The purpose of the Special Needs conference is to provide you with training, tools, and resources to equip you and your church to either start a ministry to individuals and families affected by disabilities or to improve your current ministry. If your concern is how to be more effective in outreach, what does inclusion within the church look like, or you would like to be more knowledgeable in engaging the world’s largest unreached people group, this conference will provide all of that and more!
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POSTPONED: BCM/D Special Needs Conference
March 28 @ 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
8:30-9:00 Registration / resource tables
9:00-9:40 Welcome, prayer, worship
9:40-10:10 Keynote Address – Sandra Peoples
10:15-11:10 Breakout Sessions
11:10-11:40 Keynote Address – Dr. Lamar Hardwick
11:40-12:30 Lunch (Will include update from Colonial BC about special needs partnership in the Dominican Republic)
12:45-1:35 Breakout Sessions
1:35-1:55 Keynote – Amberle Brown
1:55-2:05 Partnership Explanation and Opportunities – Tom Stolle
2:05-2:10 – Closing prayer
In 2014, after years of silently struggling with social anxiety and sensory processing disorder, and a host of other significant issues, Dr. Hardwick was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He was 36 years old when diagnosed. Dr. Hardwick has had articles published by various autism and disability websites such as The Mighty, The Huffington Post, Key Ministry, and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, to name a few. His articles and blogs can also be found on his website autismpastor.com. Dr. Hardwick is the author of the best-selling book I am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor.
Sandra Peoples (M. Div, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is one of the leading voices in the special-needs community. She is the author of three books: Speechless: Finding God’s Grace in My Son’s Autism, Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip, and Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family. Sandra formerly served as the executive editor and social media manager for Key Ministry and Not Alone, and her writing has been featured by FamilyLife Today, DaySpring, Parenting Teens (LifeWay), and Crosswalk. Sandra and her husband Lee, have two sons—David and James. James has level 3 autism. They live outside of Houston, TX, where Lee is a pastor, and Sandra serves as their church’s special-needs ministry director. Sandra also has a sister with Down syndrome, which gives her a life-long perspective on being in a special-needs family.
Bergina Brickhouse Isbell, MD is America’s Spiritual and Mental Health Doctor and she believes there is a cure for cancer of the soul. The author of Victory Over Depression With and Without Medicines and Come to the Table: A Special Needs Devotional has been recognized as an influencer who combines the sacred with the scientific. She has been described as a combination of Dr. Oz meets Dr. Caroline Leaf.
Dr. Bergina, as she is affectionately called by clients and patients, has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Autism Society, Society of Surgical Technologists, Curves Rock, Mocha Moms, and BizKids. In addition to being a featured broadcaster on Periscope by Twitter for their Wellness Warriors program, expertise from her signature process for mental health coaching has been featured in SHAPE magazine and on WGTS 91.9 radio. Dr. Bergina is a Board Certified Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic trained Psychiatrist recognized for her specialization in the treatment of patients with trauma, depression, and special needs, including autism. She is the founder of Led Life, LLC, a mental health consulting practice where she provides corporate wellness and individual psychiatric services. She provides mental health coaching through Growing in Grace Life Coaching, LLC. When not using the world as a classroom for her two homeschooled children, she enjoys Bible journaling, ballroom dancing with her husband, and doing burpees.
Katie is the parent of a child with special needs, the cohort coordinator for The Banquet Network and the director of a special needs children’s ministry called Bethany Blessings in Columbia, Maryland. She is passionate about bringing the gospel to families of individuals with special needs and seeks to train other church members on how to minister to these families. As a mom and a previous public school special educator she knows first-hand what a blessing it can be to work with those who have disabilities, particularly children and young adults.
From the age of seven, Amberle felt called to be a missionary to an unreached people group. However, at the age of 21, a rare disease left her eyes legally blind, and her hopes seemingly dashed. In a beautiful story of redemption, God called Amberle to be a missionary to the largest unreached people group in the world – people with disabilities. In 2017, Amberle co-founded The Banquet Network, an organization that works with churches to help them to reach and include people with disabilities. She also works with World Relief, an organization committed to empowering the Church to serve the most vulnerable around the world.
Pastor Jim and his family came to GBC in February of 2017 after serving churches in New Jersey and Maryland. He and his wife, Sarah, were born and grew up in central New Jersey. Having met early in high school, they were married in August of 2001. Together, they have five beautiful daughters who keep them on the go.
In addition to pastoring, he has worked as a Middle School Bible and Math teacher at Christian schools in North Carolina and Maryland and as an adjunct professor at Washington Bible College and Judson Bible College. Pastor Jim earned his Bible Certificate from Washington Bible College, his Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Lancaster Bible College. He earned a Masters of Religious Education from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently, he is working on his Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Hunter Brown serves as the Director of Operations for The Banquet Network. He is passionate about helping churches work together to reach people with disabilities with the gospel. In addition to his work with The Banquet Network, Hunter works at Goucher College as the men’s and women’s golf coach and is a part-time student in a Masters of Arts in Theology program at St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore.
Tom serves as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s associate executive director, through whom all staff is accountable to the executive director. A licensed CPA in the state of Maryland, Tom directs, supervises, and coordinates the finance, accounting, and budgeting operations of the BCM/D.
Tom and his wife, Shelley, have been married for over 25 years and have three sons, JT, Jake, and Jimmy, a child with autism. This journey has sparked a passion within Tom to assist our churches in the area of effective special needs ministry.