Every story has its characters. Ours is no different. Meet a few of the people that God is using to write His story in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.

Mike and Trinda Cole

Mike and Trinda moved to Nashville the day after their wedding. They fell in love with the city and decided they were going to stay for a long time. After three years, the phone call came. A pastor in Ohio called to ask if Mike would consider coming to Ridgeville Corners, Ohio, to be his assistant pastor at Christ Community Church. After growing up as a pastor’s kid, pastoral ministry wasn’t in Mike’s plan. But God had other plans. So, in October 1997, Mike and Trinda moved to Ohio, for what they thought would be a couple years. Eleven years and four children (Maizie, Bryton, Sawyer and Camden) later, their time in Ohio came to a close, and church planting was in their hearts.

In July 2008, the Cole family moved to Fort Myers, Florida, to attend Next Level Church and learn everything they could about church planting. Privileged to be on staff for three years as the worship pastor, Mike learned a great deal from coaching, conferences, personal meetings, and helping to train and encourage other church planters. They started Story Church on February 10, 2013 and feel privileged to be a part of Mt. Juliet.

Ken and Christa Horst

Ken and Christa Horst are from Archbold, Ohio, a small town of about 4,200 people. Ken grew up there, while Christa moved to Archbold from Indianapolis during their freshman year of high school. As students, they were very involved in Mike and Trinda’s youth ministry. Ken and Christa became good friends and started dating their senior year in high school. It didn’t take them long to get married and have children. They have a daughter (Natalie) and two sons (Jackson and Jamison). Ken is a registered nurse and Christa is a stay-at-home mom.

After Mike and Trinda asked the Horsts to consider moving to the Mt. Juliet area to help plant the church, Ken and Christa began praying. They knew that it would be scary but exciting at the same time. The Horsts committed to follow God’s path to Tennessee, and ever since, God has been nothing short of amazing in his blessings and his incredible timing.

Cody and Dominique Marlow

Cody and Dominique Marlow traveled to the Dominican Republic with a small youth team from Next Level Church in the summer of 2008. It was during this missions trip that the young dating couple knew their future would be dedicated to ministry, although they were unsure what that would look like since they weren’t yet married and one of them hadn’t even graduated high school. At the time, the next best step was college, and Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, was the school of choice. Cody and Dominique both minored in Biblical Studies, Cody majored in Practical Theology, spent five weeks learning in Israel, and they both served in a variety of leadership roles. While there, the couple got married and continued to lead others.

College life concluded with a journey back to Next Level Church, where Cody interned with the youth, and Dominique volunteered in the church offices. It was there that they met Mike and Trinda and learned of their Story Church plans. With hardly a hesitation, Cody and Dominique jumped on board. Now here they are, ready and willing to serve others in the Mt. Juliet community.

Dick and Vernane Stutzman

A farm boy from Nebraska, Dick completed his college years in Virginia. At the same time, Vernane, from rural Pennsylvania, chose the same college. Several months after graduation, they got married and moved to Maryland to teach school. After three years they moved to Colorado and began a new career as Teaching Parents in Group Homes and Specialized Foster Care. After 8 years in Colorado, they moved to Ohio where they spent 25 of the next 28 years in that career. Eleven of those years were spent near the Coles while Mike was the assistant pastor at the same church. Dick and Vernane retired in 2007 after having a total of 130 youths in their home.

They have four biological children—Preston and Trinda are living in Tennessee as a part of Story Church. Tyler completed his time on this earth at age 23, in May 2003, losing his battle with leukemia. Vanessa serves as the controller at her Alma Mater, Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana. Dick and Vernane had joined the Coles in Florida where they also got to participate and learn from Next Level Church. It was only natural then that they chose to continue their adventure in Tennessee with Story Church.

Preston and Ela Stutzman

Preston and Ela met on a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. (Well, actually there are over 44 million people who live there so it’s hardly deserted . . . and the Philippines aren’t just one island, but rather an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands. However, the fact that they met and fell in love is indisputable.) In 2003, Preston was working in Los Angeles as a film producer and his newest project took him to Manila where he met Ela. After a long-distance dating and engagement, Ela left her homeland and immigrated to North America where they married in 2007. They soon moved to Vancouver, Canada, for Preston’s next film project. There, they found a great church called Westside Church and grew closer to each other and to God over the next three years. They were also blessed with the birth of their son Jacob Tyler.

During the summer of 2010, God shook up the status quo and a dream was born to one day join in a church planting adventure with Preston’s sister Trinda and brother-in-law Mike. When the opportunity arose, Preston and Ela relocated to Ft. Myers, Florida in 2010, to be near family. Ela accepted a position as a registered nurse and Preston worked at Next Level Church, serving as both director of production and video producer/editor, gaining valuable experience from a church staff that knows from personal experience what it takes to be a successful church plant. God’s vision had taken root and was beginning to grow! In early 2012, when Mike and Trinda announced that it was time to leave Florida and move to Tennessee to plant a church, Ela and Preston were excited about the opportunity and jumped at the chance saying: “It’s a great feeling to know you are where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to do!”