Adult Leader Interest Center Speaker Bios

Rev. Barry Akers

Pastor Barry Akers is from Kokomo, Indiana, where he is the Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer. He is a father of three and their spouses as well as grandfather to one. Pastor Barry has been a part of 23 teams of youth and adults on servant events and mission trips to Missouri, New York, Mexico, Sierra Leone, West Africa, and India. In addition, he has served as the Community Life Leader and an assistant site leader for 9 youth servant events at his home congregation. He is the pastoral advisor to the LCMS Servant Event Committee.

Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer

Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer is director of LCMS Youth Ministry and has been in the Youth Ministry Office since 1979. He graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City with a degree in art education. He graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL. His first call was to teach religion and art at Lutheran High School, New Orleans. He was also pastor at St. John Lutheran Church, Farley, MO. He is the author of five books and composer of more than 40 hymns and spiritual songs. Married to Cherie, they have five adult-children and five grandchildren.

Audrey Duensing-Werner, DCE

After 8 National Youth Gatherings, and 20 years of DCE experience, Iowa native Audrey has built a few relationships. She currently serves at Faith Lutheran in Topeka, Kansas, where she works with youth, families, and leading contemporary music. As a people-person and energetic, Audrey seeks to make connections in relationship whether speaking at a district gathering, designing curriculum, or driving hundreds of miles to keep up with it all!

Sandra Grupe, DCE

Sandra Grupe has lived in Texas since 2002 after moving from Maryland with her family. She loves it but forever remain a diehard Redskin fan in Cowboy country! God has blessed Sandra with a beautiful husband and three wonderful children ages 16, 14 and 12. Her family stays busy like any other, but treasures most their Friday nights together over movies, games, and ice cream sundaes!Sandra currently serve as a DCE at Prince of Peace in Carrollton, TX supporting a team of passionate souls that lead in the areas of Family Ministry (birth to senior high) and Missions.

Sarah Guldalian

Sarah is producer of five14 and MISSION U, evangelism training programs from Lutheran Hour Ministries. Since 2005, she has presented nationally at congregations and conventions on the topic of shining for Christ. Prior to joining LHM, Sarah worked in broadcasting for ABC, Warner Brothers', National Public Radio and Emmis Communications. There she recognized the need for Christians in media. Guldalian is a graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She received a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication with a major in broadcasting. Sarah is thankful to be God's child, Justin's wife, and Zane and Madison's mom.

Tricia Hamilton, DCE

Tricia is a Texas DCE who went to college and grad school with her sights set on working in wildlife and fisheries science.  God had different plans for her, and she has spent the last twelve years working with a different kind of wildlife - middle and high school students.  Tricia loves reading, spending time outdoors, and is undefeated at Around the World Ping Pong at her church.  She feels God's call on her life is to help students see themselves as the beloved children of a loving God, so that they may live lives that honor him.

Brandon Heath, DCE

Brandon Heath has been a Director of Christian Education at Christ Lutheran in La Mesa, CA for the past 13 years. It was here that he first became interested in Young Adult Ministry. Working with Young Adult Volunteers at the 2010 NYG led him to advocate for Young Adults, planning Mission Trips for Young Adults and helping train churches and individual adults to minister to this Millennial Generation.

Rev. Leon Jameson

15+ years. 20+ Servant Events. 6+ NYGs. 2+ physical injuries suffered in group building games (ask him). Leon draws from his experience serving youth and families to deliver a mix of creative, realistic and useable ideas that will help you thrive as a volunteer youth leader at the 2013 NYG and beyond.

Dr. Christine Lawton Ross, DCE

Christine Lawton Ross (PhD) is currently Professor of Christian Education and Director of the DCE program at Concordia University Irvine. Christine has been a DCE in Oregon, Missouri and Texas, a Christian School teacher in inner-city Philadelphia, and a teacher/administrator at St. Louis University and Concordia Irvine. Christine teamed with Dr. Holly Allen to write Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (InterVarsity Press, November, 2012). Christine loves old homes, gardening, and hanging out with her students.

Rev. Billy Newell

Pastor Billy is from Houston, Texas! It's just a few miles southeast of San Antonio! The best thing about him is his wife, Kristen, and his son, Josiah. Pastor Billy has served for four years as a minister to youth and young adults in St. Louis, MO. After being invited to church by a high school friend, Pastor Billy began a journey where he experienced a new kind of love that has never let him go. From youth group to the National Youth Gathering, God uses many hands and feet to love on Pastor Billy. Now, he loves on you!

Joel Oesch, DCE

Joel is the Director of Graduate Programs for Theology at Concordia University, Irvine.  After graduating from CUI in 1997, he served as a youth minister for congregations in Hawaii and Texas, respectively, for the next ten years.  Joel has studied graduate-level theology at Yale University (MDiv, '09) and Concordia Graduate School in St. Louis.  Currently, he is working on his doctoral thesis on the interaction between Lutheran theology and online social networks.  He has been married for 7 years to his lovely wife, Tiffany.  They live in Aliso Viejo, California, and have one child, Harrison (almost 2yrs). 

Kimberly Powers

As author, proven communicator, and national youth speaker with more than 17 years of experience, Kimberly Powers shares inspirational messages of hope, encouragement, and God's truth –challenging teens to walk the talk of their faith. As a guest of Christian Media, she has been featured on The 700 Club, Focus on the Family's Radio Broadcast as well as 100 Huntley Street - "Full Circle". She communicates effectively with ease and confidence. Speaking with parents, teens, and youth mentors, Kimberly shares Godly wisdom and practical advice - helping teens navigate through the heart issues facing them in their culture today.

Scott Rauch, DCE

Scott Rauch has served as director of Christian education at Trinity Lutheran Church, Peoria, IL since 1998. He has served the Lord alongside his wife Joan, his kids, Micah and Hannah, and many fellow children, youth and adult disciples since 1986. In addition to enjoying soccer, guitar and reading, Scott most enjoys being a fellow sheep in the pasture of the Great Shepherd.

Bethany Ramse

Bethany Ramse serves as a Director of Christian Education & Outreach in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bethany loves teaching! Some of her favorite experiences of leading Bible studies have been as a missionary in Tokyo, leading young adults connected to the World Mission Prayer League, and with youth and adults at Peace Lutheran Church in Minnesota. In addition to working with her congregation, she loves spending time with her husband, drinking tea, getting together with friends and watching movies about spies. Her favorite books of the Bible are Judges, John and Philippians. This is her 3rd National Youth Gathering!

Dr. Dave Rueter, DCE Dave has served as a DCE in Texas and California. He is an original KINDLE Associate, holds an MA in Faith & Culture, as well as PhD in Educational Studies (focus: Confirmation). He currently serves a bi-vocational call as a professor of Christian Education at Concordia University, Irvine and as Youth & Family Ministry Facilitator for the Pacific Southwest District. He is a volunteer youth leader at his church in Anaheim.  Most importantly, Dave has been married to his wife Andrea for 10 years and is the proud father of James and Wesley.
Denise Webb

Denise Webb has been the Executive Director of Risk Management and Insurance for The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod for the past 10 years. Denise holds a Bachelors degree with an emphasis in Finance/Risk Management & Insurance and a minor in Finance from Memphis State University and has been employed as either a Risk Manager or Insurance Broker for the past 17 years. Denise has solid corporate global risk management, insurance, and broker experience including significant acquisition activity, financial and statistical analysis, and currently administers a master risk management and insurance program for The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod of over $2 billion dollars in insurable assets and over 5,000 employees. Denise's prior work experience also includes risk management for oil refineries, telecommunication companies, and state municipalities.

Dr. Jacob Youmans, DCE

Jacob Youmans has served as a Youth and Family Minister in Hawaii and California, and in 2009, he started as the Director of the Director of Christian Education program at Concordia University Texas. Jake has led mission teams to every continent except Antarctica, authored two books: Talking Pictures: How to Turn a Trip to the Movies into a Mission Trip and Abba Daddy Do: Adventures in Child-Like Faith, and has spoken to groups of students and adults all over the world. He's married to Christy, an artist and musician, and has two princesses, Maile who's 9 and Leilani who's 8.