Meet Our Staff

PASTOR JOHN MARS | Pastor | [email protected] The Rev. John Mars is dedicated to working with others to advance the Kingdom of God. Pastor John came to Meridian United Methodist Church as senior pastor in 2007. At that time, he had already served as a pastor for 25 years: eight years in Southern Baptist churches and 17 years in United Methodist churches in Mississippi, Oregon, and Idaho. His formal education includes two master’s degrees in divinity – in pastoral care and counseling from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and in New Testament theology from Memphis Cumberland Presbyterian Seminary. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Southern Mississippi. He says his life is all about relationships: his relationship with God, with his family, and with the people with whom he serves. His approach to ministry can be summed up in a truism: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

JEN HUNKOVIC |Assistant Pastor- Adult Ministries | [email protected] Jen Hunkovic was raised in Winter Park, Florida, where she earned her Bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Central Florida in 1999 and then earned her MBA in healthcare management in 2004.  Early in her career, Jen worked as a case manager for the elderly in the community. Later, as an admissions coordinator and clinical liaison for at-risk youth, she gained extensive experience in behavioral health crisis management. She’s had the privilege of working with Hospice volunteers and providing bereavement support for families. For the last ten years, she directed the risk management, quality and compliance programs for a local behavioral health facility. She is passionate about meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among us and believes it is the responsibility of the church to provide outreach.

Jen and her husband moved in Idaho in 2008. They have two boys and live in Meridian, Idaho. The family enjoys the natural beauty of Idaho. They go camping and fishing in the summer and the boys love to ski during the winter. Jen also enjoys cooking, reading and connecting with friends. Spending time with her boys is high on her list of favorite things to do.

LISA MILLER | Minister of Congregational Care | [email protected] Lisa grew up in the Boise area, where she graduated from Centennial High School in 1990. While attending Boise State University, she married David Miller in 1992 at University Christian Church. When her husband was assigned to Savannah, Georgia for the Air National Guard, she attended and volunteered her many talents to the Richmond Hill United Methodist Church. While in Georgia, she raised two wonderful children and completed her Public Health degree at Armstrong Atlantic State University. After her husband retired, the family returned to the Treasure Valley where Lisa enjoys being a mom, running, spending time outdoors, and being with family and friends. She feels blessed to be working at the Church of the Warm Heart! Her ministry is one of love. Her advice – Never stop doing the little things for others…it makes a big difference!

DEBBIE JONES | Minister of Worship Arts | [email protected] Debbie Jones has worked in Music Ministry since she was a teenager accompanying choirs, playing the organ for services and eventually directing adult choirs, children’s choirs, hand bell choirs, musicals and cantatas. She taught piano privately for over 25 years and has taught choir in the Westada School district at Sawtooth MS, Meridian MS and Meridian HS. She and her husband, Charlie, have enjoyed singing together since before they were married. Debbie and Charlie have two children, Nicole (Bryan) Kopp and Timmy Jones (engaged to Samantha Zahorka). They thoroughly enjoy their two grandchildren, Lyla  and Weston Kopp.

Debbie is originally from Ohio, born in Cleveland and raised in Lima, Ohio. She graduated from Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio with a BA in Elementary Education and Music K-12.

When not doing church music, Debbie enjoys baseball and Jazz music! She is excited about the music ministry at Church of the Warm Heart and is looking forward to this next journey. She cherishes relationships and friendships and loves learning about people’s talents and how to use them for His glory!

Brian Palmer | Brian Palmer was born and raised in Southern California. He started playing the guitar at age 10 after hearing the Beatles and Beach Boys. He had bands throughout high school and college. At the age of 21, he started a band called Strictly Business that played restaurants and clubs throughout California.

In 1986, He attended Musicians Institute in Hollywood Ca, to better himself as a Musician. After graduating form MI, he went on to perform with various show bands and session work. In 1990, Brian landed a gig as lead guitar player for Stonebridge, a high energy show-band that backed up such groups as the Coasters, The Drifters, Shirelles, Freda Payne, Richard Street from The Temptations. And many more. He has opened shows for George Benson, Rick Springfield, and many other acts, as well as performed his own unique brand of jazz influenced Blues Rock. He has also played and/or recorded with Cheri Keaggy, Junko Chen, Jana Alayra and Dean-O and the Dynamos. Brian currently has 2 albums out. The first one is called dbSmoothe, which is a jazz fusion record. The second is a country record with Joannah McKee that he co-wrote and produced. Both are available on Amazon and iTunes. Brian is also currently playing with the Saloonatics, a high-energy country pop dance band.

KRISTINE CIULLA | Organist | [email protected] Kristine has been playing at the Church of the Warm Heart since 2006, and loves being able to play the organ and piano in worship and with others as they praise God! Kristine is a member of the AGO, taking additional organ lessons, memorizes one hymn from the United Methodist Hymnal each month… and would love to sing for you if asked!

NICOLE WALKER | Minister of Youth | [email protected] Nicole Walker grew up in Pennsylvania and then attended college in Michigan, where she lived for six years. She and her husband, Jacob, moved to Idaho in August of 2012 to be near Jacob’s siblings and find work as math teachers. Now some of Jacob’s siblings have left Idaho, but Nicole and Jacob have put down roots and plan to stay. In October, a stork brought them a cute little redhead, Coraline Grace, and they couldn’t be happier about it. When they’re not changing diapers and having tummy time, Jacob and Nicole enjoy playing board games together and watching too much TV. Nicole also enjoys scrapbooking and trying out all sorts of different crafts. In Grand Rapids, Nicole worked as a substitute teacher, a math coach, and the Minister of Worship Arts at Grace Christian Reformed Church, where she got the church’s teens involved in planning and leading worship. Since coming to Idaho, Nicole has taught high school math at INSPIRE Connections Academy. It didn’t take long for Jason Maupin to recruit her to teach teen Sunday School at church, and she enjoyed helping with youth group events and serving on the Youth Advisory Council. When Rob moved into the role of Minister of Adult Discipleship, Nicole found that she was interested in taking up leadership of the youth ministry, as it combines her love for teens, teaching, Jesus, and the church. Youth group played an enormous role in Nicole’s life as a young person, and she is excited to bring her experiences, creativity, and passion to the Church of the Warm Heart.

SHARON ALLISON | Minister of Children | [email protected] Sharon Allison grew up in Fresno, California, where she earned her B. A. in Education from California State University, Fresno.  She currently lives in Meridian with her two children.  Sharon has been a Christian all her life and is fulfilling her dream to teach children about Jesus.  She is active in her church community and has been a member of the Meridian United Methodist church for ten years.  She enjoys reading, crafts, scrapbooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

DENISE MCCLUNG | Office Manager | [email protected] An Idaho native, Denise was born and raised in Idaho and currently resides in Boise.  She and her husband, Tom, have two adult boys, Nathen and Morgen.  Both boys also live in Boise, close to home, which keeps ‘mom’ happy.  Denise has grown up in the Methodist Church… attending Burley UMC, Rupert UMC, the Cathedral of the Rockies and now Meridian UMC.  She’s not really new to the Meridian staff though, she was the administrative assistant at MUMC from 2010 through 2012.  She says she loved working here last time, and is very excited and happy to be back! Just as Denise’s family is her pride and joy, we’re happy she’s part of our church family as well.

LUCINDA DYER | Receptionist | [email protected] Lucinda has recently relocated to Idaho from Charlotte, NC with her husband, Bob. She spent 18 years working with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools as a science facilitator and also provided tutoring service for K-8th grade students. Born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia, she feels as if she has returned “home”. She enjoys gardening and exploring Idaho with Bob.  Together they have four grown children.

ELAINE CARLSON | Communications Coordinator | [email protected] Elaine Carlson and her husband Brad moved to Idaho from New Mexico in 2014 to be close to their daughter and son-in-law.   In the last year their son Daniel moved here from Minnesota.  Elaine is very happy to have both of her children close to her again. Having grown up in a military family, she loves to travel.  She and her husband recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to celebrate their 35th anniversary.   The food and people there were amazing.  Elaine comes to us with years of office experience and is very happy to join the great office team our church.   Please stop in the office and greet her when you have time.

Dan Pruett | Systems Administrator | [email protected] Prior to becoming a Real Estate Agent, Dan had a 25 year career in the US Navy as a Lieutenant in charge of Naval Intelligence in his squadron. There he earned multiple service awards and recognitions… Presidential Unit Citations, two Navy Achievement Medals, three Navy Air Medals and Battle Efficiency Awards. He studied Information Technology at National University San Diego, earning a BBA in Business and Computer Science. Dan spent the next 30 years as a VP of Sales, selling hardware and software to the major oil industry. He has a Commercial Pilot License, Class A Drivers License as a trucker with certification for Doubles, Triples and Hazardous Cargo and is a licensed Realtor.

MARIA AKERS | Bookkeeper | [email protected] Maria grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she earned an Accounting degree from Arizona State University. She met her husband when they worked together at American Traffic Systems. They lived in Sierra Vista, AZ for twelve years, where they had two children. There they were members at Sierra Evangelical Lutheran Church. They moved to Meridian in 2010, and have attended Meridian UMC since. Maria joined the staff at MUMC in late 2012. She enjoys working around the house with her husband, helping her kids with school, cooking, reading, and walking with her dog.

Mike Dalton [email protected] Mike grew up in small Norwegian town of Poulsbo, Washington best known for its lefse, lutefisk, and bakery.  He obtained his Associates Degree in Forestry Technology at Green River CC (Auburn, Washington); Bachelors in Electrical Engineering at The University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho); Data Communications and Networking Certificate at the University Of Washington (Seattle, Washington); and Masters in Systems Engineering from Portland State University (Portland, Oregon).   He worked as a Project / System Engineer for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Keyport (Keyport, Washington) retiring in October 2017 with almost 35 years of Navy (civilian) service.  He has seven kids, one grandchild with another grandchild due in December.  He lives with his wife Stephanie and two dogs in Kuna and enjoys the greater Boise area golf courses and the abundance of outdoor activities.

DON WOODS | Facility Manager | [email protected] Don Woods was born, raised and educated in Meridian. He has been a member of Meridian UMC his entire life and has been active in many classes, groups and committees. Don was previously employed as a staff member at the church as Administrative Assistant in the early 1980’s. He again became a staff member in March of 2011 as Facility Manager.

JOANN PRUETT | Nursery Coordinator | [email protected] JoAnn Pruett and her husband Dan moved to Idaho in 2006 and joined the Meridian United Methodist Church in 2008. They have two children, seven grandchildren, two great-granddaughters and one great-grandson . JoAnn joined the nursery staff in 2010 and took over for Amanda Rudd as the Nursery Coordinator in 2012. Anyone who wants to play with the babies and toddlers should see JoAnn about joining this elite group. JoAnn also works with a group of volunteers called the Helping Hands, who are also always looking for volunteers to help church members and our community.

Church Leadership

Lay Chaplain Coordinator Faye Gabriel Lay Chaplains Emma Jean Bedsole, Phyllis & Gordon Bouza, Don Brister, Shirley Buchli, Faye Gabriel, Rich Greene, Ruth Hayes, Gary Himes,Artie & Ruth Ann Hutson , Dixie Jacky, Lisa Miller,  Jeannine Mars, Donna Melville, Shirley O’Neal, Carol Ravine, Mary Rich, Carol Rounds, Eloise Stemple Prayer & Praise Requests:  [email protected] United Methodist Men Ed Emmel United Methodist Women Evelyn Battema Administrative Council Chair Marcel Goldberg Trustees Chair Lori Jones Staff Pastor Parish Relations Chair Ron Pridmore  Finance Chair Steve Graafsma Treasurer Lori Jones Financial Secretary Diane Brister Futures Team Chair David Ray