Meet our Associates
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.
Deacon Adrainne Gray served as the Communications Coordinator, assisting the Bishop’s Office of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), its congregations and schools with English communications from 2016-2020.
Presently, she is the Communications Officer of Communion Relations for the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Geneva and is honored to continue serving the ELCJHL on the board of Opportunity Palestine. Deacon Gray holds a Master of Arts in Practical Theology degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia and a Bachelor of Science Journalism degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville. She is a member of the Lutheran Diaconal Association (LDA) which is situated on the campus of Valparaiso University, Indiana. She is rostered with the ELCA Southeastern Synod (9D). She is published in several publications including Living Lutheran, WELCA Gather Magazine, The Lutheran World Federation News Wire and other non-religious titles. Deacon Gray is married to Mr. Ben Gray, a veteran photojournalist, and they have two children, ages 14 and 17 years old. She misses the hot days and cool evenings of Jerusalem.
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 most recently visited the Lutheran Schools and the Environmental Education Center in April 2019 with Opportunity Palestine board member Dave Upmeyer. 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.
Dave Upmeyer served as President of the Board for Opportunity Palestine from its founding in 2015 to 2019. 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 Michigan 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, and was privileged to tour the ELCJHL Schools and programs with fellow Board Member Mary Mobley in 2019. 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. In 2019 he led the congregation’s Venture Forward Campaign to raise funds for outreach and faith formation ministries and building repairs and enhancements. He also enjoys traveling with his wife Peg, especially to visit daughters and spouses in Dallas and Wales, and two darling granddaughters!
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.
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, Illinois in 1944 and attended public schools there. He was confirmed at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in that city in 1958. He graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota in 1966, and from Luther Seminary in St. Paul in 1970. He was ordained in the former ALC in 1970. He served congregations in Enid, Oklahoma, Chicago, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Torrance, California. In 2001 he was elected as the third bishop of the Southwest California Synod, ELCA, and served two terms, retiring in 2013. He is married to the former Marianne Anderson, and is the father of Kirsten Nelson Calabrese and Mark Nelson, and the grandfather of Henry and Lena. His first visit to the Holy Land was in 1978. He returned in 2004 on a visit with Bp Murray Finck and Congresswoman Lois Capps coordinated by Mark Brown and Mary Jensen. He served on the Peace Not Walls committee in 2005 and was a part of the Middle East Ready Bench of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. As chair of the Formation and Academy Committee he traveled to the Holy Land in 2008 to make arrangements for the 2009 trip to the Holy Land by the Conference of Bishops. He currently chairs the Southwest California Synod’s Middle East Peace Task Force, and serves as an area representative for Bright Stars of Bethlehem.
Dr. Rod Schofield has served the schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) for 14 years as a member of the Joint Evangelical Lutheran Educational Board (JELEB). Rod has 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 is involved with the ELCA Peace Not Walls initiative 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, served as the first Vice President of the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod and co-led First Call Education for the Synod as well as for the Rocky Mountain Center for Theological Education. Rod served as the Regional Director of Lutheran Social Services of Colorado as well as teaching at several universities and working as a school district administrator for two Colorado school districts. Rod is currently a life coach with the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA and 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 the Holy Land through his service with Opportunity Palestine.