Rev. Julie Liske is a United Methodist Deacon with over 20 years of leadership experience in congregations, chaplaincies, and social justice ministry.  Julie currently serves gratefully as the Chapter Director of Circles Grand Rapids, a national strategy that ends – not just manages – poverty.  By building long-term relationships across the socioeconomic divide, Circles assists highly motivated low-income individuals to lift themselves permanently out of poverty, increases the “poverty IQ” of middle- and upper-income allies, and increases the motivation and capacity of the wider community to dismantle systemic barriers to self-sufficiency.

Rev. Faith Fowler is executive director of Cass Community Social Services and pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church in Detroit.  She has been celebrated for her innovative methods for helping the needy in Detroit by providing food, health services, housing, job programs and career training, all aimed at lifting people out of poverty. Faith leverages her marketing, entrepreneurial and fundraising skills to help the disadvantaged with programs like Detroit Treads, Cass Green Industries and Tiny Homes that provide jobs and housing.


Rob Cook is a pastor serving at Mount Hope UMC (, a church that welcomes people from all over the world.  He is developing cultural competency the best way, by experiencing it firsthand.  Long a racially homogeneous church, Mount Hope is growing younger and more diverse.   Also a member of the Michigan Area Multiethnic Team for New Church Development, Rob has learned that this movement transcends churches, denominations, and even theological persuasions.

Rev. Eric Mulanda Nduwa, is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country that was formerly known as Zaire.  An ordained Pastor, Eric is currently serving as an associate pastor at Mount Hope United Methodist which is a multi-ethnic Church ( in the Lansing District.  He describes himself as a God’s servant who is driven through this scripture from the book of Acts 1:8 “to go and be witnesses …to the end of the Earth. So, I am still going and witness the love of Jesus Christ with people.  He has been serving as an evangelist Pastor reaching people in the community and beyond the community for Jesus Christ in different countries such as Congo-Kinshasa, Zimbabwe, Germany and United State. Eric is married to Corinne Mafo who is also a Congolese and a nurse by profession.  They have a baby boy name Blessed Mulanda.  “A good person is not measured by what he/she has, but what he/she gives”—Rev. Eric Mulanda.


Rev. Darryl Totty is the Pastor of Second Grace United Methodist Church.  He is an Ordained Elder with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration.  He holds the Master of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston, Illinois) and the Doctor of Divinity from the Graduate Theological Foundation (Oxford, England). His doctoral project, “The Mission of Missions: A Strategic Response To The Great Commission” (February 2005) is the implementation of a strategy for Mission Ministry.  He is married to Anita with two adult children DeJesus and Krizia.  Darryl enjoys technology (gadgets), reading, golfing, and spending time with his grandsons Rodrekus and Matteo.


Sarah Alexander is a provisional Deacon in the Detroit Conference. She is appointed as the director of Motown Mission, – a missional destination in the city of Detroit. She has a passion for pairing youth and adults with places to serve that enrich both their understanding of mission, and their relationship with Jesus Christ. Motown Mission strives to be both a mission trip destination, and a cross-cultural experience for volunteers to encounter neighbors and build relationships, rather than simply “serving alongside.” Sarah and her spouse Matt live in Livonia with their baby and Beagle.

Rhonda has served in youth ministry for 6 1/2 years with her husband Bob. Together, they lead both the middle school and high school youth programs at Indian River United Methodist Church. They share a passion for teaching the G.O.S.P.E.L. message, empowering students to share their faith through conversation with their peers. They consider youth ministry a mission field and through “seed-planting” believe that students can impact their school and community for Christ. G.L.O.W. (Gods Light in Our World) is an exciting addition to her ministry. G.L.O.W. was born as the result of a vision to provide students an after school, safe-gathering place. Unconditional love is the basis for all the ministry we do, whether the student knows Christ or not, we want them to feel accepted and loved.


The Rev. Paul Perez is an ordained Deacon and serves as the Associate Director for Mission and Ministry for the Michigan Conference. Previously, Paul was the founding director of Justice for Our Neighbors Southeastern Michigan, a United Methodist related immigration legal aid organization with locations in Detroit, Dearborn, and Ypsilanti. He also served as Director of Program Development at Newburg UMC in Livonia, Michigan. He lives in Livonia, Michigan with his wife Anne, a high school English teacher, and his three children, Joshua, Sofia, and Charles.

Matthew Witkowski grew up in Northern Michigan and attended Aquinas College, Grand Rapids. After graduating college Matthew volunteered with the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) in Eastern Kentucky. He worked at the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore as Director of Programming and then joined Grand Rapids Trinity UMC as Director of the Community Ministries Program in 2015. By building community partnerships the church is now being used by local community groups that align with the church’s goals of giving back and engaging with the community. Matt is married and has a 6 year-old son and 15 year-old dog.



A seasoned lay worker for Christ. Greg loves his family of three; Rev. Faith Timmons – wife, 11 year old son Greg Timmons II and Olivia Timmons his 6 year old daughter. He loves the Word and his church family (global). Greg has had multiple roles in the church including a current role as an Executive Director – Flint Recovery; VCI Lead Consultant and Coach, he currently sits on the Conference Leadership Team and is excited about teaching Sunday School. Timmons is currently in the process of becoming a local pastor. A key strength for Greg is his work experience that allows him to effectively engage many organizational challenges, both in the church and secular organizations. He graduated from Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Business, and has a Master’s in Communication from the University of Denver. He currently resides in Flint Michigan and attends Bethel UMC, where Rev. Faith Timmons is the pastor.


After traveling to Thailand in 2011 to volunteer on the Thai/Burma border Raquel returned stateside with a passion to work with refugees and immigrants. She began volunteering with a nonprofit called Thrive: A Refugee Support Program where she became the Executive Director. Raquel is now a Site Director at Justice For Our Neighbors-MI, a nonprofit that provides free immigration law services to low-income refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants. Raquel graduated from Davenport University with a bachelor degree in Business Administration. Advocating, educating and bringing communities together to support immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers is a driving force for the work she does.


Rev. Patricia Gandarilla-B. is pastor at Detroit: El Buen Pastor UMC. “El Buen Pastor” in English is, “The Good Shepard,” which has been serving the Hispanic/Latino community for over 20 years and is comprised of eight nationalities coming from: South America, Central America, Mexico, and second and third generation Hispanic/Latino Americans. Pastor Gandarilla-B, was raised in a family of six girls.  Her seminary school started when she was fifteen years of age and was appointed by her church when she was eighteen. She planted three churches in Mexico, and taught Adult Basic Education at a Plaza Comunitaria “Community Center” in México. Rev. Gandarilla,arrived in the United States in 1999, she developed a Hispanic ministry in the South West District of the Nebraska Annual Conference. She was commissioned as a missionary in the 10-10-10 Missionary program. She was a facilitator and consultant for the National Plan Hispanic Ministry, and served as Associate Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Imperial, Nebraska. She was a the Director Hispanic Ministry for the Missouri River District, Nebraska Annual Conference. During this position she developed a community center  and a  children summer programs, and after school programs related to ESL, and adult basic education, in partnership with the Mexican Consulate. She served as Vice President of MARCHA Association, Directors and Coordinators for Annual Conference of the Hispanic Ministries around the United States. Rev. Gandarilla-B’s passion is bringing together Anglo and Hispanic congregations for trans-cultural worship and understanding.

Rev. Ellen Zienart is pastor of St. Johns First UMC, previously serving at East Lansing Chapel Hill and Crossroads in Williamston. Like members of her congregation, she has a passion for serving the migrant community that work the many agricultural farms in her community.  It has put her knowledge of Spanish to good use.

Prior to pursuing her call to the ministry, Pastor Ellen was a human resources professional for a utility company. Now a graduate of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (2010) and after completing the required steps, she is a full elder of the United Methodist Church.

Pastor Ellen believes that as Jesus’ disciples, we are called to create the compassionate community that Jesus preached about. Through worship, Bible Study, fellowship, works of justice and caring for others, as well as having fun together, the church is called to live into Christ’s command to love God and love each other.

In her spare time she likes to read, knit, cook, and spend time with her family.

Sonya Luna is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries serving through the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries in the Michigan Conference as the Coordinator of Hispanic/Latino Ministries. She has been serving in Michigan with Hispanic/Latino ministries for the last nine years. Her role is to guide local churches in ministry with their Hispanic/Latino neighbors. She works to bring a greater awareness to the need for Hispanic/Latino ministries, as well as, to help create a structure that supports those ministries. Sonya Luna is of Mexican and Polish heritage and she grew up in Ypsilanti as a United Methodist.

Sari Brown is a provisional elder who is currently serving as the pastor of Harbor Beach and Port Hope United Methodist Churches, and prior to that she served as Associate Pastor at Grosse Pointe United Methodist Church. She has a background as a singer/songwriter and recording artist with Earthwork Music Collective, and has lived and worked in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. In Bolivia she carried out anthropological research and worked as a missionary with the Bolivian Evangelical Methodist Church, and in Brazil she studied at the Methodist University. She recieved her Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology (Emory University – Atlanta) and her B.A. in Anthropology and Religion from Marlboro College (Vermont).  She is married to Ricardo Angarita Oviedo, who is currently the director of Blue Water District Ministry Center, and has three stepchildren.


Rev. Kathy Pittenger is an Ordained Deacon and serves at Waterford: Central United Methodist Church as the Pastor of Lifelong Faith Formation. In July, she will become the new Michigan Conference Children’s Initiative Coordinator.  She earned a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a BA in Educational Ministries from Malone University. Her passion lies in the areas of children¹s ministry, literacy awareness, discipleship pathways, and walking with people on their spiritual journey. Rev. Kathy has been involved with local school partnerships for over six years. She is married to Rich and they have two sons, Elijah and Micah.

Christy Miller-Black is the Associate Minister of Christian Education at Court Street United Methodist Church, Flint, MI, and the Director of Discipleship Formation for the Crossroads District of the United Methodist Church. She has a MA in Theology and a BA in Christian Education and Church Music from Southern Nazarene University and completed her Basic Graduate Theological Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Christy has over 20 years of experience working with youth, children, and adults in a variety of ministries. She loves young people, music, books, and caffeine; not always in that order. Christy is amazed that she gets to share her life with two remarkable children, Christopher (14) and Maelyn (8).

Cornerstone Church

The Rev. Shawn Lewis-Lakin was ordained a deacon in 1987 and an elder in 1990.   Shawn¹s ministry settings have included both local churches and public schools.   He has served four local church appointments.   Shawn¹s work in public education included a variety of teaching and administrative roles.   He was Superintendent of Schools for the Manchester Community Schools from 2007-2011 and served as Superintendent of Schools for Royal Oak Schools from 2011-2016.   Shawn has degrees from Michigan State University, Yale Divinity School, and Wayne State University.  Shawn is currently serving as the Senior Associate Pastor at Birmingham First UMC.

Randy Hildebrant is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church assigned as a Church and Community Worker at God’s Country Cooperative Parish, based in Newberrry, Michigan. The parish consists of seven churches. Randy works with them in community development, leadership development, special projects, and in hosting volunteer-in-mission teams. He travels among and speaks often in the churches. God’s County Cooperative Parish has been a transforming community for 30 years. Randy was formerly with the Rural Revitalization Project of the Elkhorn Valley District of the Nebraska Annual Conference. The Elkhorn project was both spiritual and programmatic, seeking to engage an outward-directed sense of ministry among the laity.


Prior to his service in the Nebraska Conference in June 2011, Randy was assigned for 10 years to the Jubilee Project, an Appalachian ministry based in Sneedville, Tennessee in the Holston Annual Conference. He has a strong commitment to rural ministry. Earlier in his work, he was assistant pastor of the Franklin United Methodist Church in Franklin, North Carolina. Randy was born in Oklahoma and studied sports administration at East Central University in Ada. He and his family now live in Plainview, Nebraska, where he is active in both the Crawford Valley and Plainview United Methodist churches. He is married to Aletha Hildebrant and the couple has two teenaged children, Grace and Adam.


Naomi Garcia is the Associate Director of Church Vibrancy for the Michigan Conference.  She is mesmerized, reminded and centered by shores of the Gulf of Mexico, lakes called Rathbun, Great, Clear, Townline, Thumb; the rivers named Rio Grande, San Gabriel, Colorado, Grand River, Cumberland, Lake, Grand, Dowagiac, and Hersey.

Naomi is a self described aspiring disciple rarely satisfied with the latest take on how The Holy One calls, moves, shapes, beckons, equips, comforts and companions; shuttling between the discipline of mind and the art of soul. Facilitator intrigued and longing for inclusive inclusion. Consultant negotiating the wide spaces between meddling and staying home. Mediator stirred by the courage of truth-telling and re-discovering the edges of compassion. Coach channeling Curious George and Hiccup.


A native of Michigan, Rev. Jack Amick is the UMCOR Director of Sustainable Development based in Atlanta, Georgia.  UMCOR’s Sustainable Development Unit works to facilitate long-term community development and empowerment in areas of great need. Many development issues and opportunities are interrelated. Because of this, UMCOR uses integrated solutions to address the root causes of specific problems. This is done by working with UMCOR country offices and our extensive partner networks alongside local communities to develop their assets in:

• Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) • Sustainable agriculture and food security • Livelihoods and resilience • Climate change adaptation and mitigation • Education and health