Hosting an event that dives into the subject of Biblical welcome towards the sojourner can be intimidating. We’ve got you covered with an amazing team of recommended speakers that can engage with your audience on a variety of subject matter in this area of Christlike welcome.
All speakers, unless otherwise noted as Women of Welcome or World Relief staff, are independent of Women of Welcome and are recommended because of their subject matter credibility, real-life experiences and professional speaking experience.
Jesus was clear we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Though neighbor can be defined broadly, loving the person within arm’s reach is both uniquely powerful and challenging. Add to that cultural differences and language barriers and we often don’t know how best to love our immigrant neighbors.
Taking the practices from her book Loving My Actual Neighbor: 7 Practices to Treasure the People Right in Front of You, author Alexandra Kuykendall offers practical ways individuals and congregations can befriend, learn from, and tangibly love their actual neighbors who are immigrants. From Holding a Posture of Humility to Asking Questions to Learn and Standing in the Awkward, the practices have broad application appealing to diverse audiences, yet specific applications so attendees leave with next-steps on engaging with their actual immigrant neighbors. Infused with her own self-deprecating stories, Alex’s signature authenticity is woven throughout her presentation, putting the audience at ease and inspiring them to love the neighbors God has placed right around them.
Alexandra Kuykendall is working to love her actual neighbors, the ones right within arm’s reach. A Spanish/International Affairs major in college, she assumed she would live and work overseas. God was clear she was meant to live right smack in the middle of the USA where in many ways the world has come to her through her immigrant neighbors. On staff with MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers) for nearly a decade, Alex now leads The Open Door Sisterhood, encouraging women to be world changers for good right where they are.
A trusted voice for Christian women, Alexandra Kuykendall speaks around the world about issues of parenting, faith and identity. She is the Cohost of The Open Door Sisterhood Podcast and along with Loving My Actual Neighbor has authored Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, and The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir. Alex has appeared on Good Morning America and Focus on the Family Broadcast.
Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters.
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Briana grew up an evangelical pastor’s daughter in the Midwest. Her love for the Scriptures has compelled her to continually ask questions that drive her into deeper engagement with vulnerable populations. Her passion is to equip the Church to think Biblically and pragmatically about exercising a holistic, comprehensive pro-life ethic. Throughout her work in the (traditional) pro-life movement, Briana continually faced questions from those concerned about immigrants and refugees. Learning that many concerns were rooted in fear and misinformation she started a journey to re-discover God’s heart for the sojourner.
Briana Stensrud is a human dignity advocate and the Director of Women of Welcome. Her passion is to equip the Church to engage more consistently and tangibly in holistic human dignity issues. Throughout her work in the pro-life movement, Briana continually faced questions from those concerned about immigrants and refugees. Understanding that many concerns were rooted in fear and misinformation she started a journey to re-discover God’s heart for the sojourner.
She holds a Masters of Biblical & Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two kids.
Denver/Colorado Springs, CO
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Gena Thomas tells the story of how Julia a 5-year old unaccompanied minor from Honduras, came to the United States, what she experienced in the system, and what it took to reunite her with her family. Gena and her husband Andrew had been missionaries in Mexico for four-years before they were Julia’s foster parents in the U.S. Using stories from her experiences both as a missionary in a foreign country to welcoming the stranger into her own home, Gena explores the difference between charity and justice and how it plays out in the immigrant experience.
Gena has written two books: Separated by the Border: A Birth Mother, a Foster Mother, and a Migrant Child’s 3000-Mile Journey and A Smoldering Wick: Igniting Missions Work with Sustainable Practices. She has written for Christianity Today, Missio Alliance, and Global Missiology, among other publications. Gena holds a masters in international development from Eastern University. She works at The Chalmers Center and lives in Chattanooga Tennessee with her husband Andrew and their two children. You can connect with her at www.genathomas.com.
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Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable. Jenny moves beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. She puts a human face on the issue and tells stories of immigrants’ experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, she debunks myths and misconceptions about immigration and shows the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately she points toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible and just, as she offers concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.
As the Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy for World Relief, Jenny Yang provides oversight for all advocacy initiatives and policy positions of the organization. She has worked in the resettlement section of World Relief as the Senior Case Manager and East Asia Program Officer, where she focused on advocacy for refugees in the East Asia region and managed the entire refugee caseload for World Relief. Prior to World Relief, she worked at one of the largest political fundraising firms in Maryland managing fundraising and campaigning for local politicians. She is co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate, serves as Chair of the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) Africa Work Group, and was named one of the “50 Women to Watch” by Christianity Today.
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Karen González offers the stories of biblical immigrants, focusing on Ruth, a woman who left her land and was loved and received by the people of Bethlehem as one of their own. Using her own theological explorations of immigrants from her book The God Who Sees: Immigrants, The Bible, and the Journey to Belong, Karen guides diverse audiences to see their immigrant neighbors as God does. Throughout the presentation she defines important terms, discusses U.S. immigration laws, engages the facts using the most up-to-date research from leading think tanks, economists, and scholars, and provides practical steps for engaging with immigrants and advocating for them at a local and national level. Karen’s speaking style is warm and engaging, encouraging people to ask questions, reflect on biblical stories, and trust in the bountiful economy of our God.
Karen González is seeking to see and love her neighbors as God does. She is a speaker, writer, and immigrant advocate, who herself immigrated from Guatemala as a child. Karen is a former public school teacher and attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where she studied theology and missiology. For the last 10 years, she has been a non-profit professional, currently working for World Relief, an organization that serves immigrants and refugees. She wrote a book about her own immigration story and the many immigrants found in the Bible: The God Who Sees: Immigrants, The Bible, and the Journey to Belong.
Her writing can be found on the communal blogs: The Mudroom and The Salt Collective. She also has bylines in Sojourners, Christianity Today, The Christian Century, Christ and Pop Culture, and others. Her website is karen-gonzalez.com.
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Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable. In this presentation Matthew moves beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. He puts a human face on the issue and tells stories of immigrants’ experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, he debunks myths and misconceptions about immigration and shows the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately he points toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible and just, as he offers concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.
Matthew Soerens serves as the U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief. He previously served as the Field Director for the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical organizations of which World Relief is a founding member. He is the co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis and Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. Matthew is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and DePaul University. He lives in Aurora, Illinois with his wife Diana and their two children.
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Drawing from her personal experiences at the U.S. – Mexico border, inside detention centers, living in Guatemala, and walking through the U.S. immigration system with her husband, author Sarah Quezada invites us to consider ways Christians can protect, support, and engage the vulnerable in today’s society. She challenges audiences to consider how they might walk in the examples of women who showed up in bold ways throughout the Scripture, equipping audiences with tangible entry points to engage the immigration issues in our world today.
Sarah Quezada is an author, speaker, and advocate. She has a master’s in sociology and nearly two decades of experience working across cultures and leading conversations about justice and faith. Her first book, Love Undocumented: Risking Trust in a Fearful World, chronicled her journey through the immigration system with her husband, Billy, who emigrated from Guatemala City. Sarah oversees Women of Welcome’s fast-growing online community, fostering conversations among Christian women seeking to live out Biblical hospitality. She and Billy also founded GreenTec, a social impact start-up creating sustainable jobs for Guatemalan families and producing eco-friendly construction products. The Quezadas live in Atlanta, Georgia and are raising two bicultural and trilingual-ish kids.
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Speaker Bio: Tess Clarke and her husband Jason co-founded the peace-building and advocacy organization, Seek the Peace (SEEK). Tess has trained hundreds of refugee and American women in peacemaking practices while utilizing these opportunities to build bridges between women of different backgrounds. She is the mother of three empowered children and holds a degree in sociology from the University of North Texas.
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