Emily Colson - Keynote Speaker
Emily Colson is a popular author, speaker, and advocate. Emily speaks to churches and organizations nationwide and has appeared on numerous media outlets including Focus on the Family, and the Huckabee show. In her award-winning bookDancing with Max Emily and her father, Chuck Colson shared the struggle and beauty of life with Max, Emily’s 26 year-old son with autism. Emily is passionate about connecting the church and families affected by disability and affirming the value and dignity of every life. Through her message of hope, Emily has inspired many to persevere through their own challenges and see the gifts. Emily has been a single mother for most of Max’s 26 years, with hard-fought lessons in faith, life, love and a whole lot of laughter. Emily and Max live on the coast of New England.
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Pastor Brian Smith - Main Session Speaker
Pastor Brian Smith grew up in Batavia, Illinois, where he had a Tribune paper route, played for the Battl'n Bulldogs, and did Houdini-like, underwater escapes at the Batavia Quarry.
While attending Northern Illinois University, he became a follower of Jesus Christ in the spring of 1982 through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He graduated from Northern with a BA in Marketing and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a Master of Divinity degree. He pastored Community Church in Appleton, WI for ten years before moving back to his home area to plant Valleybrook Community Church. Pastor Smith is married to Elizabeth, who is a professor at Moody Bible Institute, where Pastor Brian also teaches. They have three children: Caleb, Caitlin, and Josh.
Professor Elizabeth Smith - Main Session Speaker
Elizabeth Smith received her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and also is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Elizabeth has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute for nine years after working full-time in Children’s and Youth Ministry. She also speaks at corporate events and retreats on various topics related to counseling psychology. In addition, Elizabeth has written a Children’s and Youth curriculum. Elizabeth has been married for 22 years to Brian. Her passion is to take the good news of the gospel to all generations.
BREAKOUT SESSION SPEAKERS
Professor Eric Redmond - Ministering to Parents with Special Needs Kids
Rev. Eric C. Redmond is Assistant Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, where he began teaching in January 2015. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Biblical Studies at Capital Seminary and Graduate School in Greenbelt, MD (CSGS). He also serves as Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL. Rev. Redmond and his wife Pam have been very happily married since July 1991. They have five children – Charis, Chloe, Candace, Calvin, and Codell – and they reside in Brookfield, IL.
Professor Dawn Clark - Challenging Behavior and the Church
Dawn Clark is an adjunct professor at Moody Bible institute teaching “Disability, Society and the Church.” and is a member of the Joni and Friends Chicago Church Equipping Team. Dawn was the director of disability ministries at College Church in Wheaton for 12 years and desires to see the church become a place of belonging for people of all abilities. As a certified instructor in Therapeutic Options, she trains congregations to welcome and include students with challenging behaviors. She and her husband, Stephen served as Bible translators and literacy workers in Papua New Guinea from 1985-1996. They have two grown sons and four grandchildren. Dawn holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and an undergraduate degree in physical therapy from Kansas University.
Eric Targe - Deaf Ministry
Eric Targe serves as Director of Disability Ministry at The Moody Church. Originally from New York, Eric has lived in Chicago since 2009. He was born into a Puerto Rican-Jewish family and came to faith during his teen years. Eric leads the Disability Ministry (139) at The Moody Church, working with those in our congregation who are Deaf, Blind, or have developmental, physical or emotional disabilities. He also enjoys preaching and teaching in our TMC Communities and occasionally in our services. Eric graduated with a BA in Theology from Moody Bible Institute and a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is happily married to his wife Rebecca, a registered nurse, and they live on the north side of Chicago, where they are seeking out ways to make Christ known in their community.
Karen Roberts - Inclusive Worship
Dr. Karen Roberts is the Academic Studies and Church Relations Manager of Joni and Friends Chicago and is a certified instructor of the Beyond Suffering curriculum. Karen also leads the Ethiopia Outreach team each fall. Serving with Joni and Friends has brought two of her passions together, serving in worship ministry and ministry to and with individuals impacted by disabilities. Karen is also the author of Shout for Joy: Engaging the Whole Church in Accessible Worship. She and her husband Dale have three grown children and one grand-daughter.
Karen holds a Doctorate in Worship Studies from The Robert E. Webber Institute of Worship Studies, a Masters of Worship and Spirituality from Northern Theological Seminary and a Masters in Music Education for Special Learners from Wichita State University.
Paul Von Tobel, Jr. - Teaching and Discipling People with Intellectual Disability in the Church
Paul has over 15 years of experience making disciples among people with intellectual disabilities in a variety of settings. As a part of Joni and Friends Chicago, Paul held trainings, facilitated networking meetings and coached local disability ministry leaders and volunteers. At Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, WI, Paul led a church of over 150 individuals with ID in worship, fellowship, ministry, and outreach. Currently, Paul is the Pastor of Special Friends Ministry at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL where he connects families with church resources and community, provides pastoral care and teaches and disciples the population of people with ID. Paul lives with his wife and three daughters in Arlington Heights, IL.
Shelley Swanson - Supporting Kids with Special Needs at Church
Shelley Swanson is the Inclusion Coordinator at College Church in Wheaton, IL. She is also still practicing as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, with much experience with children with autism and a variety of other communication disorders. She has a nephew with autism, and she knows well the challenges children with disabilities and their families face when coming to church. College Church has a large Disability Ministry called STARS, with over 150 families involved. Shelley has been the inclusion coordinator and ministry associate for young STARS families for 15 years.
Andrew Beaty - Adopting Special Needs Kids
Andrew Beaty is the father of 5 biological and 6 adopted special needs children (YES...that's 11 total). He and his wife Karen passionately serve the foster and adoptive communities and are popular speakers at conferences and college classes. In addition to working with their own children, they mentor and encourage families across the country who are dealing with the special needs of their children or with children who attend various church ministries. Their adopted children wrestle with a variety of special needs such as autism, bipolar disorder, the effects of drug and alcohol abuse of biological parents, emotional and physical abuse, and much more. The Beatys like to keep it simple, their kids are complicated. For over twenty-five years, Andrew served in various youth and Christian Education ministries in local churches, a para-church agency, and a school for students with mental, emotional and behavioral disabilities before transitioning to teaching and administration in higher education. Andrew currently works with faculty at Moody Bible Institute-Distance Learning. The Beaty Bunch lives in Central Illinois.
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