Meet The River Church Staff and Leaders

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River Staff
Children's Ministry
April Thille
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April Thille was born and raised in the South Bay and the middle child of 3 girls. One of her favorite childhood memories was going to the beach and it is still at the top of her favorite things to do list. She has 3 children and 1 grandson. She has been a hair stylist and working in the beach cities for 25 years. April was born again at 17 and has been on her journey with Christ since, with lots of ups and downs. She has found her home with the River community to be life changing, life giving, accepting and filled with warmth and love!!
 
 
High School Ministry
Matt Engle
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Matt is a native to the South Bay and grew up in El Segundo. After his collegiate football career at UC Davis, he attended Jerusalem University College in Israel where he met his beautiful wife Tara. Matt and Tara have been married for almost 5 years and live in Lomita with Holden, the world’s greatest dog. Matt has served as the pastor of high school ministries since 2012 and as an associate pastor since 2015. Matt recently graduated from Fuller Seminary with his MDiv and cherishes his calling to partner with families of adolescents to form life long followers of Jesus Christ. Along with youth ministry, Matt loves participating in The River’s Mission and Outreach team; specifically on the yearly mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico and serving at the annual Sharefest Workday. In his spare time, Matt enjoys Netflix binging with Tara, running with Holden, reading, and trying the latest craft beer.
 
 
Junior High Ministry
Tommy Olsen
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Tommy Olsen grew up in Avalon, CA on Santa Catalina Island (about 20 miles off the coast of Palos Verdes Peninsula). His favorite animal is flying fish, his favorite fruit is avocado, and his favorite book is Telling God's Story by John W. Wright. His favorite quote is one often heard on the lips of Pope Francis: "Please pray for me." Tommy's first memory with the River Church was Easter 2011, when his wife (then girlfriend?) Lauren was baptized in the frigid ocean. He sensed a "call" and started interning with the River Church in May 2015, and within six months he quit his former full-time job in port logistics to start seminary and pursue pastoral ministry. In Fall 2012, Tommy married his best friend, Lauren. And they are looking forward to the arrival of their first child in Fall 2016. Tommy graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with a BA in Philosophy, and Loyola Marymount University with an MA in Philosophy. He currently attends Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. While Tommy really enjoys playing fun games, he is even more passionate about living out the gospel in a life of service to others, especially our poor neighbors and marginalized of society.
 
 
Pastoral Assistant
Kaitlyn Goeppner
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Kaitlyn Goeppner grew up in the South Bay and at eighteen moved to the Bay Area, where she attended San Francisco State University. She was shocked at how different the two bays were and San Francisco quickly became her bae... or home. She knew early on that she had a heart for people and serving underserved communities, so when she took her first sociology course at SFSU, it became clear what her major would be. She got her minor in counseling and was excited to make use of her degree in SF. So when she felt God calling her back to LA less than a year after she graduated, she fought it for about a year until she finally said, "Okay God, I'll go". After that, God started opening up doors for her- one of which, was the River's- and she was given the opportunity to join an incredible team and community. God also opened a door for her to serve the underserved as a volunteer at the Dream Center and she is so grateful that He knows her heart better than she knows her own and that while she was striving for lesser things in SF, He had a plan to give her so much more.
 
 
Service Coordinator/Manager
Brian Butts
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Staff Oversight
Janie Calvert
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Teaching Pastor
Bill MacPhee
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Bill MacPhee grew up on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and loves serving as a pastor, especially in ways that support the whole family. His lifelong dream was to play baseball at the highest level, and so it makes sense that he received his call to give himself full time to pastoral ministry while sharing Christ and playing ball throughout South America during a summer in college. Bill serves on the teaching team, helps rally Grounded Groups, and pays attention to creating warm and substantive worship gatherings. He also occasionally teaches youth ministry students as adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary. Bill and Cynthia have been married for over thirty years and together they have two adult children, Conner and Heather. Bill loves camping, surfing, biking, and reading [but not at the same time].
 
 
Teaching Pastor
Dr. James M. Petitfils
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James Petitfils has been involved in pastoral ministry in the South Bay since 1999 (when he graduated from Redondo Union H.S.) and has been a member of the River Church family since 2007. His primary role is “Beach Pastoring” (a very technical ecclesiological term), though he delights in collaborating with the River team in the areas of culture-shaping, story-telling, and creative community care, he is also a full-time professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Biola University. He loves spending time at the beach with his family (his beautiful wife, Braelyn, and their two cool kids, Micelli and Brixton), reading ancient literature from the Roman Mediterranean, surfing, and running.
 
 
Teaching Pastor & Men's Ministry
Todd Wendorff
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A little unknown fact about Todd is that when he was an adolescent a cat pushed him on to his bike and the hub of the front wheel punctured the back of his leg. Ever since then he never liked cats. It was many years later that he sensed a calling for the ministry. "I really tried to do other things, like commercial real estate for example, but truly could not stop myself from diving head-long into training for the ministry and then the practice of ministry as a pastor at several churches around the country. One problem was I could never find my fit until ten years ago when Denise and I, with several other families, determined to plant the River Church. Best decision ever. I love it. It's me. I feel the pleasure of God. There's not a lot of things I love doing more, other than hanging with my family, swimming, stand-up paddling, biking, motorcycling, hunting, skiing and just about anything else that involves God's amazing nature and something filled with adventure."
 
 
Women's Ministry & Care
Denise Wendorff
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With a great love for people and a passion to develop leaders, Denise serves as the Director of Women and Community at The River. With a BA from UCLA, she has spent the last 30 years writing Bible study curriculum, teaching women, and developing leadership in a variety of churches. She has been married to Todd Wendorff for 30 years and has 2 young adult children - Brittany and Theo, and a married daughter Brooke, and son in law Jordan Andrews. When Denise isn't working, she is gardening, baking cookies, reading or traveling to see friends.
 
 
Worship Leader
Brad Owens
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Brad Owens grew up in Mission Viejo, CA and has lived in Hawaii, Pennsylvania, New York, and Berlin leading worship and performing as a guitarist and singer. He is also a ProTools certified audio engineer and records from a studio in his apartment during the week. At the age of 19 Brad moved to Kona, HI to serve with Youth With A Mission and traveled all over the world leading worship and teaching. Brad came on staff with the River in September of 2015 and loves leading every weekend with a band of volunteer musicians from the church. In 2013 Brad met Maddie at a Christmas party and decided that day that she was the girl that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. In July of 2015 they were married and currently live in Los Feliz where Maddie works as a make up artist for Chanel and Brad is able to collaborate with local songwriters, artists, and producers.
 
 
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