Leadership Team

The Reverend Samantha Pfalzgraf, (Pastor Sami)

I was born in Wisconsin and raised in northeast Iowa.  My dad was the town veterinarian, and mom was the high school principal’s secretary.  After graduating from high school, I attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, majoring in psychology. I spent ten years as the Children, Youth and Young Adult Director at churches in Omaha, Nebraska and St. Charles, Missouri, and also worked four years in residential facilities working with people with physical and mental disabilities. 

Through this work I discerned a call to Word and Sacrament ministry and enrolled in the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago (LSTC), a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Following graduation from LSTC, I was ordained and called as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Erie, Pennsylvania where I served for four years.  I began my ministry as Pastor of First Lutheran Church in January 2022.  My ministry areas of strength include pastoral care and visitation, teaching, social ministry, innovation, creativity, and volunteer coordination. My areas of expertise include Christian education, Music, Worship and the Arts, youth and family ministry and building a sense of community.

I have two cats.  In my free time, I like to run, hike, knit, draw, paint, read and hang out with family and friends.  My parents are retired and live in Grain Valley, Missouri.  My sister and family live in Lee’s Summit.

Brooke McBride, Office Administrator
I have a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Northwest Missouri State University and a Master of Arts in Student Affairs from the University of Missouri, Columbia.  My work experience is in positions where I managed operating budgets, performed administrative duties, participated in program planning and evaluation including development of policies and procedures.  I have also developed and maintain a website and other social media.  I’m married and have one child.  I took time off from outside the home employment during our child’s early years, re-entering the workforce when he started school.  My most recent employment prior to joining the First Lutheran staff was as a preschool teacher in Ashland Methodist Church’s Mother’s Day Out program.
Sharmyn Thompson, Director of Music
Sharon Gray, Associate Director of Music
I bring to my position as Associate Director of Music many years of experience in church music. I served as Director of Vocal Studies at Missouri Western State University for forty-two years and have performed as soprano soloist with the St. Joseph Community Chorus and Chamber Choir, the MWSU Concert Chorale and the St. Joseph Symphony. I served as Dean of the St. Joseph Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, was the Allied Arts Council 2001 Mayor’s Award recipient for Individual Artist and the 2005 recipient of the Missouri Western State University Distinguished Professor Award. In 2014, I received the Mayor’s Award for Leadership in the Arts. I have served for fifteen years as Administrator for the Community Chorus and am currently serving on the board of the St. Joseph Chapter of AGO. I began my  service as church musician when I became the Minister of Music at the Wathena United Methodist Church where I served for thirty-two years. I also served as Minister of Music at Zion United Church of Christ for over eighteen years.  I maintain a successful private voice studio.

Philip Alier Deng, Sudanese Worshiping Community Pastor

I came to St. Joseph in 2006 and helped begin a South Sudanese Worshiping Community Worship in 2007.  We worship at First Lutheran each Sunday afternoon at 1:00.  Our services are conducted in Dinka and Arabic. We provide translators for worshipers who only understand English. We encourage people to love one another and provide support that leads to unity. I understand that I am a servant of the Lord. I trust in God’s love and acceptance of us revealed in Jesus Christ. I believe that our prayer petitions are heard by God and do not return empty. I live with my wife, Agok Garang, who moved to be with me in 2012. I am completing my seminary education at Wartburg Seminary, where I am preparing for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Cyndee Simpson, Treasurer
I have been at First Lutheran Church since 1982, when my family moved here from Shawnee Mission, Kansas where I grew up. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education from Pittsburg State University. I have been involved in several church activities including WELCA, Sunday School, Bell Choir, Ushering, Church Council, the Restructure Committee and have been the Treasurer since 2003. I work part-time at IHP Industrial and my family of 3 children and 2 grandchildren keep me busy as well.
Bruce Taylor, Building Fund Treasurer
Originally from Denver, Colorado, I moved to St. Joseph in December, 2006.  I have worked in the field of accounting since 1982.  I graduated from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas in 1979 with a B.A. in Business.  In 1995 I became a Certified Management Accountant.  I have pursued music throughout my life and it is my great joy and honor to play with the Praise Team here at First Lutheran.
Joy Winters, Financial Secretary
Misty Coyle, Media and Technology Coordinator
I am responsible for the use of media during worship and for management of the church’s Facebook page.  My responsibilities include preparing the Keynote presentations and selecting music videos that are projected during worship, training individuals on the use of the church’s video and sound boards, and assuring coverage of these systems for worship. I also assist in posting updates to Facebook.  If you’d like to be part of my media team, let me know.
Jim Pierce, Webmaster
I am responsible for maintaining the church’s website.  My responsibilities include reviewing and updating content as needed, and assuring that links within the website function properly.  While not formally trained in website management, I do bring years of experience working with a variety of computer software.  If you spot any typos or other fixes or changes needed, let me know.