Many in the Knoxville area know Mitch Townley from his long association with CEF and West Hills Presbyterian Church, where he also serves as Director of Children’s Ministries. For the past 24 years since he and his family moved to Knoxville, children have loved “Mr. Mitch” as he worked with them and for them, helping children, volunteers, and staff to grow and deepen their faith through teaching, drama, music, and special events. He has organized and led “Popsicles in the Pines” Summer Bible Club Outreach events, a Wednesday night bus ministry for children and their families, and (led) numerous mission trips both nationally and internationally.
Mitch’s transition to a part time position at the church providentially coincided with CEF’s need for a part time local director, and this opportunity is fully within both Mitch’s skillset and “heart set.” He is experienced and passionate about serving children and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. He has served on the local CEF Knoxville Committee for 10 years and has directed the West Hills Elementary School Good News Club since its inception in 2005.
Mitch holds two Masters of Arts degrees, in Christian Education from Columbia International University, and in Special Education from the University of South Carolina. His undergraduate degree, in Speech Pathology, is from James Madison University. Mitch has a wealth of leadership, technical, and creative talent. He is also a singer/songwriter with over 40 artist cuts and numerous awards.
In addition to his volunteer-turned-staff work with CEF, Mitch co-founded The Children’s Ministry Fellowship of Knoxville, has been a children’s pastor and program emcee for Joni and Friends summer camps, and a chapel speaker and preschool music leader at Christian Academy of Knoxville. He is also known for having developed a balloon creations version of CEF’s “Wordless Book” Gospel presentation for children.
The local CEF Committee is established as a committee of the state board (CEF of Tennessee) and is authorized to carry out the vision and programs of CEF within its geographic area. This area includes Knox County and the 8 counties surrounding it along with Cocke County. The local committee meets 9-10 times per year and provides accountability to the local director. The committee makes every effort to ensure that the ministry is conducted with the highest level of care given to the financial and legal policies and procedures, regulations and laws and abides by the state corporate bylaws. The local committee plays a vital role in carrying out the mission of CEF to reach children in our area with the Gospel message.
Amy Tjoa serves as the Knoxville area committee chair, and while she’s only been in East Tennessee for ten years, she became acquainted with the ministry of CEF back in 2006 while living in Springfield, MO. Her church there was starting a Good News Club, and Amy knew God was calling her to help. When she and her husband Hong moved to East Tennessee in 2011, she approached her new church pastor about starting a GNC at a nearby elementary school in Dandridge. He was in full support. In June, 2015, she was asked to serve on the local committee, and in 2018, she stepped into the role of chairperson of that committee. Her passionate caring for children and sharing with them the Good News of the Gospel message of Jesus is a real asset to our community and the entire CEF organization.
Ed Way serves as the Financial Sub-Committee chair. He’s well-qualified to keep a careful watch over the stewardship of CEF finances, as he is a retired corporate Chief Financial Officer. Ed’s involvement with CEF represents a 50-year tradition. Both Ed’s father and father-in-law were involved in CEF, so he proudly and enthusiastically carries on the family tradition. Ed attended a CEF camp at Fall Creek Falls with his brother when he was about 10 or 11, and remembers it as a very positive experience, although he did not make his decision for Christ at that time. Ed and his wife, Gail, love children, have three grown children, and are also enjoy spending time with their 8 grandchildren.
Steve serves as Secretary for the CEF Knoxville local committee. He got involved with CEF over 40 years ago, when Jim and Linda Odle asked him to consider getting involved. He’s found it to be a very effective ministry to unchurched children, many of whom have no clue about Jesus. He has seen them go from knowing nothing about the Gospel, to becoming committed Christians, involved in their churches and living productive lives. That’s why he got involved, and stays involved. He has four grown children and six grandchildren. Steve is a true prayer warrior, and passionate about the foundation of prayer that surrounds all the ministry’s activities.
Debbie Patrick serves as the Communication Sub-Committee chair. She became involved with CEF through her friend Ed Way. Debbie is a Knoxville native and has an extensive background in writing, publishing and media promotion. She’s happy to lend her time and gifts to the CEF organization, and looks forward to sharing the Good News of Jesus to children.
Jim Odle serves as the Human Resources sub-committee chair, and is living proof that CEF’s Good News Club ministry is effective, as he has fond memories of attending GNC as a child. Locally, he has been involved with CEF for about 30 years. He and his wife Linda grew up in a Memphis area church that supported CEF. In fact, the CEF Memphis area director attended there. Jim moved to Knoxville in 1968 to attend the University, and married Linda in 1971. They share a love for children and the conviction that the earlier people come to know Christ the better. “Children are most influenced early in life. We want to influence them for Christ and this organization certainly does that,” he said.
Linda Odle has served in almost every capacity possible within the CEF organization over her many years of involvement. It’s no wonder that the children love her, as she was just a teenager when recruited from her church in Memphis to volunteer with CEF. She has been active in the organization ever since. In 1971 she moved to Knoxville after marrying Jim Odle, and shortly afterwards found herself once again volunteering to help spread the Gospel to children through the Good News Club, camps and training other volunteers. She started teaching using flannel graph, and coloring her own backgrounds before she could even drive. Now she uses better technology. As one of our longest serving volunteers, Linda sets a great example with her faithful service to children through CEF.