Alicia is a writer, speaker, and abundant life seeker who is learning to walk by faith in her family’s messy and miraculous adoption journey. A member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and contributing author for the M.O.M. Initiative, Alicia is passionate about helping women discover abundant life in Christ right where they are. Alicia’s devotional writing spans the globe, but the story she loves best is the one she lives daily in Holland, MI, with her five crazy kids and her husband of twenty-three years.
Abandoned too little to remember, Stephanie wandered the war-torn countryside of Korea. Due to her bi-racial ethnicity she was abused and violated in every way. Finally she was discarded and left to die in a garbage dump. Stephanie was miraculously rescued by a World Vision nurse and placed in an orphanage. Around the age of nine a missionary couple met her. Overlooking her physical and emotional state they listened to the voice that spoke to their hearts. David & Judy Merwin, setting aside their desire to adopt a baby, obeyed that voice and adopted Stephanie. Despite the rich healing love her adoptive parents poured into her, Stephanie's past tormented her throughout her teens. A deep personal encounter with Jesus Christ enabled her to exchange her pain with Him at the cross and see her identity and purpose in the light of God's love. This message, Stephanie has had the privilege to share with anyone who will listen. God has honored her with very diverse audiences. Over the past 30 years her story and teaching has been on TV, radio, in magazines and other people’s books. She recently wrote her first book; She Is Mine. She has been an Advocate for Orphans her whole Christian life, believing there is an orphan in each person without Jesus. Stephanie and her husband reside in Portland, Oregon surrounded by their children and grandchildren, her childhood dream lived out in reality.
Rhonda M. Roorda, M.A.
Rhonda was adopted into a white family and raised with two non-adopted siblings. She is a national speaker on transracial adoption and a recipient of the Judge John P. Steketee Adoption Hero Award from the Adoptive Family Support Network (MI). With Rita J. Simon, she coauthored a landmark trilogy of books on transracial adoption (In Their Own Voices, In Their Parents’ Voices, and In Their Siblings’ Voices). Her latest book, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption was released in November 2015. She works as a fund administrator at an educational advocacy organization in Lansing, Michigan.
Kurt Ellis, MA, LLP, LLPC
Kurt is a Christian family therapist who specializes in attachment and other adoption-related issues. In addition to working as an adoption professional for several years, he is also an adoptive parent. He has extensive training in attachment development and attachment therapy. Kurt and his wife have been married since 1988 and have three biological children and one adopted child. In addition to his experience as a family therapist and adoption professional, Kurt served as a youth pastor for five years, and serves on the elder board and teaches adult Sunday School at his church.
Chandra L.D. Criffield, LMSW
Chandra earned her Master of Social Work degree from The University of Michigan and has been working in the field of adoption since 2003. Having worked at several local adoption agencies, she is well-versed in the issues that can affect adoptive families, and joined Families Forever Counseling as a therapist in 2012. Aside from her role as therapist, Chandra has worked extensively with children in preschool and public school settings. She has been active in the youth ministry at her church, and has enjoyed this opportunity. Chandra and her husband have been married for over six years; they have one young daughter.
Laurie Nyquist, MA, LLPC
Laurie is a therapist who works with children, teens, and families with attachment and adoption-related issues. She has received extensive training in attachment, including participating in a Professional Training Program in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development. Laurie is a member of The American Association of Christian Counselors and has also received training through them in attachment, grief and loss. Laurie is an adoptive parent and has been working with adoptive families since 2009. In addition to her experience as an adoption professional, Laurie has five years of experience in crisis counseling and ten years of experience doing premarital counseling together with her husband at their church. She has been married since 1991 and has four children, including one adopted internationally in 2006.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens
Dr. Beurkens, licensed clinical psychologist, has 20 years of experience helping children and families impacted by developmental and mental health challenges including ADHD, autism, anxiety, behavior disorders, and trauma. She is the founder and director of the Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia, Michigan. Nicole has four children, one of whom is adopted, and understands the joys and challenges of parenting. She is dedicated to empowering individuals and families with knowledge and strategies to reach their highest potential.
Dr. Amanda Barton
Dr. Barton is a family nurse practitioner, wife, and mother. Her family includes adopted, biological, guardianship and foster children. Her three oldest, who are biological siblings, were adopted from the foster care system when they were 5, 3, and 1 and are now 22, 20 and 18. She has co-authored a series of children's books based on their real life experiences of being family in a mixed race family created through adoption.
Paula Freeman, MSW, is an author, speaker, trainer and adoption social worker. She is the founder and former executive director of Hope’s Promise a Colorado licensed adoption agency and international orphan care ministry and author of A Place I Didn’t Belong: Hope for Adoptive Moms. Paula strives to help moms thrive in all stages at all ages. She has seven grown children; four by birth and three by adoption.