19.
Elder Team (in alphabetical Order)
My name is Betty Abrams. My family includes my husband, Bill Abrams; one daughter, Kristen; 3 sons, William, Mark and Ashley; my daughter-in-law, Callie; and 3 grandchildren, Mariah, JJ and Carmen. My husband and I are retired Social Workers. My interests are spending time with family and friends, Bible study, prayer, worship and Christian service. Sometimes, just for fun, I like to watch shows that have to do with chefs and foods from around the world, interior design, architectural design and nature.
Pastor Sukrit Das
Sukrit Das was born in India in 1941 and brought up in a devout Adventist home. He attended Adventist boarding school in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In college he majored in science and math. He later attended SDA Theological Seminary (Far East) and earned a double master’s degree.
Sukrit met Monica Bol in Karachi in 1966 when he was pursuing another master’s degree from Karachi University in pure math. Monica was working as a church school teacher there. They got married in 1968.
They both started denominational work as teachers in Pakistan Union College, Lahore, in 1968. In 1975 they were repatriated to Bangladesh.
Sukrit has served for 40 years in the church, mostly in the educational field as teacher, professor, principal of a boarding school, president of a college and Union Education and Church Ministries director. He was ordained in the gospel ministry in 1980. Later they received a call to Bangkok, Thailand, where they served 20 years as education leader and church pastor.
After retiring in 2009 from denominational work, Sukrit and Monica immigrated to the USA. They have 2 children, Molly and Merle. They have 2 grandchildren from Molly & Tony: Ishaan and Joya. Molly is one of our GLAS teachers, while Merle is working as a teacher in an Adventist school with 1500+ students.
Chad married Shera on December 1, 2019. They are still newlyweds! They are blessed with 3 children, Felicity – 7 yrs old, Anders – 5 yrs old, and Elizabeth – 3 months.
Chad has done IT work for almost 14 years. He currently works for the Michigan Laborers’ Apprenticeship and Training Institute (MLTAI), a training school for the laborers union (LIUNA), where he provides IT services for multiple school locations across the state of Michigan. His interests include being a husband and father, serving and having fun with his family and church family, camping, nature hikes, board games, playing pool or going bowling, and last but definitely not least… giving Bible studies.
Chad began attending the church in the early summer of 2015 and was baptized on December 12, 2015. Chad says: “God worked powerfully to lead me to this church and change my life.”
Rod was born and raised in the Lansing area. He attended Eaton Rapids High School and worked at GM, Fisher Body, for 33 years. He retired in December 1997 and worked as a Quality Control representative for Toyota for 20 years.
Rod married Karen in 1967. They have 3 children and 10 grandchildren.
Rod says, “After our first child was born in 1969, we realized a higher calling and were baptized into the Lansing SDA Church. I love my church and its people. That is the church: people, not an organization.”
Clinton is happily married to Nancy with three great kids: Chase, Everett, and Adele. He works at Liquid Web helping manage a global support team that handles web hosting issues. An introvert by nature, he is a homebody who loves to spend time learning more about spiritual and health-related topics.
My wife, Vickie, and I became members of the Lansing Seventh-day Adventist Church 12 years ago. It has been my privilege and honor to serve as an elder for the past 8 years. I recently retired from working in the health professional field for 31 years. I personally enjoy archery and bicycling, and we enjoy “glamping” during the summer months.
My name is Jason Lounds. I am married to Keila (20 years), and have two children, Jasiah, 17, and Aliah, 15. I am a fulltime high school art and Spanish teacher, and a part time plant-based health and fitness coach. I enjoy photography, woodworking, drawing and painting, along with exercising, eating healthy and staying active. I have been a member of the Lansing SDA church for over 20 years and have served on the AV team, music committee, deacons, health ministries, and now am part of the team of elders.
Pastor Charles Okuka
Charles Okuka holds a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work and bachelor’s degrees in Religion and Secondary education. He works as counselor providing counseling for substance abuse clients with Community Mental Health. He previously provided mental health services to inmates in the Ionia and Jackson prisons for approximately six years.
In his home country of South Sudan, Pastor Okuka served the Adventist Church as a church pastor and as President of the Sudan Field. His many and varied roles over the years included Personal Ministries Director, Health and Temperance Director, Trainer for Global Mission Pioneers, Children’s Ministries Director, and executive member of the Middle East Union, which steers the direction and administration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in nine Middle East countries.
Charles and his wife, Alba, are the parents of 4 grown sons. Alba also worked for the church in Sudan, serving in several roles including Women’s Ministry Director. She currently works for Sparrow Hospital. Charles’s hobbies include reading and basic home repairs, while Alba enjoys cooking, baking, exercise and reading.
Olson has been married to Hilda since July 2002. They have two girls: Karenine Isabelle and Darysse Gabrielle. He works for a mental health organization, and Hilda is a nurse. Olson is a linguist, poet and interpreter. He used to teach Spanish before moving from Haiti to Michigan. His hobbies include writing, listening to Christian and classical music and traveling with his family. He also occasionally enjoys ministering through preaching to some French-speaking SDA churches on the east coast.
Tom Owiti was born and raised in Kenya, where obtained his undergraduate degree. He came to the US in 2002 to study and obtained his MBA in Finance from Western Michigan University in 2004. Tom recently married Melissa, who is from Zimbabwe. Tom is blessed with three children: Ryan at Andrews University and Melisa and Enoch at Battle Creek Academy.
Tom is a lifelong Adventist and has been active in Pathfinder and Adventist Youth activities. He worked at Kellogg Company as Senior Financial Analyst and volunteered as treasurer and board member for both GYC and AudioVerse. Tom also worked at Wells Fargo Advisors as Financial Advisor/Wealth Manager.
Tom served as Business Manager/Treasurer for Wisconsin Academy prior to his call to the Michigan Conference, where he currently serves as Undertreasurer and Treasurer for the Michigan Conference Association.
For recreation, Tom enjoys reading, nature walks, sightseeing, photography, biking, camping, physical fitness, life management (coaching & mentoring).