Board of Directors
Bishop Sani Ibrahim “Charlie” Azar was born June 22, 1961 in Lebanon. Bishop Azar is a product of The Evangelical Lutheran Schools in Palestine, graduating from The Evangelical Lutheran School of Bethlehem in 1979. Bishop Azar earned his theology degree from Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich, Germany in 1987. He was ordained March 25, 1988 and elected bishop, January 2017. Bishop Azar served as pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City, Jerusalem for 30 years.
Before becoming the pastor of Redeemer, Bishop Azar served as youth pastor and president of the ELCJHL Synod. Presently, he serves on the board of The Near East School of Theology, the board of the Bethany Beyond the Jordan Baptismal Site, and as President of the Lutheran Ecclesiastical Court. He also serves on The Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) a division of the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Housing Committee of the Augusta Victoria Hospital Lutheran World Federation board. In his service to the church, Bishop Azar has always been a member of the ELCJHL Church Council. He also is a board member of the Jerusalem Society of Berlin Missions and the Vice President of the Evangelical Lutheran German School of Talitha Kumi in Beit Jala.
Pastor Jack Eggleston serves as the Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop with the Southeast Michigan Synod. He works with new congregations, renewal of congregations and has visited Palestine seven times. Jack is enthusiastic about the students, teachers and work of the Education Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. The schools “are building a future Palestine and a better world for all people.”
Rev. Bryan A. Leone graduated from College of the Holy Cross in 1968. He then went on to receive advanced degrees in Education and Accounting from Trinity College (1973) and the University of Hartford (1976) respectively. After sixteen years working as an accountant and teacher for the insurance industry in Hartford, CT. he was called to the ordained ministry and graduated from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C. in 1988. He then went on to pastor 4 churches: Messiah Lutheran Church, So. Williamsport, PA.; St. Paul Lutheran, Biglerville, PA.; St. Paul Lutheran, Warwick, RI; and Good Shepherd Lutheran, Monroe, CT. In 2012, he retired from parish ministry and now devotes his ministry to the Global Mission Team of the New England Synod working on its companion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Since 1999, he has been involved in ecumenical and interfaith work as a member of Churches for Middle East Peace and recently joined J Street. He has made two trips to the Holy Land. In 2008, he and his wife were guests of a Palestinian Moslem family in the interfaith village of Wahat al Salaam (Neve Shalom) and in 2009 he did a three month sabbatical under the auspices of Bishop Younan and Mr. Charlie Haddad, superintendent of the Lutheran Schools in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Rev. Leone also currently serves as Treasurer of University Lutheran Ministry of Yale (Luther House), and is a member of the Congregation Council of Bethesda Lutheran Church, New Haven, Ct.
Dr. Mary Mobley serves as Treasurer of Opportunity Palestine. She is a member of St Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan with her husband Dr Robert Mobley, MD and daughter Allison. Mary graduated from the University of Connecticut (1981), received her PhD from MIT (1987) and postdoctoral training at the German Research Center in Heidelberg. In 1993 she joined the faculty of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit with a research program funded by the National Science Foundation until she retired in 2001 to serve in her home, church and community. She first visited Palestine in 2013, and returned October 2015 to visit the Lutheran Schools in Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and the Environmental Education Center with Opportunity Palestine board member Janet McBride. Mary also serves as a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team leader for Thrivent Builds Worldwide. One of her favorite host countries to build is Jordan.
Scott W. Thams serves as Secretary. Scott is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Integrity Aerospace Group Inc., his family’s company where he has had a 30 year career. Scott was elected to the office of Chairman in 1994, succeeding his father, and is only the third senior leader of the business in its 73 year history. His leadership of the company’s strategic planning and acquisition efforts refocused Integrity on its early aerospace roots, leading to the significant growth the company has experienced under his tenure. He has served in numerous capacities including Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Finance and Management positions. Scott is a graduate of Michigan State University where he earned a B.A. in Business Finance. He served as a founding member of the Board of Directors of Americans For a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, as well as other community and industry boards.
Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan serves as an honorary director. He is the immediate past Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). He was consecrated as bishop – the third Palestinian to hold the office – on 5 January 1998 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem in the presence of religious and political leaders from many nations. Bishop Younan was educated in Palestine and Finland and has been active in numerous faith organizations since his ordination in 1976, such as the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC). The bishop was the first to translate the Augsburg Confession, a key document of the Lutheran Church, into Arabic. He is an active member of various ecumenical and interfaith dialogue initiatives in Jerusalem that he helped found. He served president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global communion of Christian churches with 145 member churches in 79 countries representing more than 70 million Christians from 2010-2017. He is a recent past president of FMEEC and provides leadership for the ecumenical Patriarchs and Heads of Local Christian Churches in Jerusalem group as well as for the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land (CRIHL), comprised of leaders of Jerusalem’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities.
Janet McBride experienced first hand the great work of the Lutheran Schools in the Holy Land and the Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala during her visit to Palestine in October 2015. Her commitment to the Lutheran Schools in the Holy Land grew from her awareness of the work of Bright Stars of Bethlehem and her son Andrew's experience as a member of the Bridges Not Walls youth trip to Palestine in 2013. This led her to join the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod’s ELCJHL Task Force and subsequently the board of Opportunity Palestine. Janet has a BS Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan Technological University and an MBA from Oakland University. After a 15 year career at General Motors, she retired in order to focus on family and volunteer work. Janet is an active member of her church and has served in many capacities including congregational president, program director, youth director, call committee, and synod council. She has coordinated and led four multi-generational Habitat for Humanity trips to Central America. She is an active volunteer at Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester Hills, Michigan, serving as the Accessible Materials Coordinator, docent, and puppy raiser.
Dean Nelson was born in Chicago, attended public schools in the city and graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. He graduated from Luther Seminary in St. Paul and was ordained in 1970. He served four congregations (Faith, Enid, Oklahoma; Park View, Chicago; Our Savior's, Milwaukee; and First, Torrance, California) before being elected bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA in 2001. He served two terms and retired in 2013. In the Conference of Bishops he was a member of the Middle East Ready Bench, and chaired the Academy Committee which organized the bishops visit to the Holy Land in 2009. In retirement in addition to serving on the board for Opportunity Palestine, he also chairs his synod's Middle East Peace Task Force, serves as an area representative for Bright Stars of Bethlehem and serves on the Ministry Board of Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital. He resides in San Pedro, California, with his wife, Marianne. They are parents of two and grandparents of two.
Dr. Rod Schofield has served the schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) for 13 years as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran School Board. Rod also provided assessment services for Lutheran educational and social service programs in Egypt and Palestine and co-led a three-year leadership training program for emerging Palestinian leaders. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Americans For a Vibrant Palestinian Economy. Rod currently serves with the ELCA Peace Not Walls program and leads groups to the Holy Land, introducing them to the educational institutions of the ELCJHL.
Rod was Chair of the former ELCA Division of Higher Education and Schools Board, served as Vice President of the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod and co-led the First Call Education program and Center for Theological Education for the Synod, and was Regional Director of Lutheran Social Services of Colorado. He also served as a school district administrator (Director of Special Education) in Colorado Springs and adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado, the University of Denver, and Chapman University. Rod holds a doctorate in Psychology and a postdoctoral degree in school administration and is a life coach with the ELCA Northwest Washington Synod. He provides strategic planning and leadership development consultation for nonprofit organizations.
Rod considers Palestine his “second home” and has formed lifelong friendships with Palestinian families. He considers it a privilege to support Lutheran education in Palestine through his service with Opportunity Palestine.
Dave Upmeyer serves as President of the Board for Opportunity Palestine. He has been an active supporter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) since his first trip to Palestine in 2007. He serves as Chair of the ELCA Southeast Synod’s ELCJHL Task Force to support the companion relationship the Synod shares with the ELCJHL. He has traveled to Palestine as part of Synod delegations three times, most recently in 2014. Dave is a retired Civil Engineer who specialized in planning and managing large water and wastewater projects as a consulting engineer throughout his career. He has been an active member of his home congregation, having served as President twice and serving on several Task Forces and Call Committees. He also coordinated the packing and shipping of needed materials to the Mbulu Diocese Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania as part of a Synod initiative in 2004.