Meet the Staff

Mark Carter, Lead Pastor

Pastor Carter serves as Lead Pastor of Torch of Faith. ?Carter? is really Pastor Mark?s last name, but most folks just call him ?Carter?. He received a Masters of Pastoral Ministry degree from Trinity Theological Seminary in 2008. Carter is currently pursuing an additional MA in Biblical Exposition from Moody Bible Institute.

Carter has a burden and passion that people would know the thrill and joy of walking deeply and tightly with Jesus Christ through dynamic encounters with Him in the Word of God.

Pastor Carter?is stoked about genuine spiritual substance and raising up leaders who will tap their unique giftedness and walk in the power of the Spirit, becoming a blessing to the earth.

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Brandon Adkins, Worship Pastor

Brandon Adkins is the Worship Pastor at Torch of Faith. ?(Sidenote: the plural of Adkins is ?Adkai? and a flock of Adkai is commonly known as ?The Adkai Family.?) Brandon has been committed and passionate about music ministry for the past ten years and has served in a worship leading role for eight years.

Brandon has a passion for helping people open their hearts to the Holy Spirit in worship and is excited about the transformational encounter that happens through the spiritual discipline of corporate worship. ?He is also very passionate about coaching, mentoring and pastoring other musicians and worship leaders, helping them grow into the fullness of their calling as music ministers.

Cristina Miles, Care Pastor

Cristina Miles serves as the Care Pastor at Torch of Faith. She has a passion for the word of God and seeing people set free to become all God has called them to be. She believes ?That you can only take others as far as you have allowed God to take you? in this she carries the burden to help others grow spiritually and be transformed through God?s powerful and life changing word!?With that passion in mind, she also leads Care ministries at Torch of Faith, which includes Care and Prayer, our Sunday morning care ministry. Care and Prayer provides prayer, biblical encouragement and guidance, as well as community resource assistance for people struggling with hardships, loss and challenges they are facing in their life.

Cristina and her husband, Brian, reside in Volo. They have two daughters who are married and attend Torch of Faith. She enjoys reading, traveling, horseback riding, and spending time with friends and family.

Amanda Rash, Production Lead

Amanda serves as the System Lead of Production.? She is responsible for the execution of the Sunday Morning Worship Experience.? She’s passionate about seeing people encounter Jesus and come to know the hope that they have in Him.
Amanda lives in Lindenhurst with her very extroverted husband, Andrew, and her even more extroverted daughter, Annie.? She enjoys coffee, reading, spending time with family and friends, and letting her daughter win at Candy Land.


George Schopper, Connections Pastor

Pastor George Schopper, a connections pastor at Torch of Faith, has a passion for guiding others out of bondage and into the?freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ. He also devotes?much of his time to working with the volunteers of Torch of Faith through VHQ (Volunteer Head Quarters). He and his wife, Chelsea, lead this team of devoted people who prioritize the hospitality and care shown towards the hard working volunteers of Torch of Faith.?

Pastor George earned his BA at Northern Illinois University and is currently working on his MA in New Testament Theology at Moody Bible Institute. When George is not working, reading and studying, he likes to travel with his family on adventurous road trips. The Schoppers are life long residents of Lake County and are proud to raise their four amazing children and a naughty dog in the same community that they grew up in.

Martin Vehlow, Guest Experience Director

Martin is driven by his love for Jesus Christ, and is passionate about helping others know Him as well! Serving as the Guest Experience Director allows him to bring his unique skills in leading the Lobby, Auditorium, Cafe & Parking Host teams, as well as the Connections and Easy Connect teams. Each of these teams serve a unique role in helping our guests feel right at home and welcome throughout the entire experience. We love our guests! Feel free to email or greet him in person when you see him!

Martin and his wife Kate have a wonderful daughter who can often-times be seen dancing or singing around the church. They currently reside in small-town Wauconda?and enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, and exploring God’s outdoor creation.

Mackenzie Carter, Swordgirl Pastor

Mackenzie Carter leads the Swordgirl Women?s Conference with her incredible team, where every year hundreds of women gather together to experience the refreshing love and presence of God and move forward in freedom, truth, and God-confidence into their unique design and destiny.

One of her passions is to preach, write, encourage, awaken, and empower people to step boldly into their God-given callings as individuals loved and known by their Creator.

Kenzie and Mark love doing ministry together and have been married since 1999 and have five children: Rachel, Skylar, Emily, Amber, and John.

Jen Spencer, Dream Team Director

Jen Spencer serves as the Director of Dream Team, which plans and executes a variety of special events throughout the year at Torch of Faith. Jen is passionate about creating avenues for people to experience God and connect with one another in a fun, engaging, and authentic way. She has been party planning since college, where she assisted with student ministry event planning at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!).

Jen loves to spend her spare time baking, crafting, going to Hanson concerts, chasing after her two energetic kids Ella and Henry, and playing Pandemic with her husband Craig. She also loves meeting new people – introduce yourself if you see her around!

Alyssa Carlin, Communications Director

Alyssa serves as the Communications Director. She ensures that everything happening at Torch of Faith is communicated effectively and purposefully, and oversees the church?s external outreach. She is excited about developing and advancing communication strategies at Torch of Faith, and making sure everything is presented in a way that is accessible and inviting to those seeking a church home- and ultimately, a relationship with Jesus Christ!

Alyssa graduated from Olivet Nazarene University in 2013 with degrees in Digital Media and Marketing, and joined the Torch of Faith staff in 2019. She and her husband Andrew live in Grayslake with their daughter Julia. Alyssa enjoys singing, drinking coffee, watching The Office, and baking banana bread.

Heather Venuti, Director of Generations

Heather Venuti serves as the Director of Generations (Wonderland, Junior High, High School, and College). In her role, she is responsible for raising up leaders and developing engaging experiences that propel the next generation to discover, experience and meet Jesus.

She graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Theology in 2003 and has been on staff at Torch of Faith since 2012. Heather lives in Spring Grove with her husband and three children.

Alaina Bowman, Youth Pastor

Alaina has been working with youth since she graduated HS! Her college years took her to Trinity International University where she graduated with a bachelors in Communications and spent a year at Nicolet Bible Institute. She looks at her job as a chance to create discipleship relationships that will last outside the church walls – so they can live out the Great Commission.

If you see Alaina during the week you can find her with a water bottle and a coffee in hand, usually a student near by and Spotify playing.

Chris Ayala

Christopher Ayala?has been dedicated to serving in the?body of Christ?for over 11 years now. He found his life in Christ?by being lovingly?lead to the Lord?by his now Wife, Diana; which he describes as?the greatest?day of his life,?and has been immersed in worship ministry ever since.??Chris has a relentless passion for using?music as a vehicle to usher people into the presence of the Holy Spirit?and is dedicated to helping others see their gifts as ways to bring Glory onto our?ever loving Father. He is honored to be able to serve and witness lives being transformed for the Glory of our King.?He resides in Grayslake with his?wife and Queen,?Diana, and their daughter and princess, Wendy Noel.

Vicki Carter, Business Manager

Vicki Carter serves as the Finance/Stewardship Director at Torch of Faith. ?Her background is in business administration and finance for a family-owned business for the past 32 years. She enjoys details and organization and serving the body of Christ wherever she can.

She is passionate that everyone, even the very young, know the love of Jesus Christ through the Word of God. ?She has been involved in church ministries since 1997.

Vicki is supported by a loving husband, five grown and married children and sixteen grandchildren. ?She enjoys spending time with Jesus, reading, learning, camping, hiking, biking and spending time with her family and friends.

Deborah Graff, Human Resources

Deborah Graff oversees Human Resources at Torch of Faith. ?She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Management and Education from National Louis University and project management certification.

Deborah has experience in finance, as well as IT and healthcare administration, is detail-oriented, and has a knack for creating organization out of chaos (ever try to herd a bunch of squirrels?). ?She enjoys spending time at her teenage son?s sporting events, reading, traveling, and helping others grow in their walk with God.

Jenny Hoffman, First Impressions Specialist

Jenny Hoffman is someone who gets excited about helping people find the JOY that comes with knowing Christ, helping them see their true worth in Him, and all around just meeting new people! She works with the Lobby Host Team and loves to help every person that walks through Torch of Faith?s doors feel welcome. She is also a small group leader with our Youth Group ?Level Ground? and can be seen on stage doing the church?s ?Celebrations? from time to time. When she isn?t at church she can be found reading, drinking coffee, or watering her many houseplants. Say hi if you see her on a Sunday morning!

Melissa Labellarte, Assistant to Pastor Carter

Melissa Labellarte serves as the Administrative Assistant to Lead Pastor Mark Carter. ?She loves her role at Torch of Faith because she gets to?assist Pastor Carter?in accomplishing his unique objectives and priorities, thus contributing to the larger win of empowering the whole church to grow in their walk with Christ step by step. What a privilege!?

Melissa is stoked about seeing lives restored and people set free as they come to realize the overwhelming grace that?Jesus?offers. Right now, she?is?learning about the?deep love of God in new ways as she explores being a new mom to Lydia Hope.

Melissa lives in Mundelein with Lydia and her husband, Dave She enjoys reading, cheesecake, the Cubs, tea parties, riding horses and taking walks with her handsome hubby.

Laura Sell, Building & Grounds

Laura serves as Building and Grounds Director and is a volunteer staff member. Her desire is to steward God?s resources with excellence, and provide a comfortable environment for everyone who attends the Torch of Faith church.

She grew up helping in her family business, and learned work ethic and serving others from her parent?s example. At age 16, she discovered the love and hope of following Jesus as her Savior. He gave her a life-long strength to persevere and a passion for learning His truth, despite living with chronic depression and anxiety.

After attending Trinity International University, she married best friend, Howie Sell, in 1988. She is the proud parent of two grown boys, who love Jesus.

Her journey with the Lord led her to helping others in life and ministry.? She has worn many hats – florist, administrator, deacon, resource assistance, landscaper, crisis counselor, builder, peace-maker, organizer, plumber; anything that needs done, if there?s a book, person, or YouTube video to teach her how, she?ll try it.

Laura loves to read, study Scripture, make jelly for family and friends, garden, mentor people, and is excited about becoming a grandparent!