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Authors

Rev. Thyra VanKeeken is the Pastor of First Christian Reformed Church of Toronto. Thyra is a native of Edmonton, Alberta, a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary, and a former intern at the Office of Social Justice. Currently Thyra serves on the committee that supports the Centre for Public Dialogue in Ottawa. 

Gary vanLoon is a retired but still active prof (Chemistry and Environmental Science) at Queen’s University. A member of Westside Fellowship CRC, he participates in a number of ‘justice’ and multi-cultural activities through the church, in the community and Canada-wide. A long standing interest in development-related issues, particularly those connected with agriculture and the environment still finds fulfillment through applied research along with colleagues in this country and abroad. Gary is married to Asha and they have three children and three grandchildren, living in Ottawa, Guelph and Vancouver.

Chantel Varnado has worked as a Worship Arts Director overseeing many areas in church music ministry including worship teams, drama, specialty arts, choirs, and creative arts. She has been a worship leader and a speaker in various denominations for church services, conferences and retreats. As a gifted singer and songwriter, she expresses her love for God and effectively leads others in a deeper experience of worship. Chantel has been featured on many worship projects and has just recorded her first worship album, Kingdom United, scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2019.

Chantel currently serves as the Worship Arts Director at Grace and Peace Church in the Austin area of Chicago, IL. She is invited to lead in worship, train and equip, and share her story across the country.

Laura Veenema is a Reading Specialist and former Language Arts teacher with a B.A. from Calvin College and an M.A. from Saint Xavier University. She has an incredible husband, and they live in the Chicago area with their beautiful baby boy. She now works from home as a mom and literacy tutor.

Martin Vegt emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands at the age of 14, and worked as a professional photographer for 40 years. He is a graduate of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and has served as Elder at East Hill Community Church in Vernon, British Columbia for many years. Martin shares 4 children and 8 grandchildren with his wife of 45 years, Frances. Now retired, he spends his days caring for laying hens, tending a large plot of raspberries, and advocating for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine.

Cindy Verbeek is a Do Justice columnist and board member for Diaconal Ministries Canada. She has worked as a volunteer and board member and has been a staff member of A Rocha Canada since 1996. A Rocha is an international conservation organization working to show God’s love to all creation. She is now working as the Northern British Columbia representative and community mobilizer. Cindy volunteers as a stream-keeper, and manages the Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery, an A Rocha project raising coho salmon, providing environmental education and participating in habitat restoration projects. She attends Houston CRC, where she coordinates the church’s community garden, and she is the regional Climate Witness Project contact for British Columbia.

Rachel VerWys recently moved to West Michigan after living many years in Southern California. Her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband, Ryan, and their four kids, Malachi, Abram, Ezekiel, and Selah. She volunteers as the Board President for Communities First Association, a national organization committed to asset based community development. She also serves on the the board of Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders, an organization that invests in emerging youth and adult leaders. She studied social work at Calvin College and the University of Southern California, where she focused on community organizing, planning, and administration. She worked in community development in Southern California for 14 years through Kingdom Causes Bellflower. She is passionate about engaging in conversations and work that advance shalom in people’s lives, along neighborhood sidewalks, and in local institutions.

Joshua Vis (jvis@rca.org) is the Church Engagement Facilitator for Israel and Palestine for the Reformed Church in America. In this role, he leads immersion tours of Israel and Palestine with the aim of teaching participants about the biblical stories, the history, archaeology, and the geography of Israel and Palestine, along with the realities of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Josh does a podcast called the Viscast, preaches and teaches in local churches, and organizes educational events on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Josh has a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Duke University and, upon completion of his doctoral degree, he spent two years teaching Old Testament to graduate students at Universidade Metodista de São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil. Previous to his current position, Joshua taught New Testament for two years at Central College in Pella, Iowa. Joshua is a Do Justice columnist. 

Marie is the Communications and Team Coordinator for the Office of Social Justice and a co-editor of Do Justice. A life-long member of the CRC, she loves the Contemporary Testimony, good design, DIY projects, anything striped, and helping the Church be a prophetic voice. As a Grand Rapids transplant from the Chicago area, Marie is fascinated by the way place shapes our interactions and identities. 

Anna Vogt recently graduated with what she likes to call her Masters Degree of Real Life: two years living and working in the community of Mampujan on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia with the Mennonite Central Committee‘s Seed Program. Since then, she has transitioned to the capital of Colombia, Bogota, where she continues to work with MCC and their partner Justapaz. She loves coffee, llamas, and writing about life through her blog: thellamadiaries.wordpress.com. 

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