Meet the Staff
Mike Owenby

Mike Owenby

Minister of Music and Worship

My passion is helping God’s people explore the mysteries of God’s will and His ways. Life begins to make sense when we see the world through Holy Scripture and begin to develop our minds toward Christ. We worship Almighty God, Who has sacrificed much to bring us into His worshiping realm. We serve Almighty God, Who allows us and calls us to witness and celebrate His love. It is a holy honor to serve the congregation and community of MEUMC as Minister of Music and Worship.

In preparation for ministry I attended Huntingdon College (B.A. Church Music/minor in Christian Education), Asbury Theological Seminary (M.A.R. Church Music/minor in Christian Education), and the Institute for Worship Studies (Doctor of Worship Studies). I am an Ordained Deacon serving the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

I am married to Lisa who teaches first grade. We have two grown musician children: Hannah, a music therapist, and Caleb, who serves in the U.S. Marine Band. I enjoy laughing with my silly wife, studying, traveling, playing string instruments, and riding motorcycle. We share a house with Major and Maggie. (If you have cats, you understand!)

Daniela Peele

Daniela Peele

Lay Leadership Development Coordinator

Hi, my full name is Daniela Peele but my friends call me Dani; please feel free to do the same. My favorite things are my Lord and Savior, my husband, Brian, our two children and our Boston Terrier. I enjoy reading and spending time with friends.

All of our lives have twists and turns and mine is no different. My family moved to the Fort Walton Beach area in 2012, and we found ourselves looking for a church. God nudged us to become a part of Mary Esther UMC and then I started to feel Him nudge me to full-time ministry. I started to research what that meant for me, my life and my family. Now, I am working on my Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary while following the required steps within The United Methodist Church to become ordained. As I started this process, an opportunity to serve Mary Esther UMC arose, and I was excited to work full-time in the local church while learning and growing into my call to serve in an ordained capacity.

As a wife, mom, full-time employee, and student, I struggle with time and energy to get everything done. I work daily to improve being intentional in my actions and placing God at the center of all I do. There are always more tasks we can do, but at what cost. God is my focus and light, it is through spending time with Him and focusing my family and life around Him that I will be successful in attaining my goals.

Caleb Bennett

Caleb Bennett

Student Ministries Co-Director

My name is Caleb Bennett, I am the Student Ministries Director. My family was brought to Mary Esther United Methodist Church in 1998 as a birthday present to my mother. I have grown up in the children and youth programs of the church where I learned the basic foundations of what I now call my faith.

I have a B.A. in Civil Engineering from Florida State University, but felt the call that God has something more planned for me. I was still involved with the youth, but this time in Jr. counselor role and found that this is where I felt God calling me to be.

During the first part of 2015 it became abundantly clear that God desired more from me than a Jr. counselor role. I took on the role of Student Ministries Director and have not looked back. I love working with the youth and enjoy just being part of their lives. I am a kid at heart which tends to relate very well.

Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett

Student Ministries Co-Director

I have been a part of the Ft. Walton Beach community since moving here in 1992 as a military brat. My family loved the area so much, my dad cross-trained career fields so that we would not have to move again. I graduated from Choctawhatchee High School in 2001. During my high school years, I became involved in church and began to form a personal relationship with God.

After moving away for a few years, I returned to the area and became heavily involved with various ministries at FWBFUMC. It was during this time that I felt a call on my life to be in full time ministry working with youth. God has given me a passion for it that burns so deep it is hard to describe. With this call on my heart, I enrolled at Regent University to obtain a BA in Biblical Studies and Theology, which I will complete in the spring of 2019.

I bring with me my wife, Mandy, and our son, Cayden, as we are excited to see what God has in store for us as we faithfully serve MEUMC. We look forward to building lasting relationships with the youth as we minister into their lives, help them to grow closer to God, and strengthen their faith as they become young adults.

Jenell Gowin

Jenell Gowin

Admin Assistant

Hey! I’m Jenell, the Office Administrative Assistant. I was born and raised in a small town in Central California. I moved to Fort Walton Beach in 2016 when my Husband, Sean, got stationed at Hurlburt Field I went to Washington State University where I earned my BS in Psychology with double minors in Sociology and Human Development. I plan to continue my education at University of West Florida, aiming to get a Master’s in Social Work and become a Marriage and Family
Therapist. Family and children are very important to me and I feel God’s plan for me is to assist those in need with my gifts of listening and constructive conversation. When I am not at work or doing homework I like to stay active, spend time with my Sean and our dog, Duke, as well as
socialize with friends. I love experiencing new food, new cultures, and visiting our beautiful beaches as often as I can. I am happy to have the opportunity to work with all the wonderful people in this community and feel God has brought me here for a reason.

Deanna Yahney

Deanna Yahney

Little Angels Preschool Director and Children’s Director

My name is Deanna Yahney and I am the Director of Little Angels Preschool. I grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and have lived on the Emerald Coast since 2011 with my husband and son. I enjoy spending time with my family, reading and visiting amusement parks

I graduated from Holy Family University with a B.A. in Computer Management Information Systems. After graduation, I worked as the Admissions Manager for a seaside amusement park on the Jersey Shore for 13 years until I moved to Florida in 2009. I have always loved children and began working in the childcare field shortly after my son was born. Since 2010, I have worked as a two year old teacher, school-age teacher and an Assistant Director, before finally settling into the Preschool’s Director role here at Mary Esther UMC. I have completed my DCF 45 hours of mandated training along with my Staff and Director Credentials. I also hold a First Aid and CPR certificate.

I feel that working with children is one of the greatest blessings from God. Being the Preschool Director provides me with a wonderful outlet to love, teach, and grow with God’s children and their families.