SMT Candidates

Member gatherings

May 31, Mechanicsville, 6pm
June 1, Scottsville, 7pm

Candidates: Dr. Isaac Onyango  |  Joel McIlwain  |  George Spieth  |  Harry “Chip” 
Owen Feild III  |  Travis Puffenbarger

At our upcoming member gatherings the current Spiritual Management Team (SMT) will present five individuals for approval to serve as future SMT members. Their bios and pictures are below. This position requires approval by a two-thirds vote of the members present. The SMT of Atlee is the governing body, providing spiritual oversight and protecting the unity of the church.

If you are aware of any reason that any of these individuals should not serve in this role, you are encouraged to go to that person first and discuss your concerns with them. If you have further concerns after talking with them, you are encouraged to then talk with a member of the SMT prior to the night of the member gathering. This is in keeping with Biblical principles (Matthew 18) and with the church’s Structure of Ministry document.

We ask for your prayers and support as we continue to follow God’s direction for the ongoing ministry of Atlee Church.


Dr. Isaac Onyango

smt-isaacI was born and grew up in Kenya. After my professional training in Kenya, Sweden & Connecticut, I ended up in Virginia serendipitously—when I was recruited as faculty in the Department of Neurology and Department of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. I presently work for a Biotechnology company that is an offshoot of UVA—developing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, hematologic cancers and inflammatory diseases.

My spiritual journey began when a missionary who taught my Sunday morning Bible class introduced me to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ when I was 15 years old. The real defining moment in my spiritual walk occurred when I was 19 and struggling with a besetting sin. At my wits end, I approached

God one night and told Him it was over between us because I could no longer keep up the cycle of sinning and repenting – it was making a mockery of Him and a fool of me. God in His overwhelming love instantly surprised me in that, straight after that prayer- despondent and discouraged- I walked into the barracks and on the bed beside mine a comrade had left a copy of the book “Deeper life in the Spirit”. I curiously picked it up and reading through it that night- God revealed to me that it is His Spirit that transforms me- if I surrender- not my will or strength.

I regard myself as a “spoilt child” because He has always been there for me, even when I have been weak and sometimes even willfully sinful. The miles of my journey have shown me that His timing and planning are perfect- hard to comprehend sometimes- but perfect. Everything I am and have I owe it all to Him. My wife Mary and I have been greatly blessed with two precious jewels: Alice and Ester. I am humbled by all I have seen the Lord do in and through this church, which I consider family. I anticipate the imminent greater transformation of our communities through the power of the gospel.

Joel McIlwain

smt-joelI grew up on a 160-acre farm in Kittanning, Pennsylvania outside of Pittsburgh. I attended a small Presbyterian church and felt fortunate to grow up in church. At the age of twelve I gave my life to Christ. Jesus has guided my life through all its ups and downs. I graduated from Penn State in 1993 with a Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management degree. After college I moved to New Jersey for my 1st job. There I met my wife Annette who also worked in the hospitality field and we attended a non-denominational church together. Soon after our marriage, we began moving for our careers – 1st to Leesburg, VA then to Chattanooga, TN. We were lucky to always find a good church wherever we moved but we usually weren’t there long enough to put down roots. In the summer of 2005, with a 3 year old son and expecting our 2nd child, we took a transfer to Richmond to get closer to our families. We were searching for a church home and Atlee was recommended to us. Although Atlee was a bit more progressive we immediately liked the Bible-based sermons, creative dramas and music.

With moving and a new baby, we were happy just to get to church that first year. However by the time our younger son was 2, my wife and I started volunteering in the 2-year-old class. About this time I had felt very dissatisfied in my hospitality career and God guided me back to school to get my teaching degree. In 2009 I graduated from the University of Richmond and began teaching at Liberty Christian School where I currently teach 5th grade. I feel teaching is definitely a God-given calling for me and gives me the opportunity to positively impact young lives for God. Over the last 8 years I have been involved in different ministries at Atlee including Upstreet, small groups, and Mission to Ecuador.

Over the last several years I have really placed an emphasis on reading the Bible, studying and praying on scripture. As I have drawn closer to God, I have come to understand the power of prayer and how God is always there for me guiding me in all aspects of my life. While attending Atlee I have come to understand how important it is to serve others to bring glory to God and to reach those who may be far from God.

George Spieth

smt-georgeI was born in rural south central Florida, the youngest son of 5 siblings. My parents were not church attenders and raised me to be not only skeptical of religion, but hostile towards Jesus and dismissive of the truth of the Bible. When I was 14 we moved to Springfield, VA where I attended Robert E. Lee High. I then studied engineering at Virginia Tech, where I started attending Sunday Mass with my friend who was Roman Catholic. I enjoyed hearing and singing songs about Jesus, but did not understand the rituals that everyone else there seemed to know and when to perform them. I met my wife at Tech and we married after a long engagement, but church and God were not part of our lives, despite her Catholic upbringing. We had one child together twenty-three years ago, my daughter Rachael. A few years after Rachael’s birth, my world came crashing down when my wife woke me one Saturday morning to tell me that she didn’t love me and wanted a divorce. It hit me blindside, I knew it wasn’t perfect between us, but we had made a covenant and after all, my parents had stayed together through tough times and had made it work. I tried everything, but she had already made up her mind and so I went off by myself to tend my wounds, like a wounded animal. The emotional pain wasn’t easing up and despite the good intentions of friends and family to move on, the sadness followed me around like a dark cloud. I started to read the Bible and found comfort and truth in God’s word. I started to re-examine my core beliefs and slowly chipped away at the barriers I had erected between God and myself. Early in 2000 I was invited to Atlee. My sister-in-law said I’d like the music there. I went and was amazed not just at the music, but the welcoming people, the way they let me come in without pointing me out or interrogating me. I filled out the response card and right away started serving on the music team (apparently they were in desperate need of a bassist!) Through serving and attending my faith grew and I found myself wanting to follow Christ in everything, including Baptism. I felt called to serve on DivorceCare ministry when it was launched, and was amazed at how God could use my painful experience to prepare me to comfort those going through their own crisis. I met my wife Barbara, and we were married 10 years ago. When the West End campus was launched, I felt prompted to serve there and it’s been my church family ever since. During the week I do in-home pet care for Pet Pleasers, Inc.

Harry “Chip” 
Owen Feild III

smt-chipI was born in Richmond, VA at Richmond Memorial Hospital. I was baptized as an infant. My family attended church off and on from when I was an infant, all the way through elementary school. I went to Fork Union Military Academy for Middle school where I attended church every Sunday. I started high school and stopped going to church. After graduating high school I worked in my family’s towing and rental business off and on until I was in my early 20’s, when I decided to pursue becoming an electrician. While attending electrical apprenticeship school, I met my beautiful wife, Tosha. In May of 1999, Tosha and I got married and I became a Virginia certified journeyman electrician. Life got complicated. Tosha and I started growing apart. We had our first daughter, Jacq; things seemed better, but I still felt like something was missing. After attending several churches, moving, starting my own business, building my dream home and many new vehicles later, I still had not found what was missing. In 2006 Tosha and I had our second daughter, Alex. And then it happened: Tosha and I were invited to attend Atlee Church on April 22, 2007. I remember that date because it was the weekend after the shootings at Virginia Tech, and Atlee had a dedication service for the victims. After that visit we knew something was different about this church. We started attending regularly. Shortly thereafter, we joined a small group we are still a part of now. On March 13, 2011 I went public with my faith and was baptized at Atlee. We have since taken the tithe challenge and have become official members of Atlee Church. I have grown closer to God and my family ever since. Life is still full of struggles, but I now feel more equipped to deal with each one better and realize God is what was missing from my life the whole time. I have served with the Kidstuf tech team for about four years and and have helped out with Sunday service tech team as needed. I am a proud father of two, a full-time husband, Master Electrician, private pilot, certified GENERAC generator technician, and successful business owner with five employees. I love serving God, fishing, flying, boating, spending time with my family, working on and fixing up trucks and boats and even, on occasion, doing nothing at all.

Travis Puffenbarger

smt-travisMy full name is William Travis Puffenbarger, but I go by Travis. My wife Becca and I met at St. Mary’s Hospital seven years ago, and July 31st will be our 5th anniversary. I’m the father of two boys, ages 19 and 16, and two step-boys ages 11 and 17. I’m a paramedic currently serving in Petersburg, VA for the past 10 years, and previously I served at Richmond Ambulance for 8 years.

I’ve been going to church since I was a child. I attended a Methodist church where my grandparents were ministers and my mother was an organist. My family and I have been attending Atlee for three years and I have come to accept Christ as my savior. Currently I serve on the Response Team as security and a medic. I wish to serve on the SMT to better our church.