Mike Olson, senior Pastor

Mike was appointed to pastor Journey UMC in December 2023. A former  youth pastor, behavioral health professional, and Nursing Home Administrator; he graduated summa cum laude from Ambrose University with a degree in Religious Education (1994) and will complete a Master of Divinity from Eden Theological Seminary this spring (2024).

Jenny teaches high school English and is Mike's muse, editor, and sometimes his filter. Both are passionate about worship, community, and fulfilling the Great Commandment. They are long-time residents of Smithton, IL where they are almost done raising their six children. Insofar as that is ever "done."

Cathy Obernuefemann, Worship Leader

Cathy is a lifelong United Methodist, having grown up mostly on a farm in Randolph County, Ill. She lives in Smithton and is a wife (to her redeemer on earth, husband Paul), a mom (to amazing teenage boys Daniel and Noah), a worship leader, business owner, and volunteer. She gave her heart to Jesus as an eight year old at a revival. At McKendree (then College / now University) she backslid while majoring in Psychology and Sociology, and graduated with a BA in 1991.  An invitation to Union UMC in 1992 helped her recommit. In a dark time in her life, it meant the world to be wanted and included somewhere! She served as the Administrative Secretary from 1995–2001. She has sung and played (piano, keyboard, tambourine) in various groups in school and church most of her life, including Sanctuary Choir and Alive at Union. She even got to be a singer in a bluegrass group for awhile called Dudley’s Rush. She has always enjoyed writing, and I love Facebook a little too much.

Cathy feels called to be at Journey. It’s her church. It’s her family. She sees herself as a sort of missionary. It has been really rewarding for her to watch people go from not feeling accepted at other churches to feeling like they are at home. Journey has helped people through some dark situations, and she knows how that feels.


She gets excited when she sees new and returning faces. She gets excited about new music. The band members have a lot of fun, but know they're there not to perform, but to draw attention to God.

Cathy hopes people see Jesus in her and that they feel loved and accepted, but also challenged. She hopes they go to church every Sunday — at any church, but it feels especially good when it’s Journey.

Sandy Merrill, Youth, Family & Outreach Director

Sandy Merrill grew up in Belleville, Ill., and moved to Freeburg around 2005. She's very happily married to Brad (rockstar guitarist at Journey) since December 31, 2016. They have three beautiful kids in their blended little family: Kinleigh and Noah (hers) and Cohen (his).  They also have two fur babies, Bailey and Cooper (ours). Sandy is employed at Freeburg Community High School as a Resource Aide.

Her official title is Youth, Family, & Outreach Director. She works with the Senior High Youth Group, and  helps the folks at Journey be the hands and feet of Jesus by organizing outreach to those in need, community involvement, and organizing church fellowship functions.

Sandy strives to pattern the mission statement of Journey Church by honoring God, loving others, and serving the world. She considers Journey her home. Her family, the congregation, is filled with the most loving, caring, compassionate people. She's excited about the many ideas God has given to her, and has so much fun seeing things come to life that are for HIS purpose. 

Sandy welcomes suggestions on what people would like to see happening within this congregation. She's always available by phone at 618-789-3151 or by email journeyunionyouth1@gmail.com.