John M. Palka, Ph.D.
Pastor John Palka started his career in Chicago in the finance industry. But since college he had felt called to serve as a missionary so after several years in banking he entered Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His first call was to Togo, West Africa where he served for 10 years and established a Lutheran seminary to train and equip pastors who could plant new churches and spread the gospel. Upon return to the States he served the LCMS World Mission in St. Louis while earning his PhD. After serving as an interim pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Troy, Illinois, in 2008 he was called as Pastor of Outreach at Christ Lutheran Church in La Mesa, California. Pastor John accepted our call to serve as Pastor here at First Lutheran Venice in February 2017. He is a strong proponent of intergenerational ministry, small groups, adult Christian education and the value of mission trips to build faith. He has a BS in Finance from Northern Illinois University, MDiv from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, MS from Athabasca University, Canada, and a PhD from Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL.
His wife, Melissa (Missy) Palka, trained as an elementary school teacher and continued to use her gifts during their time in Africa. She currently works as a legal secretary.
Together John and Missy have three adult children: Christina, John Luke and Sarah. They both enjoy an active lifestyle including hiking, sailing, biking and working out at the gym.
Pastor John is uniquely qualified, gifted and inspired to carry on the work of building God's kingdom in the West Los Angeles community.
Pastor, Youth and Outreach
Brenda Stoppel was baptized and confirmed at First Lutheran Venice and has been a life-long member. Throughout the years she has served in various roles, including Financial Secretary, songleader, choir member, and Prayer Partner Coordinator. After a long career in the finance and human resources departments at GTE and Verizon, she decided to take advantage of an early retirement package offered in September 2010.
Just about the time she was starting to look for a new job, she was asked if she would be interested in the Secretary position at First Lutheran Venice. She initially dismissed the idea but later said she felt like God was calling her to serve her home church in this role. Brenda has been the Secretary at FLV since July 2011.
Minister of Worship