2018 Presenters

Meet our 2018 session presenters

Learn more about our conference presenters. Click on their name to read more about them and the sessions they will be presenting.
  • Melissa Brosch

    Melissa Brosch is the Associate Director of Marriage and Family Ministries at Calvary Church of Santa Ana.  She spent 12 years in full time youth ministry and now oversees Calvary's disability ministry and is passionate about helping the Church become the most inclusive place for ALL people.  Melissa is married and a mom to 3 little girls who constantly challenge her on what it really means to love and see people through the eyes of Jesus. 

  • Jennifer Felix

    Jennifer Felix is 48 years old and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Ministry and a Master’s Degree in Disability Studies. She has been the Pastor of the Disabilities Ministry at Crossroads Church in Corona for 10 years. One of her greatest desires is that all people would know that they are valued and loved by God. Some of her hobbies include photography and Disneyland. She also enjoys just hanging out at home and spending time with her three dogs. Her personality is outgoing, vibrant and fun, with her love for God and for others evident in all she does.

  • Tobias Haglund

    Regional Coordinator of Capernaum Ministries
    Young Life, Southeast Region

    Tobias has worked at Young Life for 6 years as both a local Area Director and also as the Regional Coordinator and Developer of Capernaum Ministries in the Southeast Region. Young Life Capernaum gives young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp and other exciting activities.

  • Michael Hoggatt, MS, MPA, PhD

    Michael works alongside students with disabilities at the post-secondary level.  Previously, Michael has served as a social worker and foster parent in Orange County, Ca. Currently, Michael also serves on the board of directors for Friendship Ministries, an outreach to churches engaged in inclusive ministry. In addition to his professional and advisory roles, he is a frequent speaker and contributing author on topics of disability, foster care, and access both locally and nationally. Michael and his wife, Mandy, live in Orange County, California, with their two children, Summer Joy and Elijah.

  • Linda Martin, MME, MT-BC

    Linda is a certified neurologic music therapist specializing in children with autism spectrum disorder and behavior management. She provides educational based music therapy services in the public and non-public school settings, as well as consultative services in the clinical setting.  When she’s not working in the schools, Linda and her Miracle 139 team provide coaching and training to churches desiring to take their special needs ministry to the next level. Linda authored chapters on assessment and Applied Behavioral Analysis in the 2012 publication, Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  In 2016, Linda published “Special Needs Ministry: Development & Training Manual”, designed to equip churches to start and maintain effective special needs ministries. Linda is the Founder and President of Miracle 139 International, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of children with special needs by providing special education training in developing countries.
    To contact Linda, email: linda@miracle139.com

  • Jeff McNair, PhD

    Dr. Jeff McNair is a professor of special education at California Baptist University and has published numerous articles and spoken around the world on disability ministry.  He hosts a popular weblog called disabled Christianity which has resulted in two books entitled The Church and Disability. He just published Meowoof, juvenile fiction about what it is to be different. Jeff and his wife Kathi have been personally involved in ministry to adults with intellectual disabilities for nearly 40 years.  He also works in church relations for the Joni and Friends Organization.

  • Kathi McNair

    Kathi and Jeff have assisted churches and individuals and families affected by disability for over 30 years. Together they have also presented at numerous local, state and international conferences. After 15 years of teaching credential candidates at universities, Kathi is now back in the classroom working with young adults affected by moderate to severe disabilities in a transition setting in a local high school. She and Jeff have 2 adult married children and have recently fulfilled a bucket list experience to see the Northern Lights.

  • Andrea Moriarty

    Andrea Moriarty is the cofounder of the music therapy nonprofit Banding Together and author of One-Track Mind: 15 Ways to Amplify Your Child’s Special Interest. Her refreshing, spiritual take on both the challenges and triumphs of parenting a differently abled child offers affectionate humor and unending hope.  Andrea and her husband Jim are the proud adoptive parents of twins, Allie and Reid. Allie studied music education and music therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Reid performs regularly and hosts his own podcast: Talk Time with Reid Moriarty.  Andrea lives in Solana Beach, California where she accumulates books, cooks from scratch, and whistles while she works. www.andreamoriarty.com

  • John and Nancy Pantellas

    John and Nancy Pantellas have been serving in Young Life for 34+ years. For about 17 of those years they were volunteer leaders, and for 17+ years they have served on Young Life Staff. John currently serves as the Area Director for Santa Clarita Valley Young Life, and he is the Greater Los Angeles Young Life Capernaum Developer. Nancy serves on the Santa Clarita Valley Young Life Mission staff with her focus being on their Capernaum ministry. John and Nancy began their Capernaum ministry in SCV Young Life about 13 years ago, and it is their joy and their delight to watch it grow.

  • Heather Avis

    Heather Avis

    Devoted wife; smother-er of my kids; writer; pretty good at laughing.

    Heather Avis is wife to her handsome and hardworking man Josh, and mother to the adorable Macyn, Truly and August and Author of "The Lucky Few" (available everywhere books are sold). After working as an Education Specialist she found herself as a full-time stay at home mom when she and her husband adopted their first daughter, Macyn, in 2008. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, they adopted their second daughter, Truly. And in 2013, their son August was born and came home to be theirs. Heather currently resides in Southern California where between oatmeal making, diaper changing and dance parties she shares her heart by putting words on paper and using her hit Instagram account @macymakesmyday, to share the awesomeness of all things Down syndrome and adoption. She cares fiercely for the underdog and believes God's goodness and beauty are found in the most seemingly uncomfortable places.

  • Marisa Altamirano

    Marisa Altamirano

    Marisa Altamirano is a passionate advocate for individuals with unique abilities. She serves as the director of the special needs ministry at VantagePoint Church. Marisa also holds the chairperson position for the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education in her local school district. She is a wife and mom to three wonderful boys, one of whom has autism.

  • Christen Morrow

    Christen Morrow-Ara

    With over 20 years of leadership and ministry with youth with disabilities in a variety of settings in the USA and Latin America, Christen loves dreaming with leaders about how to reach youth in their context and serves with Young Life overseeing Capernaum (the disability focus) for 5 states. Christen’s undergraduate degree from California State University, Fresno in Therapeutic Recreation and postgraduate degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Global Leadership have only fueled her passion to be a learner and a practitioner of ministry to and with her friends with disabilities. Christen and her husband Christian live in Central California with Abi(3), Will(1) and Zachary(19), one of their youth who has Down Syndrome and has become part of the family.

  • Jennifer Ruiz

    I am a wife and mother to 4 children, one who is waiting for us in heaven. Our two older children were diagnosed with autism which led me to become an advocate. I had the privilege to work for TASK (Team of Advocates for Special Kids) where I assisted parents with their child’s special education needs, and empowered them to advocate for their children. I also worked with two special education attorneys. That experience helped me become a better advocate for my kids and those I serve. I’m honored to be a special needs mom, and a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

  • Amy Kendall

    Amy Kendall is the Disabilities Minister for over ten years at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Before working at Saddleback, she worked for 10 years in the educational sector as a behavior specialist, specializing with children on the autism spectrum. Amy graduated from Pacific Christian College with her BA in Ministry and from Hope International University with her MA in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling. Amy also has the privilege of having a son with a variety of special needs that makes her wear different hats at different times and she counts him to be her greatest hero.

  • Rebecca Ruiz, MA, BCBA

    Rebecca has over ten years of experience in the special needs industry and specializes in inclusion and training others. Rebecca received her Bachelors Degree from the University of California, San Diego and a Masters Degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism from San Diego State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Rebecca founded Cornerstone Behavioral Health Specialists in 2017 with a desire to provide quality services to a diverse client base. In her spare time, Rebecca serves on the Board of Miracle 139 International, a non-profit organization that provides training and other special-needs resources to third-world countries. She also serves on two Advisory Boards in her church community as a member of The Rock Church, at the City Heights Campus. In addition, she enjoys spending time with her family and their two dogs.

  • Seth Schwartz

    Seth Schwartz is a managing partner at the Law Offices of Schwartz & Storey, helping children with disabilities with legal needs ranging from special education and civil rights to Regional Center, In-Home Supportive Services, and limited conservatorships. Mr. Schwartz frequently speaks and provides trainings to parents and provider on special needs related topics and the corresponding legal rights and obligations that arise under the law. The Law Offices of Schwartz & Storey strives to make legal services accessible to all families of children with special needs. From general questions to solving complex educational issues, our approach is child centered and solution oriented.

  • Janice Chan, MA, BCBA

    Janice Chan, M.A., BCBA, is the deacon of special needs ministry at Reservoir Church in San Diego. In her day job, she specializes in training adults to use Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) with young children with autism. She is currently the lead trainer on an autism research team at University of California, San Diego. She also supervises teachers in the implementation of ABA in their classrooms. Ms. Chan serves on the boards of directors for two San Diego-based nonprofit organizations: Banding Together, a music therapy nonprofit, and Miracle 139 International, who sends short-term teams of special education professionals to train about special education and inclusion in developing countries. Her previous work experience includes moderate/severe classroom teacher, in-home ABA provider, tutoring, and consulting in overseas autism centers.

The Disability Ministry Conference would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors:

Friendship Ministries
Young Life Capernaum

Our Generous Sponsors

Calvary Church of Santa Ana
Crossroads Church
Friendship Ministries
Miracle 139
Young Life Friendship Ministry

Our Mission




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