Leading with Brave Hearts

Adventist Young Professionals Convention Equips Young Adults From Across North America

On July 29-31, 2022, Adventist Young Professionals (AYP) met for their second annual convention in Hurst, Texas, located in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Brave Hearts: Lead with Your Life was a 3-day leadership intensive weekend filled with inspiring stories, rich and practical ideas, and engagement with leadership experts. The vision of the convention was to break through the intimidating stigma many young adults face about leadership being tied to status or position, and to empower them to embrace the Biblical model that leadership is centered on: having a brave heart for Christ. 

As a global organization that fosters a Christ-centered culture of community, faith, and service, AYP welcomed nearly 250 attendees from various industries united with a longing to network with each other and grow in leadership. From dynamic keynote sessions that spoke to Biblical principles of leadership to workshop sessions that deep dived into those principles, attendees were infused with actionable leadership insight. The experience of the young adult professionals that gathered from all over the country was nothing short of meaningful and empowering.

Accompanied by the Younger Generation worship team that opened up Friday evening with a vibrant and expressive worship, Dr. MyRon Edmonds, keynote speaker, pastor, author, and leadership coach, set the tone for the rest of the convention. He addressed the importance of integrity with self and strengthening one’s mental fitness as a precursor to leadership: “God is looking for people with issues who have acknowledged they have issues who are brave enough to confront and deal with their issues.” Dr. Edmonds shared vulnerably about a past that had affected his leadership potential, authentic connections with his family and friends, and spiritual growth. He closed the evening with a powerful statement for young adult professionals to ponder on: “As leaders, you will either influence people with your saboteurs [fears] or with your sage [faith and love].” 

The weekend carried on with the same vitality  that it began with, packed with enriching talks to help attendees grow personally, spiritually, and professionally, and with deliberate networking opportunities for young adults to develop authentic connections. There were various workshops led by leaders who shared their insights and expertise. Dr. Craig Foster, a practicing dentist from Florida, discussed leading with purpose and calling. Pierre Monice, a hospital president from Illinois, navigated through leadership lessons centered on leading like Jesus. Victoria Okotie and Mildred Mabirzi, engineers by trade from Texas, shared the difference between management and leadership. Reuben Covarrubias, the Capacity Development Advisor for Adventist Disaster Relief Agency (ADRA) and certified emotional intelligence coach from Maryland, discussed the importance of emotional intelligence as a foundation for self-leadership in order to lead others. 

“I was excited to see the keynote speaker Myron Edmonds and the rest of the presenters not only talk about leadership but [also] what it means to be a leader from a Christian and practical standpoint focusing on character development and resiliency.” shares Gabriel Saldana, an attendee from Alabama. Young adults in attendance were able to take away leadership principles and useful skills to use in their contexts of influence, regardless of their professional fields. And for young adults seeking ways to bridge leadership opportunities, there were many exhibition booths from global ministries that AYP hosted that people could visit and possibly get involved with.

AYP’s innovation has grown beyond its original form three years ago. It has had an incredible global impact as a grassroots organization, engaging a community of over 6000 Adventist young adults from six continents.

“When AYP launched in fall of 2019, we never imagined that an Instagram page, focused on connecting young professionals, would grow to a global organization with thousands of members, dozens of AYP chapters & groups, and an annual convention that unites and grows servant leaders for Christ,” shared Tim Kosaka, the President and founder of AYP. “God took a desire to help fellow young people actively engage in faith and multiplied it beyond our wildest dreams. He equipped AYP with the people and resources needed to support young Adventists professionals during an unexpected pandemic. And as our world re-opened, He brought us together through grassroots gatherings that instilled community, faith, and service. As we reflect on the past three years of ministry, and embark on the season ahead, we are excited for what God has planned for the next chapter of AYP.”

With a vision to thrive as a global hub of local communities that unites, engages, and inspires Adventist young adults, AYP has expanded their programs and resources for people to be plugged in through a discipleship and mentorship framework. Activities and events are grounded in the values of AYP which are centered on growing in faith, living in integrity, and serving in love together. 

Caleb Haakenson, a convention attendee from Maryland, shares his personal experience with AYP in general: “We realize that we can still be professionals in the world in all sorts of different fields but still have a unified purpose for reaching others for Jesus’s love. I just think it’s great.” Many other attendees from across North America expressed their gratitude for the convention’s promotion of a positive culture, for equipping spiritual leaders with practical toolkits to takeaway, and especially the opportunity to fellowship and network with other Adventist young professionals. 

AYP returns to Hurst, Texas on July 28-30, 2023, for their third annual convention “Thrive: The Next Level,” which is expected to welcome nearly 400 young adults from across the globe. “I think the AYP conference is a great gathering of like-minded individuals who are really focused on growing their careers and just going further with their professional journey,” shares Pierre Monice. “I am looking forward to seeing the results [of this year’s leadership convention] and being back next year.” 

Until Thrive, young adults looking to be part of a Christ-centered community where they can thrive in their spiritual and professional lives may consider joining a local chapter, participating in an online small group, or acquiring faith resources and ministry toolkits offered by AYP. With many opportunities to get involved regardless of one’s profession or location, AYP truly is a community with space for each and every young adult. Visit www.AYP.me to join the international community.


This article was written by Cinthya Molina who serves as Assistant to the Adventist Young Professionals President for Strategy.

Leia Kennedy, Director of Marketing
Leia.Kennedy@AYP.me | 877-297-1844 x0

Convention Sponsors

Adventist Young Professionals’ 2022 Brave Hearts Convention was made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors. Visit AYP.me/sponsor for more information about partnering with AYP.

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Justin & Sheree Kelly

Meet Sheree Kelly, a spirited and visionary leader in elementary education with over a decade of transformative experience. A proud alumna of Oakwood University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, Sheree has earned accolades aplenty, including the illustrious Southwestern Union Conference Teacher of Excellence award in 2023. Her dedication to nurturing young minds is enhanced by a Counseling endorsement on her denominational certification, showcasing her commitment to comprehensive student well-being.

Justin Kelly is a dynamic professional whose expertise spans education, information technology, and missionary work. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Oakwood College and a Master’s Degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Justin is a tech-savvy trailblazer. He is the creative force behind Superscrum.net, a cutting-edge blog on agile software development techniques, making waves in the tech community.
This powerhouse couple, Justin and Sheree, shine as local elders at Fondren Seventh Day Adventist Church in Houston, Texas. They’ve also shared their talents as elementary teachers at Excel Adventist Academy. Beyond their professional roles, they are known for their love of salsa dancing, country music, and throwing unforgettable themed parties. Their true passion lies in building community through small group studies, potlucks, and engaging events at their home in Fresno, Texas.
Justin and Sheree excel in mastering the delicate art of balancing life, work, and church. They champion the virtues of temperance and healthy boundaries, ensuring harmony in all aspects of life. With nearly eight joyful years of marriage, their unwavering faith in Jesus Christ fuels their journey and dedication.

Daniel Pino

Daniel Pino Romero serves as a pastor at the Houston Spanish Northwest SDA Church.

Dr. Tom Grove

Dr. Tom Grove is a proud native of Pennsylvania who calls Texas home. He is serving as the
Associate Director for Ministry & Evangelism for the Texas Conference. He also serves as the
English Men’s Volunteer Coordinator for the Conference. Prior to his transition to the Texas
Conference office, he served as the Executive Pastor of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist
Church in Arlington, Texas. Before coming to Texas, he spent 15 years pastoring in the
Pennsylvania Conference. He is an alumnus of Columbia Union College (now Washington
Adventist University) as well as Andrews University where he received his Master of Divinity
and his Doctor of Ministry. He is the author of the Men’s Spiritual Leadership curriculum,
Joshua’s Men, which is published by AdventSource and is being used throughout the North
American Division to mentor men to be leaders in their homes, communities, and churches.

He has been married to his wonderful wife Deborah, a Speech-Language Pathologist, for 27
years and is the proud father of Mark and Caroline. In his time off, he loves reading, traveling,
playing racquetball and cheering for all the sports teams who call Pittsburgh home.

Xav Handfield

Xavyance “Xav” Handfield is a nationally recognized speaker, health and wellness activator, educator and is the CEO of the Handfield Group, LLC. His mission is to use his gifts and his voice to inspire and evoke change in the world. In 2015, he started his speaking career and has been blessed to inspire and speak to thousands of individuals across the country for corporate events, churches, and community organizations. In 2017, he created Plant Based Brotha, which initially started to empower people to be able to transition to a plant-based lifestyle but has since pivoted to teaching others that health and wellness is a holistic experience.

Xav is excited about life and is a living testament that our gifts make room for us, and he truly works towards God’s purpose. He is married to his wife Jasmine, and they just welcomed their first child, a baby girl in April. Xav aspires to inspire before he expires and has a favorite verse, Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Michal Anne Whitcomb

Michal Anne Whitcomb is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Dallas, Texas. Michal has spent her 16 year career dedicated to the empowerment, healing, and growth of her clients.  She began her career at Genesis Women’s Shelter, where she worked with women and children impacted by domestic violence. Michal continued her work with children and their families at Dallas ISD’s Youth and Family Centers. In 2012, she began her private practice in Dallas, Texas, where she works with adults, teens, and families on issues of depression, anxiety, grief/loss, relational issues, and trauma. Michal has training in several modalities, many related to the treatment of trauma and adverse experiences. Michal is Certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), an evidenced-based trauma treatment, and is also an EMDR Consultant-in-Training. Michal lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband, Levi, and their two children. If she is not at work, you can usually find Michal playing softball, singing at church, or enjoying a hike.

Stephen and Felecia Lee

Stephen and Felecia Lee are a mission-minded creative duo. Stephen founded a marketing business, and Felecia is a homemaker. They led at ASI and spoke at GYC, SAC, AYP, and conference events. Based in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, their talks on communication, relationships, productivity, and faith empower individuals to inspire change.

Costin Jordache, MA, MBA, APR

Costin Jordache serves as Vice President of System Strategy and Brand Development for Adventist HealthCare, a healthcare system operating in Maryland and Washington DC. In his role, Costin oversees strategic planning and development, as well as public relations, marketing and communication for the healthcare system.

Over the last 25 years, he has served in leadership roles including News Editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, Vice President for Communication in the Central California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Director of Communication in the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor for Media at the Loma Linda University Church and Senior Pastor of the Dallas First Church.

Costin holds a Masters degree in Radio, Television & Film from the University of Texas at Austin as well as an MBA from California State University, along with a BA in Theology and Biblical Languages from Southwestern Adventist University. Costin is accredited in Public Relations by the Public Relations Society of America.

He specializes in strategic communication and media leadership, public relations, teaching, strategic planning and organizational leadership.

Costin is married to Leah Jordache. They have two sons, Roman, 18 and Lance 16.

David Asscherick

David is a speaker/director for Light Bearers and ARISE co-founder and instructor. Since his baptism in 1999, David has traveled the globe preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He and his wife Violeta are the happy parents of two boys, Landon and Jabel.

Keynote Speaker

Benjamin Lundquist, host of Rise & Lead, will headline 2023 AYP Convention.

Benjamin Lundquist is a top motivational speaker and one the leading voices for leadership development and empowerment. He is passionate about helping students and professionals see their worth and value, see themselves as a leader, and see their potential to change the world. The message he shares is motivating, relatable, and highly practical. Audiences are challenged to take extreme ownership of the unique gifts and opportunities they have. He is an international speaker and host of Rise and Lead Podcast which has been downloaded in over 110 countries providing aspiring and experienced leaders of all ages with world-class content and conversation. He frequently speaks at corporate and faith events, universities, and high schools.

Identity in Christ | Breakout Track

April is currently an associate pastor for discipleship at Keene SDA church. She is enrolled in a dual graduate program for Public Health and MDIV chaplaincy. She enjoys working with different ministries that highlight service, hospitality, and life enrichment. 

Her hobbies include traveling, reading, music, and extreme sports. An introvert at heart, she enjoys moments with close friends and in the quiet. Her and her husband, Blake Snyder reside in Burleson, Texas.

Purpose & Calling | Breakout Track

Ann Roda likes to describe her life as one long adventure with God. She began her career as a registered nurse in OB then transitioned into healthcare administration. Then, God unexpectedly redirected her path to the Adventist Theological Seminary, for an MDiv, and into pastoral ministry. She spent 15 years as a church pastor in Marietta, Georgia and Fulton, Maryland. Six years ago, God had another adventure for Ann, and called her back into the health care ministry, serving with Adventist HealthCare as Vice President for Mission and Spiritual Care. 

This position is the perfect combination of both pastoral ministry and health care. Ann is married to Jose Hernandez, a licensed professional counselor. Ann and her husband enjoy hiking, biking, and traveling.

Relationships | Breakout Track

Stephen and Felecia Lee are partners in the mission. They share a mutual passion for young adult ministries and using their talents to share the Gospel online and through speaking engagements. Stephen helps individuals and businesses function more efficiently through time management and productivity techniques. Felecia is a full-time homemaker and also the founder of the New Wives Club. 

In addition to this, she runs a program teaching women of color how to learn principles of faith through natural hair care. They live in New Hampshire and speak in different places on topics related to singleness, courtship, communication, evangelism, and faith.

Spiritual Health | Breakout Track

Shawn is passionate about generations coming together! She grew up in a four-generation family business and knows, from first-hand experience, that when people of all ages work together, everyone wins!

She has a B.S. in marketing from the University of Nebraska and is an award-winning sales and marketing professional. Her professional certifications include being a member of the John Maxwell Team and DISC Behavioral Consultant. Recently she published her first book “Strategies for Generational Inclusion at Work.”

Communities | Breakout Track

Michael Gibson currently serves as the Lead Pastor at the Keene SDA Church where he most previously served for four years as Pastor for Young Adults and lead Elevate, a growing and thriving young adult community in Keene. Michael is married to Melissa and they both enjoy the outdoors, long walks, and traveling to new, unexplored places. 

Most days, when he’s not teaching, preaching or studying, you’ll find him playing disc golf or working on home renovations with Melissa. They recently welcomed their son, Micah Eden, into the world last October and ever since, life has taken on a whole new meaning. Above all, Michael and Melissa have a passion for discipleship and telling others about the incredible God they serve. For them, the gospel boils down to loving God and loving people.