Meet the 2019-20 NBA XPLOR Residents
Now in its sixth year, NBA XPLOR is a 10-month service residency opportunity for young adults ages 21-30, with the purpose of empowering young adults to discern and develop a “heart for care” as they live together in simple community, engage in direct service and justice work, engage in leadership development, and discern their vocational calls to honor the various communities they are called to serve. Learn more and apply at nbacares.org/xplor.
Kristen Valentine (Bloomington)
This past May, Kristen graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Criminology with a minor in History from the University of Lynchburg, (formerly Lynchburg College) a historic Disciples-related school. During her college career, she worked in several campus offices, volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club where she helped students with their homework, and was part of the Black Student Union. Her home church is Christ Temple Apostolic in Danville, Virginia which is a medium size congregation with a diverse group of people. At church, she sings in the praise and worship team and is the praise dance leader. Kristen has a passion for advocating for children, especially those who have been abused. Her end goal is to become part of the FBI, working special cases. As soon as she attended an information session about XPLOR on her campus, she knew she wanted to be part of the program. She believes she will complete this program “a better and smarter person who is sure about my next step in life.”
Adrian Griffin (Bloomington)
Adrian is from Fayetteville, Arkansas, a college-town with a lot of soul. Growing up in First Christian Church of Fayetteville, Adrian was a part of a large, but tight-knit youth group. She was also an avid member of the choir and praise band. He often sings in two choirs as his father is director at FCC and his mother is director at the UU Fellowship in Fayetteville. He has participated in mission trips to New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Nashville. Adrian describes himself as a caring person who has an has an abiding love of art, music (singing and drumming), comedy, dancing, animals, fiction writing and playing/running tabletop games. Currently, he works as a cook, but has also worked as a baker and a child counselor. Adrian’s ultimate goal is to be a writer and musician. When he first heard about XPLOR in a presentation at his church, he became very interested because he says he is “driven to do good for others first and himself second.” Adrian is both scared and excited as he thinks about living in a new place and having so many new experiences.
Miche Andre (Bloomington)
Miche Andre is an enthusiastic artist from Naples, Florida ready to engage in intentional community. He has been a long-time member of the Naples New Haitian Church of the Nazarene, where he serves as a Sunday School teacher to elementary school children. He’s also a member of the Habitat for Humanity team in Naples as a Family Services Support Assistant. In June 2019, he graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan with a BA in Spanish. During his junior year, he spent a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. He is passionate about issues relating to the environment, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigration. Miche finds joy in expressing his artistic ability through drawing, in being around people, and in adding to his ever-growing list of languages to study. He is already fluent in English, Haitian Creole, Spanish and French and is learning Welsh. He learned about XPLOR from a Hope College friend who served in XPLOR last year. While in the XPLOR program, his goal is to is to “find growth in my experience with God outside of the faith community I have known since I was five years old. I want to see how I can be an independent adult while being a vessel of change in a community for Jesus.”
Cassandra (Cassie) Sos (Dallas)
Cassie’s home church is the Chuukese Christian Church of Honolulu, Hawaii. A small congregation that speaks Chuukese, a native language of Chuuk, one of the small islands of Micronesia. Cassie was born in Guam, but has been raised in Honolulu all her life. She is studying in the medical field to become a certified medical assistant. Cassie is one of the young adult female members of her church which she attends faithfully. She’s also served as a secretary of the youth leadership team. She heard about XPLOR at a Winter NAPAD Retreat in Southern California and was immediately excited about applying. She is thrilled that she will be living in a large city with so many opportunities to learn about diverse populations and different cultures than what she’s grown up with in Hawaii. Cassie seeks to build more knowledge to help herself and others spiritually, physically and emotionally.
Evan Gough (Dallas)
Evan’s home church is Christian Temple (Disciples of Christ), in Catonsville, Maryland. This past May he graduated with a degree in Communication with Social Influence and a Business minor, from the historic Disciples-related school, University of Lynchburg (formerly Lynchburg College) in Lynchburg, Virginia. Evan believes his leadership and communication skills are his best qualities. While at Lynchburg, he founded a new service fraternity and is part of several other fraternities/honor societies. He loves theater and has been very involved in college productions. He has a love for people and seeks to create meaningful relationships with the people he meets. After two years in the Bonners Leadership program at Lynchburg, in his senior year, he completed an internship with the program. There, he found his passion for service, and also learned he enjoyed leading people, and creating meaningful relationships along the way.
Byron Nelson (Dallas)
Byron is from First Christian Church of Maryville, Missouri, a small college town home to Northwest Missouri State University where he graduated in May with his degree in Human Services and Gerontology. Byron has a passion for learning new things, working with senior adults and children, as well as music. His senior internship was at the Nodaway County Senior Center where he created a Senior in Need Volunteer Program. He has developed a very meaningful friendship with a retired Methodist minister from India, for whom he care-sits two hours every afternoon. He regularly plays piano and pipe organ for local churches and is part of the music staff at FCC. He also accompanies the University Chorale and Celebration Show Choir. Although he did not grow up in the Disciples denomination, he says he matured spiritually in college and his soul has found a home with Disciples. He is even open to a possible “call” to ministry. Byron loves reading about theology and Christian unity. He is passionate about finding common ground with people and building life-changing relationships with them.
Heidi George (Hiram-Mantu)
Heidi is a graduate of Jarvis Christian College, a Disciples-related Historically Black College/University in Hawkins, Texas where she majored in Kinesiology. She was the captain of the Jarvis women’s volleyball team and has served as Coaching Assistant for three years. During this time, she also received a Champion of Character honor for being a kind and responsible teammate. During her senior year, she served as the treasure for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and loves doing community service. She also worked in the Jarvis Admissions Office throughout her college career. Heidi hopes to become a physical therapist after attending grad school and plans to work with younger kids. She loves to be around her line sisters and close friends laughing and dancing. She sees XPLOR as a big step in her life to experience a different place to live and become closer to God. She’s very excited about the XPLOR program and can’t wait to meet everyone!
Natalie Langham (Hiram-Mantu)
Natalie is a member of First Christian Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas where she has lived her whole life. This summer, she graduated from the University of Arkansas where she majored in English. She loves mission trips which have taken her to New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Cincinnati and Nashville and she routinely volunteers in a community homeless feeding program. Natalie’s hobbies include writing, reading and first and foremost music “I cannot go a day without it!” she says. She believes that one of her strongest skills is being a quick learner, which she applies to her everyday life by adjusting to new circumstances and change; this helps her get to know people and care for them. Like most XPLOR residents, staying away from home will be a challenge, but Natalie knows the rewards will be far greater. “It is up to us to change the world through the power of love flowing freely from heaven; and using God’s original power to create things.”
Jennifer Williams (Hiram-Mantu)
As a native of New Orleans, Jennifer strives for fun and excitement, all the while balancing being a scholarly and cultivated person. She is a recent graduate of the University of Lynchburg, in Lynchburg, Virginia, a historic Disciples-related school, where she became a member and officer of Alpha Phi Omega, a service organization. While pursuing a major in Chemistry with a minor in Creative Writing, she reached a Lab Tech Level 3 in a Lynchburg Engineering firm. During the summer of 2018, Jennifer took time to travel to South Korea to teach English as a second language and learn about a new culture. Her home church is Anointed Life International in Katy, Texas. She learned about XPLOR from the Disciples Chaplain at Lynchburg. When not pretending to be artsy, she loves to volunteer, especially at festivals. Jennifer hopes to own her own distillery one day and put a creative twist on the spirits industry. She loves fishing, watching documentaries, analyzing commercials and seafood. In her own personal life journey, she says, “I would love to focus on my spiritual well-being and well as my physical and mental well-being. I believe I can do this by being healthier and remembering and honoring my Heavenly Father.”
Monica Gabry (Spokane)
Monica’s home church is The Gathering Community Church in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, where she sang in the Praise Band and worked in childcare. In May 2019, she graduates with her bachelor’s in social work from Barton College, a historic Disciples-related school in Wilson, North Carolina. She is active in Sigma Sigma Sigma, has served as President of the Social Work Club, and has been active in campus religious life. She first heard about XPLOR at a week-end retreat at the Disciples Christmount Center. Monica has volunteered at many different social service agencies and helped coordinate many different community service and philanthropic projects. For her senior project, she spent 400 hours working at Wilson Veterans Residential Services. She loves to sing, craft, hike, drink coffee, admire sunflowers and serve others. She is very excited that XPLOR will help her figure out where God is calling her to work and live post-grad.
Meg Morrison (Spokane)
Meg is from Marietta, Georgia and graduated from the University of Georgia this past May. She studied Social Work and is passionate about fighting injustice in her community. Meg recently began attending Oconee Street United Methodist Church and has enjoyed getting to know that community. She’s participated in mission trips to Jamaica and Scotland and while at UGA studied abroad in England. She’s also worked two summer internships with Servants in Faith and Technology. She is currently interning at a substance abuse recovery center for women and has benefited from getting to know the women that she serves. She is very passionate about music, playing the guitar and singing and loves reading, coffee shops, traveling and meeting new people. Meg hopes that XPLOR will assist her in combining her commitment to both social justice and her faith.
Tristan Cole (Spokane)
Tristan’s home church is First Christian Church in Rogers, Arkansas, where he is an active long-time member. He has worked with the youth group for more than two years, counseled a regional church camps, and was a member of CROSS Training before graduating high school. CROSS Training is the award-winning youth ministry at FCC for those in grades 7-12. Tristan graduated from University of Arkansas in 2018 with a degree in chemical engineering. He has been on numerous mission trips with his church and participated in several community service projects with his engineering honor society. He has worked for five years at Home Depot, during and after college. He hopes to become either a process engineer or professor. He loves art, writing novels, and chemistry. He sees XPLOR as a wonderful opportunity to grow as a person and grow his faith through fellowship and outreach. He hopes to help others grow in their faith as well.
Rachel Shomali (Spokane)
Rachel is from Bethlehem, Palestine. She was born in Michigan but moved to Palestine when she was 12-years-old. She recently graduated from Birzeit University in Palestine with a degree in Marketing; during her college years she spent a semester abroad in Bilboa, Spain. In the summer of 2016, she served with Disciples Peace Fellowship as a Peace Intern and learned about Disciples while attending Disciples camps across the nation. In the summer of 2017, she served as an Intern at Vista La Mesa Christian Church in San Diego, California. Since 2013, she has worked with Spirit of Hope in Palestine, where she coordinates basketball tournaments and assists in public relations for this program with six high schools and numerous sports centers. She has been playing basketball for 10 years, and loves hiking, food and trying new things. She believes that “people, regardless of what religion, need to feel like they belong and are cared for,” and hopes XPLOR will expand her ability to create communities of compassion and care.
St. Louis, MO
Alex Keys (St. Louis)
Alex’s home church is Lone Pine Christian Church in Lone Pine, Pennsylvania, which is a small-town congregation in a rural community. In high school Alex played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and was also active in the Model UN program. He graduated in May from the historic Disciples-related, Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia with a BA in Political Science, where he also played on the college lacrosse team. He has taken mission trips to Columbia and Ecuador and since 2009, has been part of the Keystone Farm program in Amity, Pennsylvania working as a farm laborer with extensive knowledge of farm machinery and beef cattle farming. Alex has completed summer internships in congressional campaigns, and in Washington DC with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Embassy. A preacher’s kid, Alex says he’s a “reserved, but giving person who works hard to serve the people around him,” and hopes XPLOR will provide him the opportunity to explore different faith-based projects.
Corina Sosa (St. Louis)
Corina is from Arlington, Texas and their home church is Galileo Christian Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, where they served a term as President of the Missional Logistics Team. Corina graduated in December of 2018 from University of Texas-Arlington, with a BA in Theatre and a minor in Women and Gender Studies and has been involved in multiple productions both on and offstage, including a few film projects. They are especially passionate about queer fandom and hope to one day create their own media content that has positive and accurate queer representation. In their spare time, Corina likes to go see live shows, hang out with friends both on and offline, listen to podcasts and try out new restaurants. Her excitement of being part of the XPLOR program comes from the belief that “XPLOR would be a good time spent to put something positive into the world.”
William Brickhouse (St. Louis)
William is a Lynchburg, Virginia native; a member of First Christian Church, and a 2018 graduate of Lynchburg College with a BA in Sociology. With this degree he plans to enter the field of social work or human services. While at LC, he played varsity baseball, which he also played in high school and is truly an avid sports fan. While in high school he was able to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where he learned an important life lesson about doing the right thing when you feel called to do it. He has spent the past year volunteering and providing animal food in a program created by Meals on Wheels, called Ani-meals, for homebound individuals. Beyond sports, his passions include photography, animals, cooking, video games and traveling, which he hopes to include into his career. XPLOR has come along at just the right time for him as he has always known he wanted to do social justice work but has been uncertain about the right career choice. He says XPLOR fits the type of person he is and strives to be.
XPLORmore – Charlotte, NC
Mady McColm (Charlotte)
Mady McColm hails from Fort Scott, Kansas and received degrees in theatre, writing, and English from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. She spent her first XPLOR year in St. Louis, Missouri, working with DOORWAYS, an organization that provides housing and supportive services to people living with HIV. Mady is looking forward to her year of XPLORmore so that she can further experiment with how she fits best into the world of social justice. She loves reading, writing, swimming, and eating way too much hummus.
Marissa Bucklew (Charlotte)
Marissa Bucklew is a Lynchburg, Virginian, born and raised. She attended Disciples- affiliated Lynchburg College, where she graduated in May 2018 with a degree in Human Resource Management and Leadership. Marissa found her passion for community service through the Bonner Leader Program, which emphasizes community service and leadership development. Her home church is Bedrock Baptist Church in Lynchburg. Marissa is grateful for an opportunity to connect with a new community and to help her realize what she values most in life while to re-focusing on her faith. Marissa is a sucker for fresh produce and handmade crafts. With a casual hum and a loud whistle, she is always ready to learn something new.
Pictured above are the Spiritual Companions serving with the 2019-20 NBA XPLOR cohort. During the ten month NBA XPLOR Residency, the Residents meet weekly for two hours with their Spiritual Companion in Sabbath time. Each of the six XPLOR houses has their own Spiritual Companion. The Spiritual Companions offer guidance to the Residents as they discern and navigate a variety of experiences during the program. From left to right: Debbie Jennison (Spokane Host Team Coordinator standing in for Spiritual Companion Tiffany DeTienne), Greg Jarrell (Charlotte XPLORmore House), Madeline Haraway (St. Louis House), Bruce Ervin (Bloomington House), Linda Idoine (Hiram-Mantua House), Deb Jones (Dallas House), Ben Bohren (NBA XPLOR Staff working with Spiritual Companions).
As the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Benevolent Association partners with congregations, regions, general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers to create communities of compassion and care. Founded in 1887 by six women responding to the needs of the day and on their doorsteps, for more than 130 years the NBA has continued to serve “the least of these.” Learn more at www.nbacares.org.