Meet Our Staff

Jeff Kunkel, Senior Pastor
    Church Office Private line: 650-344-6356

Joyce Avalo, Interim Office Manager
    Church Office: 650-344-6321

Aki Amai, Organist

JoJo Bernardo, Security Custodian

Gina Esguerra, Security Custodian

Jeff Kunkel Jeff Kunkel, Senior Pastor

What makes Jeff Kunkel tick? His honest relationship with God and his desire to help others discover — or deepen — such a relationship with God and become a follower of Jesus.

Jeff Kunkel was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was a salesman, his mother a nurse. His many relatives included farmers, teachers, preachers, and business owners. As a child, he attended the Evangelical United Brethren Church, where he learned the stories and songs of the faith. As a teen, he left the church, convinced that church was for old people and God was for other people.

Many years later, Jeff had a spiritual awakening, and God became a real Presence in his life. Not long after that, he attended Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and took his first church in San Mateo, California. In 1984, he married Mary Elyn Bahlert, also a United Methodist pastor. The two have been married for 34 years. Jeff has served many churches in the California-Nevada Annual Conference and was one of the first pastors to be trained and used as an Interim Pastor. Jeff is in his seventh year of ministry at Burlingame United Methodist Church and active in 12 Step Work. He is also an accomplished writer and artist. He teaches a writing course at the American Baptist Seminary of the West in Berkeley, has published two collections of short stories, five childrens' picture books, and two — soon three — nonfiction books about Alaska. His literary website is

Jeff's favorite definition of faith comes from Martin Luther, first written in 1522 C.E: "Faith is an active, reckless trust in God's goodness," and he figures if he — or anyone — can trust this way for even five minutes a day — their life will open and enlarge. He begins every worship service with the following invitation: "We at Burlingame United Methodist Church worship a living and active God; a God who is at work in your life — and in the world; a God who loves you as you are, and yet is not done with you; a God who loves everything you love — and a whole lot more."

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Aki Amai Aki Amai, Organist

Aki was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where she began studying music at the early age of four taught by her mother, a piano teacher. She attended Santa Barbara City College and met her husband there in a World Music class. After earning her A. A. degree, she transferred to San Francisco Conservatory of Music for a B.M degree. Since graduating, Aki has deeply rooted herself within the Bay Area as a piano teacher, performer, accompanist, and organist. Aside from working for local schools & churches, she also occasionally performs as a swing accordionist in a jazz band with her husband.

In 2013, Aki welcomed her first baby daughter Olina (which means "joyous" in Hawaiian). Like her name, Olina is bringing so much joy to her life. And since Aki started working at BUMC, she is studying organ with Angela Cross Kraft, to refine and develop her musicianship skills further and continue to grow.

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