Ed Gann and his wife, Nilah moved to the beautiful city of Rock Hill, South Carolina in 2015 to serve as lead pastor of Christian Life Church. Rock Hill is a suburb of the Charlotte metro area and offers a wide variety of amenities, culture and opportunities. Pastor Gann is an alumni of Jackson College of Ministries and his wife, Nilah, is an alumni of Gateway College of Evangelism. Open doors for their ministry have allowed them to travel extensively throughout the United States, Canada and many countries around the globe. They have lived in Costa Rica, Central America and Bolivia, South America serving as missionaries with the United Pentecostal Church International.
Both Pastor Gann and his wife are passionate about teaching the word of God and making it relevant for life today. Pastor Gann is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and truly has a heart for helping people get from their present circumstance to moving forward on the path that God has in mind for them personally. Pastor Gann is also a certified SYMBIS facilitator and works with pre-marriage and post-marriage couples as they desire to make the most of their relationship together. They both whole-heartedly believe that a bad chapter does not have to determine a bad book and God is definitely more interested in your future than your past! They prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance in leading people to a more fulfilling relationship with God and His Word, and also equipping them for service in the work of the Lord. Their ministry is all about … “Making Life Better!”
Russell is a first generation Pentecostal whose call to the ministry began right here at Sanctuary of Praise. As a 17-year-old high school senior he began attending services at The First United Pentecostal Church of Anderson (as Sanctuary of Praise was formerly known). Prior to attending the church Bro. Drake was divinely connected with Bro. Wayne Lilly who along with his family took him under their wings. The Lilly’s began to teach Bro. Drake the Apostles doctrine and as a result on November 29, 1998 he was filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins.
At this point, Bro. Drake began to explore the call of ministry that he had previously felt upon his life. His life of service in ministry began as a door greeter and an usher. Following this, he began to assist his youth pastor Rev. Shawn Kilpatrick, in a role that lasted for five years. Throughout these five years, his Senior Pastor, Michael Crocker, trained him in the ways of the ministry, allowing him to serve in various areas of the church.
It was also during this time that Bro. Drake was blessed with his helpmate and life partner, Tessa Stowe, whom he married on February 10, 2001. He and his wife continued assisting with various ministries in the local church as well as on a District Level as Sectional Youth Directors.
At the age of 23 Bro. Drake and his family were led to Living Water UPC, in Seneca, South Carolina where he was elected as Pastor of a church with 15 members which later grew to a congregation of over 60 members.
During 2006, Bro. Drake was voted in as Youth Secretary of the South Carolina District. In 2011, the Drakes accepted the call to return home to Anderson, South Carolina. Bro. Drake following God’s will, assumed the role of Pastor at Sanctuary of Praise, to serve under Senior Pastor, Edward Goddard. In 2012, he was elected as District Youth President of South Carolina District.
In 2015 Bro. Drake was elected as Senior Pastor at Sanctuary of Praise and currently serves in that capacity.
He has started a new NAM in Iva South Carolina (SOP Iva Campus) where He also serves as Senior Pastor. In June of 2019 he was also elected a SC District Secretary. Both Pastor Drake and his wife feel and know they are in the perfect will of God, to help bring an even greater revival to the Anderson area and see this city explode with a powerful addition of souls to the Kingdom of God! The Drakes have been blessed with 3 children Ethyn, Emma and Ensley.
I was born in Missouri into a second-generation Apostolic minister’s home, the sixth of seven children. My parents became pastor when I was nine years old to a small church with three people and in three years it grew to an attendance of eighty plus people. At age eleven, I was involved in my first building program which gave me a love for hammer and nail that I have to this day. God called me into ministry at the age of sixteen and I began sometime later by teaching Sunday school and doing what I still use as my ministry motto today “anything to lighten the load of pastors.” After graduating from College and beginning a career in Product Engineering, I preached my first message at age 23. I have served as Young Adult Pastor, Interim Pastor, Assistant to the Pastor, Metro Missions Ministry Coordinator of the UPCI, as well as mentor to several men and women now involved in ministry during 30 years of ministry.
In 1993 I married my wife Debbie and we have two sons Kelton and Karston, each of whom have preached many sermons from the coffee table of our home before becoming involved in ministry themselves. In my secular career, I have been involved in various levels of leadership and mentoring of individuals to aid them in career and personal growth. As a bi-vocational minister for over 30 years, my jobs have required me to move and gave me the opportunity to work with some of the greatest men in Pentecost. My wife and I, along with our two sons and daughter in-law, Hannah, currently serve at the Sanctuary of Praise under Pastor Russell Drake and we are excited about the path God has set for us and we continue to look forward to the opportunities ahead to serve in his Kingdom.
Presbyter Section One
The Rev. Robert Snipes was born in Columbia, South Carolina on November 04, 1958. He is an Alumni of Voorhees College and the South Carolina State ROTC program; where he was commissioned into the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in May 1981.
After graduating, Rev. Snipes married Sister Ivory Snipes and they eventually brought two delightful daughters into the world. After serving in the military, God began calling Rev. Snipes to the Ministry. At the time, the Snipes family was living in Virginia; where he was a Store Manager for TJX Corporation.
In 2004, Rev. Snipes discerned the voice of God instructing him to start a church in Denmark, SC. Soon thereafter, Rev. Snipes’s District Manager informed him that the company was opening a new store in Columbia, SC; and inquired if Rev. Snipes would accept a relocation package to open the new division. Rev. Snipes recognized that this was a confirmation of the will of the Lord for him and his family! In 2005, the Snipes family relocated to Denmark, SC. Rev. Snipes would eventually commute approximately an hour and a half, from his home to work, in order to live near and serve his community.
In 2006, Rev. Snipes was the first African American pastor to build an autonomous church. The Lord had blessed the church in Denmark, SC. The ministry grew and many souls were saved. In June 2017, Rev. Snipes was ordained as a pastor in the United Pentecostal Church (UPC). The Lord’s hand graciously remained upon the church, and within the same year it was approved for the Church in a Day (CIAD) program. Thereafter, Christ Family Center United Pentecostal Church was the first ministry in South Carolina to complete CIAD in 2018. In March 2019, Rev. Snipes was elected Presbyter of his section, and was the first ordained African American to serve on the South Carolina UPC District Board.
Presbyter Section Two
Rev. Robert Snipes
Andrew Benjamin “Ben” Cooke was born in Norfolk, Virginia on December 20, 1957. When he was six years old, Ben’s family moved to his father’s home town of Aynor, SC. The family began attending The First United Pentecostal Church in nearby Conway when possible. He learned to play the guitar at a young age, and he and his sister would sing together in church. They also sang at school and community events. In 1972, he was baptized in Jesus’ Name and received the Holy Ghost at Youth Camp in Batesburg, South Carolina. Ben began faithfully attending the Conway Church and began praying for God to send young people to the church. He especially prayed that a friend of like faith would attend the same school.
After pastoring and starting several churches in Michigan, Rev. Mayfield Cooper returned to his hometown of Conway in 1973 to pastor the church that he started in 1957. He and his wife Carol had six children and moved to the family farm which just happened to be in the same school district where Ben attended school. Rebekah Cooper and Ben soon became great friends. Ben and Rebekah graduated from Aynor High School in 1976. Ben was Valedictorian of his class.
In 1975 and 1976, Ben and Rebekah spent Saturday evenings assisting a small home mission church in Marion, being established by Rev. and Mrs. John Smithey. Ben would play the guitar and Rebekah would play the accordion.
Ben and Rebekah were married on June 4, 1977 and were blessed with two children, Andrea (Jeremy) Vaught, Andrew (Jennifer) Cooke II and grandchildren that affectionately call them Pop and Granonnie.
Bro. Cooke answered his call to the ministry, received his local license in 1979 and was ordained with the United Pentecostal Church in 1982. The Cookes worked as youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, music ministry, bus ministry, nursing home ministry and assistant pastor. In 1981 and 1982, Bro. Cooper, along with Ben and Rebekah, drove to Georgetown on Tuesday evenings to have service and help establish a church.
In April 1988, Brother Cooper’s health was failing and he decided it was time to step aside. Ben was unanimously voted in as pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church, where he presently pastors.
Through the years, Bro. Cooke has served the South Carolina District UPC as youth secretary, youth director, home missions secretary, Harvestime representative and finance committee chairman.
Presbyter Section Three
Following years of assisting pastors and evangelizing, based out of their home church in Lake Charles, LA, Pastor Larry and Earline Wilks answered the call of God to serve The Pentecostals of Spartanburg in 1985. Growth was promised by God and realized by their dedication, hard work, and servant’s heart. Humble beginnings, as one of seven children born into a project home in Sulphur, LA, is the catalyst for Pastor Wilks’ passion to live II Corinthians 12:15 to “spend and be spent” for the Gospel of Christ and equal opportunity of all to hear it.
In addition to pastoring, their ministry has impacted others by serving as SC District Youth President and raising up pastors, missionaries, and ministries through Godly mentoring. Pastor Wilks is consumed with a burden to make sure that every young pastor and fledgling church has every opportunity, and the support needed, to succeed.
They still serve as the Pastors of The Pentecostals of Spartanburg with their children and many more that call them family.
Presbyter Section Four
Theron Smith was born as the son of a United Pentecostal Church planter, JW Smith. He was three years old when his father left the church he had started in Louisiana and moved to Columbus, Mississippi where he started the church that would be the Smith family home for sixteen years. This church was the tenth UPC church in the state of Mississippi.
In 1968, JW Smith moved to Sumter, SC to start another church. Again this would be the tenth UPC church to be planted in the state.
Theron Smith continued his education at Pentecostal Bible Institute in Tupelo, Mississippi and graduated with a four year degree in Theology and immediately began to evangelize.
On June 19, 1972 Pastor JW Smith died in a car wreck that also crippled the members of his family. At the age of 23, Theron became the pastor of the church in Sumter where he continues to pastor. It was here, after fourteen and a half years as a single pastor, that he prayed a beautiful young lady through named Tanya who was to become the love of his life.
He has served in the South Carolina district in a variety of positions: District Sunday School director, District Youth Secretary, District Youth President, District Home Missions Secretary, District Harvestime representative, District Apostolic Man director, District Global Missions representative and Sectional Presbyter.
The greatest position he has held in the district has been to be part of this incredible church family.
Honorary Board Member
Presently serving as Bishop of the First United Pentecostal Church of Florence. Was Pastor of the church in Florence from 1978-2015.
Serving presently as Regional Presiding Officer for the Ministers Appeal Council.
On the Board of Tupelo Children’s Mansion as honorary member.
Served in past as South Carolina District Secretary and Treasurer for 25 years.
Served as District Superintendent for 10 years.
Served as South Eastern Zone Regional Executive Presbyter for a total of two terms – 4 years total.
Honorary Board Member