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Columnists

Troy Rienstra joined Safe & Just Michigan in 2017. As Outreach Director he works to advance the organization’s outreach program by elevating the voices of people directly harmed by the effects of crime and punishment. He is responsible for outreach activities to crime survivors, formerly incarcerated individuals, their family members, and the faith community. Prior to serving as Outreach Director, Troy founded the Network for Real Change, and worked as program coordinator at the Church of the Servant – Prisoners in Christ. Troy completed 22 years of a life sentence in Michigan, during which he obtained training in critical thinking, communication, substance abuse awareness, and conflict resolution.

Rev. Reggie Smith is the director of the Office of Race Relations and the Office of Social Justice. Before his current position, Rev. Reggie led Roosevelt Park Community CRC on the southwest side of Grand Rapids, Michigan for twenty years. He has been president of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association (RPNA) board for 18 years. Through collaboration between the church and RPNA, the neighborhood has built and owned its library and arts academy and decreased gang violence. The church started Roosevelt Park Ministries, a nonprofit ministry that sought to equip children with mentors, translation service, and ESL services, for almost two decades. Dr. Smith has taught urban ministry and urban development courses at Calvin Theological Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. [Image from A. Cantrell Photo]

JJ TenClay spent four years in Italy as a missionary for the Reformed Church in America (RCA) working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. She returned to the United States in July 2018 and is now the Refugee Ministries Coordinator for RCA Global Missions. She is thankful to have seen the image of God reflected so diversely in the faces of those to whom—and with whom—she served abroad, and is excited to continue serving the RCA as it continues to develop a faithful response to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

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. Thyra is a Do Justice columnist

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.

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.

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. 

Rebecca is Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at The King’s University in Edmonton, after spending several years at the Ronning Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus. She has served the Christian Reformed Church in many roles, including acting as the first female chair of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee, co-chair of the Christian Reformed/Reformed Church in America task force (presenting to the joint synod in 2014), and delegate to several regional gatherings of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. She is currently serving as Vice President on the board of World Renew Canada, and continues to volunteer in a program for women re-integrating into the community after time in the corrections system.

 

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