And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Pastor Jonathan LaBarge & Pastor Kristy LaBarge
At every point along the journey from growing up in small-town Ojai, California to now leading an intergenerational, mutli-ethnic, bilingual church in LA’s San Fernando Valley Jonathan’s passion has been following and preaching Jesus and his vision. After earning degrees in both music and physics at the University of California, Davis, he continued east for his Masters of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. Before his time began with River of the Valley, Jonathan served as an assistant pastor in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, then as a missionary in Honduras, and finally as a designated co-pastor with his wife Kristy in Lompoc, California.
While living in Honduras Jonathan and Kristy discerned a calling to serve the American church as “missionaries.” They understood that their journey as pastors would be one of reforming the church to both hear afresh Jesus’ own vision, and in a way that vitalizes the next generation of faith. Their sense of call and vision found a strong connection with River of the Valley, having perceived that the Lord had already been preparing the way for their ministry. He sees that the church is now entering into its new season, with a vibrant staff and leadership, poised to bring God glory as an epicenter of His reconciliation.
Jonathan would be completely lost without God’s amazing gift of his wife Kristy by his side! There is nothing he loves more than to spend time with her. Almost every season he enjoys coaching Amayah (7) and Caleb’s (9) soccer, basketball and baseball teams, and passing on his love for playing music. The perfect evening is in their backyard, streaming the Dodgers or Lakers, and all playing together.
Director of Worship
Felipe started his music studies at a very young age. He began playing the piano when he was 6 years old and by the time was 8 years old, he became the worship director of his church, the “Ministerio Emmanuel” in Rengo, Chile. Throughout his childhood he displayed great enthusiasm and huge talent in several disciplines which resulted in him mastering several instruments by the age of 14. During his high school years, he attended the “Educational Center Asuncion” where he became an active member of the “Deo-Datti” music group. While for most of his life he was focused on popular music, his true passion always was classical music, and when he finished high school, he entered the “National Conservatory of Music” of the “University of Chile” where he studied classical piano under instruction of Jorge Lobos and Milena Viertel.
In 2007 he came to the United States and since then, he has been dedicated to support churches with music. He has been able to work on the biggest of all his musical passions which is opera singing. In 2013 he started collaborating with several Companies in CA, such as San Diego Opera, USC Concert Band, Guild Opera of Los Angeles, Camerata of Los Angeles, Pacific Palisades Symphony, Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and Legal Voices, among others. He also became part of the California Philharmonic Chorale as a chorister and soloist under the baton of Victor Vener and vocal direction of Marya Basaraba, and the Golden State Pops Orchestra, with which has given him the chance to work with great composers in the Varesse Sarabande concerts among which are found Christopher Young, Joseph Lo Duca, John Debny, Marco Beltrami, and William Ross.
From 2019 Felipe had the blessing of being part of River of The Valley Church, serving God and directing the music ministry for our multicultural congregation.
Director of Youth and Discipleship
Shayna is originally from western Pennsylvania where she was raised on a dairy farm. The farm life taught her how to work with family and animals, and both remain dear to her today. She attended the University of Pittsburgh and earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Neuroscience and Psychology. Immediately after graduation she worked as a therapist, providing support to at-risk youth and families of juvenile delinquents. In 2002 Shayna moved to Canoga Park, California.
Shayna was not a believer in her early years and in 2006, she had setbacks that made her feel lost and confused about her purpose. At this point God started to call her, He planted a hunger in her that is still alive today. Many beliefs and ways were challenged, yet God never let her go. Eventually in 2008, she took her first mission trip to Brazil. She has since travelled as a missionary to Mexico and Honduras. She has also served on the board of many local missions here in Los Angeles and in Ventura. While Shayna was lost and seeking, God lifted her up and showed her many great causes to become a part of. Through service Shayna has experienced what it is like to be found and God’s healing power.
In 2012 Shayna joined River of the Valley as a member. Her mother, Debra, was already a member and it immediately felt like home. She has served as both a Deacon and an Elder and is aware of the needs and expectations of this church. In 2012 Shayna also met her husband David, Pastor Jonathan and Kristy married them in Malibu on November 21, 2015. Dave and her love the diversity at River and the light it offers to the community.
Currently Shayna is studying at Fuller Seminary to earn her Masters in Divinity. Knowing that she was seeking a position in ministry, she was asked to join the staff as the youth director. She is excited to create a space for the youth so they can find a deeper connection with God and walk beside them in their journey. She feels honored for the opportunity to guide others toward the love of Christ, understanding what it is like to wrestle with the struggles of life and learning how to trust in faith to endure the seasons. Shayna will step into this ministry, trusting in the wisdom that encouraged Joshua, “Be strong and brave. Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope. I am the Lord your God. I will be with you everywhere you go.” Joshua 1:9b NIV
Argel & Juanita Chay
Directors of Evangelism
Born and raised in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico in a Presbyterian home, Argel Chay was introduced to the church at a young age. Argel came to the United States and in 2009 became a member of The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood – Fuente De Vida. His calling to serve led him to become a member of the worship team, evangelist and Elder.
Witnessing the needs of the community, God spoke to him and he began his compassion ministry as a volunteer of The Lord’s Lighthouse for the The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. As a volunteer, Argel organized food and clothing drives for the friends of the church experiencing homelessness and extensive needs. His yearning to help others through God’s ministry led him to mission trips in Africa and Mexico.
Guided by the Holy Spirit he began his theology studies at CHET where he completed the Pre-Ministry, Ministry and Bachelor’s in Christian Ministries programs.
Argel and his wife Juanita received the calling to join River of the Valley to work in the evangelism ministry. Trusting God’s calling and rejoicing in His love to help others, Argel and Juanita saw the vision of River of the Valley to expand its evangelism ministry through serving the community.
Juanita feels blessed to continue God’s ministry serving the River of the Valley community. She formerly served as Community Director for The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood’s – Hollywood Urban Project and the various compassion ministries along with her husband Argel. Juanita’s love for helping families led her to complete the Theology Certification in Family Counseling at CHET. Argel and Juanita’s strong faith in the Lord excites them for the future of River of the Valley.
The Chay Family enjoys spending time with their 4 daughters Maria, Monica, Heidy and Glindy and one granddaughter Mia.They enjoy their time together and walking in God’s faith.
Director of Youth
Chris grew up in a Christian home in northern California. He attended UCLA and earned his BA in Sociology. During his time at UCLA, he served as a summer youth intern for a church in Washington, a camp counselor for middle and high school kids, and an Activities Director for the same camp the next summer. After graduation, he lived and worked as a missionary in Mexico City (working with college students as well as youth living on the street) for one year. Upon returning to southern California, he earned his Masters in Education and taught high school math and coached volleyball and soccer in South Los Angeles for 5 years. He then transitioned to full-time coaching as he started the Women’s Volleyball program at Providence Christian College in Pasadena, CA. After 7 years at Providence, he and his family moved to London to serve as the faculty in residence for 40+ Pepperdine students who were studying abroad. When he returned, he took on the role of Youth Director as well as coaching volleyball at Santa Monica College. Chris also serves on the board at the Family Rescue Center.
The decades of working with youth has given Chris the opportunity to come alongside countless young people as they navigate what it looks like to live a life of faith in Jesus. The years spent in middle and high school can be fun, but are often riddled with challenges. Chris enjoys discussing life’s big questions and encouraging people to consider who we are called to be and what we are called to do as Jesus followers in any given situation. Chris believes that service is a great way to express and grow in our faith. He and the youth have served at the Family Rescue Center together and look forward to continuing to serve our church family and our community. Chris is excited to get to know you!