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Westkirk Presbyterian Church

Pastors & Staff

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Michael Mudlaff

Senior Pastor

Michael received his B.A. (International Relations/Religion/Politics) from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in 1988. From there, he went on to receive his M.A. (International Affairs) from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey (1991) and his M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (1997). In addition to his work at Westkirk, Michael was on the founding committee and is a past director on the Urbandale Food Pantry Board. He also serves on the Pastoral Advisory Board of Joshua Christian Academy in downtown Des Moines and on the selection committee of the GuideOne Foundation’s Insurance Scholarship for ministerial students. He has previously been a volunteer tutor for students at Maple Street Baptist Church in downtown Des Moines, an active Scouter, and a member of the Board of Alumni Directors at Cornell College, where he received the Leadership & Service Award from the college in 2013. Michael can be heard weekdays at Noon CT on 99.3 The Truth Network during True Blue, the teaching/talk program that features his preaching.

Michael and his wife, Sasha, celebrated 25 years of marriage in 2014. They live only five minutes away from Westkirk in Clive, Iowa, with their four sons: Micah, Jonah, Nathanael, and Isaiah. Sasha is an active part of her family’s local business, Hamilton’s Funeral Home & After Life Services, where she serves as vice president. She has collaborated with local author Margaret Holmes on three children’s books related to grief and trauma, including A Terrible Thing Happened. She is a requested speaker, trainer, and counselor with children and has presented at the International Network of Children’s Ministry conferences in Kansas City and Atlanta.

The Mudlaffs enjoy the arts, bike rides, sports, traveling, reading books together, and going to “the lake.”

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Brandon Mick

Assistant Pastor

Brandon was born and raised in Guttenberg, Iowa, and was a 1997 graduate of Guttenberg Community Schools. He earned his B.A. (Criminology/Psychology) from Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota (2001) and an M.A. (Christian History) from Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois (2008). He is currently working on his M.Div. through Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Brandon and his wife, Abbey, have been married for 12 years and live in the Waveland neighborhood of Des Moines with their 2-year-old daughter, Evelyn. Brandon enjoys reading, writing, fly-fishing, and the outdoors. Abbey works for the State of Iowa as a disability examiner and enjoys reading, crafting, and the indoors. Evelyn loves jumping, reading, and Curious George!

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Paul Nelson

Assistant Pastor of Congregational Care

Paul received his Bachelor of Theology from Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, in 1965. He received his Master of Divinity in 1969 from Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky, after three years of work on it at Drake Divinity School in Des Moines. He served student pastorates in Oregon in Springfield and La Grande, in the towns of Belinda and Knoxville in Iowa, and in Richmond, Kentucky. After graduation, he served churches in Woodbine, Marshalltown, and Adel, Iowa. For 26 years he worked at Des Moines Christian School as a bus driver and later as Director of Transportation & Technology, retiring in 2010.

Paul and his wife, Donna, were married while in college and have three children. Donna also retired in 2010 after serving 29 years as an administrative assistant in the Early Education department at Des Moines Christian School. Their oldest daughter, Rhonda Nelson, works for Oracle Software in web design in California. Son Scott Nelson works for CRST in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has a young daughter, Natalie. Daughter Becky Cox lives in Van Meter, Iowa, and works as a software programmer. Her husband, Dan, has a son, Bodhi.

Paul’s part-time pastorate at Westkirk focuses on congregational care, including the Parish Deacons and the Stephen Ministry, and on developing and implementing programs for Westkirk’s Senior Adults. He also serves as a member of the Worship Commission and teaches an adult Sunday School Bible class.

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Benae Duff

Director of Children's Ministry

Benae Duff grew up near Montezuma, Iowa, and attended Iowa State University, graduating with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education in 1995. She spent some time working in insurance with Unisys/Iowa Medicaid and as a computer programmer for EMC Insurance Companies, where she met her husband, Tom, in 1997. They began attending Westkirk together and were married here in 1999.

While at Westkirk, Benae has served as a Deacon and as their Moderator, and has helped with the annual church directory, in the nursery, as a Sunday School teacher, and as a substitute teacher for Kids of the Kingdom and Kids’ Own Worship. She has also led and participated in women’s Bible studies and in Housekirks.

Benae truly enjoys being in the classroom with young children, and has experience as a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom. She also taught 4- and 5-year-olds at Des Moines Christian School, where her favorite part of the day was Bible time. Benae says: “Our God is unendingly amazing and creative. Conveying His awesomeness to children is a joy!”

Benae and Tom live in Urbandale with their three children and their dog, Sofi.

“I am so excited to see what the Lord will do in Children’s Ministry at Westkirk, and am blessed and humbled to serve our church family,” she says.

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Jordan Pohlmann

Director of Vocal Music

Jordan has served as Director of Vocal Music at Westkirk since 2013. Originally from the rural fields of Nebraska, he grew up farming and raising livestock. Jordan began work in music ministry as an undergraduate at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, where he studied vocal performance and philosophy. Upon graduation, he chose to pursue a passion for vocal and instrumental jazz at the School for Music Vocations in Creston, Iowa. It was here that Mary entered into his life, and the two were married in 2011. While Mary finished her studies at Drake University in Des Moines, Jordan taught at the college in Creston and gave private lessons in West Des Moines. During this time, they met the Westkirk family, and Jordan and Mary became members in the fall of 2013. Mary currently teaches K-12 vocal music in Montezuma, Iowa, and Jordan has completed his master’s degree in opera performance at the University of Iowa. The Pohlmanns feel extremely blessed to be part of such a wonderful and supportive community of Christ followers, and enjoying their newborn daughter, Elisabeth.

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Gail DeGraaf

Organist

From Gail’s earliest memories, music has always been an important part of her life. She began piano lessons at the age of 5, and moved on to study organ in her teens. She served as organist in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church both in Maryland and Illinois, and she also studied the organ for four years with Jack Goode at Wheaton College in Illinois. After her family’s move to Iowa, Gail was an organist at the Christian Reformed Church before coming to Westkirk. She says: “The Lord has been faithful to guide me in serving Him—using my music to honor Him, both in singing and accompanying in worship. I have enjoyed coming out of retirement to be organist, and I am thoroughly committed to serving the Lord in this capacity. My daily prayer is ‘Make my life an alleluia ... to Him be the glory!!’”

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Suzette Carter

Office Coordinator

Suzette grew up in Van Meter, Iowa. Following two years at Simpson College in Indianola, Suzette worked as a legal assistant for more than 30 years before becoming the Office Coordinator here at Westkirk. Suzette met her husband, Robert Swenson, while on vacation in San Diego, California and lived there for 15 years where they had a son (Miles) before returning to Iowa. Suzette has been a volunteer usher at the Des Moines Metro Opera and the Civic Music Association since 2006. She enjoys attending plays and concerts and loves to travel. Suzette has been to Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and the four corners of the United States. In 2014, Suzette went on her first mission trip to Hungary where she participated in an “English Camp” helping Hungarian students of varying ages with their grammar, vocabulary and reading using the New Testament.

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Barb McCargar

Head Custodian

Barb grew up in West Des Moines and graduated from Valley High School. After graduating from DMACC as a medical assistant she worked for five years before starting her family. Barb is the proud mother of 8 children (2 boys and 6 girls that range in age from 37 - 18). She also has 9 grandchildren. Barb started as custodian in 2006 and works hard to keep the building looking beautiful. She considers it a privilege to make a good impression upon the members and guests when they enter church. Besides a busy schedule of custodian work around Westkirk, she also performs morning and afternoon crossing guard duties for Crestview Elementary School in Clive.