Disability Concerns Leadership Training Event 2020

Leading and Learning with Agility in a Diverse World

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Event highlights


The body of Christ differs in age, ability, gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, perspectives—and yet we are one body (1 Cor. 12:12). United in Christ, we must develop agility to listen, be curious, learn, and grow in relationship with each other. Agile people move with ease and grace by adapting resourcefully to situations and relationships. Contrary to assumptions, people with disabilities tend to be highly agile, because they must navigate physical and social structures that are created by and for people who do not have disabilities. In this way, we can and often do “dis-able” people from participating in and joining our churches.

Healthy church communities learn from people who have disabilities and provide opportunities for them to lead. Although our differences can challenge us, those differences bless and enrich the way we worship, grow in faith, reach out, and serve each other and our communities. People with disabilities are referred to as having “special needs,” but in the body of Christ there are no “special” needs—just needs. And we all have needs: to be saved from sin, to belong, to love and be loved, to serve, to be held accountable, to use our gifts and receive the gifts of others, to be involved and valued in a church community. When agile, the body of Christ engages each member.


Terry DeYoung

Rev. Terry A. DeYoung has served as coordinator for Disability Concerns for the Reformed Church in America since 2009. Terry is a graduate of Western Theological Seminary and former pastor of Central Park Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan, and managing editor of the RCA’s former monthly magazine, The Church Herald. Terry has been active with Disability Network/Lakeshore since 1992, advocating for people with disabilities in west Michigan. Terry and his wife, Cindi Veldheer DeYoung, are both ordained ministers in the RCA and live in Holland with their lively Brittany spaniel, Dexter.

Mark Stephenson

Mark and his wife, Bev, have five children including Nicole, their oldest, who lives joyfully with severe multiple disabilities. Mark and his siblings provided care to their mother during her final 12 years as her dementia progressed.He serves the Christian Reformed Church as director of Disability Concerns and interim director of the Offices of Social Justice and Race Relations, and previously served as pastor of two congregations.

Carlos Thompson

Carlos was born in Colombia. After being adopted by an American family, he was raised in Fargo, North Dakota. He is a Charismatic-Reformed Pentecostal who lives with congenital cerebral palsy. Carlos has earned a BS in church ministry from Southeastern University; an MA in religious studies from the University of South Florida; and a ThM in Ministry and Mission (Practical Theology) from the University of Aberdeen, King’s College, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Carlos will be defending his PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen, King’s College, on September 11, 2020.

Today, Carlos; his lovely wife, Charis; and their daughter reside in Holland, Michigan. Carlos has the privilege and distinct honor of serving as the Friendship House community director and assistant professor of Church and Community Theology at Western Theological Seminary


Vinnie Adams

Vinnie Adams is special needs ministry director and worship leader at Faith Church (RCA) in Dyer, Indiana, and regional disability advocate for RCA New Thing Classis.

Kyle Crist

Kyle Crist is director of congregational care and church disability advocate for Rejoice! Community Church in LeMars, Iowa.

Dan Vander Plaats

Dan Vander Plaats is married to Denise and is father to Ben (22) and Emma (20). He is a member of Orland Park Christian Reformed Church in Illinois, where he serves on the Disability Concerns Team and the Welcoming Team. He works at Elim Christian Services as the director of advancement, where he composed the disability ministry resource called “The 5 Stages.” He has served on the advisory committee for Disability Concerns since 2008.

Eric Peterson

Eric is the pastor of The Church of Benjamin's Hope, a unique church plant for people of all abilities, located at Benjamin's Hope in Holland, Michigan. Benjamin’s Hope is a farmstead community where people of all abilities live, learn, play, and worship together. With the vision of planting a church from day one where people of all abilities co-labor in all aspects of church life, this church is a sign of the Kingdom, a place of hope for the Holland community, and a center for learning from one another.

Al Gelder

Al Gelder pastored five Christian Reformed churches over a period of 42 years, starting in New Mexico and ending in New York. He also served for five years as director of Mentored Ministries (Field Education) at Calvin Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jan, are members and elders at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Al and Jan are parents of three children and grandparents to eight “grands.” Their youngest child was born with ataxic cerebral palsy, so they have been part of the community of persons dealing with disabilities for 46 years. Experts? No! Still learning? Yes!

Andrea Godwin-Stremler

Rev. Dr. Andrea Godwin-Stremler is pastor, wife, mother of two daughters, and grandmother of four granddaughters. She is the founder, executive director, and pastor of New Revelations Collegiate Mission, forming leaders actively engaged as Christ’s presence in the world ("Empowering tomorrow's leaders today"). She is located in north Texas, in the Dallas area. In her 33 years of ministry she has served in various capacities in churches, women’s organizations, groups, and military families worldwide. Her passions are helping people see themselves through the eyes of God and living in healthy, loving relationships. Her hobbies are baking, cooking, and hospitality. An evening sitting together around a bounteous table with lively conversation and laughter is pure joy for Andrea.

Michèle Gyselinck

Michèle was born and grew up in Montreal. At the age of 28 she developed schizophrenia; Michèle was in the second year of her first BA. Michèle is now in recovery. As Michèle notes: “That will last until I die and go to heaven.”

Rev. Joyce Borger

Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.

Amie Spriensma

Amie works from home as an online chaplain for Family Fire Ministries (a division of Back to God Ministries International). As a person with a physical disability, Amie is happy to be able to work from home right now in the midst of the pandemic.

Doug McClintic

Doug McClintic, MDiv, DMin, served RCA churches in Iowa and Michigan; planted Oak Springs Community Church (RCA) in Murrieta, California; served as pastor of Mission and Multiplication at Fair Haven/Harbor Churches; then served the Great Lakes Region RCA as Church Multiplication Catalyst. Doug and his wife, Dianne, were appointed as mission associates with RCA Global Mission in 2019, serving at the National Evangelical Church in the Kingdom of Bahrain before moving to Debrecen, Hungary, in early 2020. He currently is the church planting coordinator for the European Church Planting Partnership. Doug and Dianne have two adult children.

Neil Cudney

Neil has worked as a senior leader in the non-profit disability sector for three decades. For the last 20 years he has led Organizational and Spiritual Life for Christian Horizons. He has participated in the growing global conversation and various community tables on theology and disability and building communities of belonging. Neil is a networker; he has built relationships and partnerships with likeminded organizations throughout Canada and internationally. Currently, Neil is a consultant, coach, and lecturer on topics such as theology of disability, building communities of belonging, understanding and leveraging the power of organizational cultures, conflict resolution, and leadership.

Mana Headshot

Mana Hashimoto

Mana Hashimoto is a blind choreographer and contemporary dancer based in New York City. She was born in Tokyo, Japan, with full sight, where she began her classical ballet training. While studying contemporary dance at Martha Graham School in Manhattan, she lost all sight in both eyes due to undiagnosed optic nerve atrophy. Since then, her life work has been devoted to merging blindness and dance. She is the founder of Dance Without Sight, a dance workshop that explores movement using the senses of touch, sound, and smell. In 2011, Mana was baptized at the Japanese American United Church in NYC, where she serves as a member of the choir, the pastor calling committee, and as an RCA church disability advocate. You can find more at Mana's website: www.manahashimoto.com

Kelli Sexton

Kelli pastors at Christ Community Christian Reformed Church in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Prior to attending Calvin Theological Seminary, Kelli worked as a paraprofessional in an autism resource room for a public school district. It was there she heard from the families of her students about the difficulties families often face in finding churches that truly welcome members of all abilities. This experience led her to seek to learn more about universal design and helping churches increase their adaptive capacity.

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This initiative is part of Transformed & Transforming, the RCA's 15-year vision for ministry.
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