Lead Team

CAMERON GRAPER

Cameron GraperCameron is the Lead Pastor of Ax Church.

He is obsessed with seeing people who are lost meet Jesus and helping those who know Jesus find their specific calling. Cameron spent four years as a college pastor and two years as the Director of USFusion (a college resource organization) for the state of Illinois before feeling The Lord call him plant and lead Ax Church. He believes that Ax is meant to reach those who have been forgotten in our area and to strengthen the work of other churches in the Illinois Valley. Aside from all this churchy stuff, Cameron loves being a husband (to Aimee) and dad to his young son Silas. He still works as an engine machinist part time for his family business, loves to rock climb (if he ever gets the time) and his favorite tv character of all time is Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. If you would like to connect with him, feel free to shoot him an email, he almost never turns down an offer to go out for coffee.



DEBBIE GRAPER

Debbie GraperDebbie Graper is a pastor of Ax Church and also the Student Pastor.

Her love for young people is what led her to ministry. She was a youth pastor for 7 years and counts it as one of the most rewarding experiences of her life along with being a wife and mom to her 2 great kids. It’s that love that she has for the youth and people of the Illinois Valley that led her to follow and work alongside her son Cameron in planting Ax Church. It is her belief that we at Ax can offer and lead people to the truths of Jesus Christ in a real, life changing, non-religious way in the Illinois Valley. Some personal things about her are she’s a clean freak who loves to do yard work and gardening as a hobby. She enjoys going to the movies and enjoys warm, even HOT weather and confesses proudly to everyone that she is a cat person!




Brandee Bell

Brandee BellBrandee Bell is the Director of Ax Kidz at Ax Church.

Brandee's passion for both Jesus and kids has naturally led her to the Kidz Ministry. She has traveled a road in life that has taught her commitment, courage, and most of all faith. She feels she has the most rewarding life of all; raising her son into being a true man of God, living close to family and being able to share her life with them, and completing goals she always thought were out of reach. Brandee has a unique approach to life and there is not much that can stop her once she sets her mind. She is very excited to be stepping out and pushing her boundaries once more with Ax Kidz, being able to be another connection to help create a Godly foundation for young children to build their lives upon. Her favorite saying is "It take community to raise a child", and is proud to do her part in raising this community's children!




Angie Halbleib

Angie HalbleibAngie Halbleib is the Weekend Director of Ax Church.

Angie is happily married with 3 kids and is also a Sr. Manager in the telecommunications field. She enjoys family time, reading, baking, crafting, and traveling. She classifies herself as an avid "pinterester" who thrives from being challenged with creativity, planning, and organizing; all the while finding the best bargains. Angie served for 4+ years in courtesy prior to becoming the coordinator. This role fits perfectly into her DNA because she loves to entertain people and create an environment where people can feel comfortable and welcomed. She loves that this role gives her an opportunity to get know people better and share life with them. Angie has always believed in God, but in 2010 she started searching out what all of this God stuff was really about. In April she accepted the gift of salvation and from that point on she's been sold out! Her entire immediate family started following Jesus at that same time and were all baptized together. She says she is still a work in progress, but because of God's grace she is growing and changing all the time.




shelby RAMIREZ

Shelby RamirezShelby Ramirez is the Creative Director of Ax Church.

Shelby has been doing creative/artsy stuff since she was a kid, putting on plays in the kitchen and choreographing dance steps to Paula Abdul for her friends. Currently Shelby spends most of her days behind her computer, pushing pixels around to make all the graphics and videos Ax puts out. Secretly she really loves getting away from the computer and her favorite job she's ever had was being a custodian. During her off-time Shelby travels, cooks a lot of yummy, organic food, and has fun with her husband and little girls, Olive and Maxine.



John Graper

John GraperJohn Graper is the Director of Facilities at Ax Church.

John wears many hats at Ax Church. In addition to leading construction and improvements of our buildings, he also is a teacher in Ax Kidz. He has been involved with youth and kids ministries for over ten years and says his main role at Ax is “making it happen”. Over the years, Deb, Cameron, and the leadership team have come up with some awesome/crazy ideas & John usually gets a call saying, “Is this possible?”. He likes to tell about the time he was asked to build a machine to catapult flaming pumpkins across the church parking lot. That was a fun project! He says it's great to build something from spare parts with no budget & make an event really special for a group of students. Whether something needs built, borrowed, repaired, or hauled, John is usually involved. He helps keep the Ax machine running! He likes the bravery and honor displayed in the Bible and says his favorite motto is, “There's never a wrong time to do the right thing”. John loves kids and has been a cub scout/boy scout leader for 18 years. He likes camping, hiking, biking, rock climbing and canoeing. Basically, if it involves sun or sweat he's loving it!




Aimee Graper

Aimee GraperAimee Graper is the Director of Groups at Ax Church.

Aimee's love for groups started way back in youth ministry when she was given the opportunity to lead Bible studies and teach Sunday school. This continued in her college years, when she was first introduced to the Alpha course and began to lead book studies and women's groups. Her years spent in college for Social Work also helped to develop professional skills and experience leading groups. Aimee has a passion for discipleship and believes that groups are a key element for spiritual growth. She works with people to find groups that fit their interests and schedules, and also coordinates the Alpha Course at Ax Church.
Outside of her work with groups at Ax, Aimee works at a Therapeutic Day School where she works with children with emotional and behavioral disorders. In her spare time Aimee enjoys reading, cooking, and shopping at Target. But most of all she loves being with her husband, Cameron and yellow lab, Winnie.




Coordinators

Darrin Ross

Darrin RossDarrin Ross is the Technology Coordinator at Ax Church.

Since moving to the Illinois Valley, Darrin has developed a deep love for the people in the area. He believes that far too many churches have gotten away from what God desires for us and longs to reach those who wouldn't normally attend church. Darrin uses his giftings in administration to coordinate the logistics for Ax's special events and lead its tech team. In addition to his responsibilities at Ax, Darrin works in management for a trucking company and enjoys the tv show The Office, technology and politics.




Jeff Hill

Jeff HillJeff Hill is the Enviroment Coordinator at Ax Church.

God led Jeff to Ax Church, and here he has found a new home and new family. He once lacked compassion, disliked most people, and was uncomfortable in social situations. None of that has changed, but now he has Jesus, too! Since the launch of Saturday night services, Jeff has been involved in almost everything at Ax. You may never see him, but he can almost always be found behind the scenes, scrubbing a toilet, picking up trash, or breaking something. He will forever hold the title of the first Rockstar volunteer at Ax Church. In his free time, Jeff enjoys baking, eating baked goods, and writing. He is the author of numerous books, including fiction that focuses on the inexplicable affairs of the heart, and non-fiction that highlights American history and exceptionalism. He has lived in Illinois, Florida, and Alaska, his dream is to own 100 acres of wilderness, and he likes Calvin Coolidge.




Jennifer Olson

Jennifer OlsonJennifer Olson is the Courtesy Coordinator at Ax Church.

Jennifer is the Courtesy Coordinator. Though she hates cooking, she loves to organize and plan events. With the Courtesy team she has the opportunity to plan and present food and drinks for every weekly service and special events. Jennifer grew up in a Baptist church but not a Godly home, many years later during a rough patch in life, she came back around to God. Her desire to follow God's plans have lead her to get more involved and to follow God's lead. Jennifer believes everything happens for a reason, her move to Illinois Valley has a reason and as God continues to show her the part of her story here, she is getting involved where she can. Jennifer and her husband are always working on the next project: a home renovation or flip project or special events for Ax Church. Jennifer enjoys spending time with her husband (even if it is in a Home Improvement store) and playing with her boys (dogs).




Lucas Elder

Lucas ElderLucas Elder is the Worship Coordinator at Ax Church.

Lucas is passionate about our church and has a love for serving other people, especially our worship team. He was homeschooled and comes from a big family with five siblings. He started leading worship for a youth group when he was thirteen and has been a part of the worship side of ministry ever since, even studying in Australia at Hillsong’s leadership college. He fell radically in love with God in 2010 when he got baptized in the spirit after seeking God for a whole year. He is passionate about doing things excellently and lives by “only the best”. He has a genuine appreciation of anybody he is around and enjoys connecting with them and seeing them step into the greater things that God has for them.




Amy Davenport

Amy DavenportAmy Davenport is the Host Coordinator at Ax Church.

Amy was born and raised in Spring Valley and has been living in Putnam County for 20 years with her husband Mike, and their 3 awesome kids, Bailey, Kelvin and Celina. She started her journey with Ax in 2015 and is forever grateful for all of the blessings that have come with it. Amy's passion for leading the host team stems from the first time she visited Ax. She was greeted with a smile and a warm handshake from one of the host team members and said it immediately made her feel welcomed and at home and ultimately led her to know and love Jesus Christ. After being a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, she now enjoys her job as a secretary to a general contractor. She is a backyard chicken farmer and in her spare time she enjoys baking and cooking for friends and family. In the summer you can catch her coaching girls softball and in the winter you will most likely find her indoors cozied up next to the fire. When time allows she likes to dabble in photography and writing but most of all she just enjoys being silly with her family.