Who We Are

Corporate Staff

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Brian Andrew Luwis

I have lived in the Washington Metropolitan area for over 40 years and have been actively involved with adoptions since 1993 - both as a parent, and as an

advocate for orphans.

After attending St. Albans School, I graduated with honors from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1988 with a Bachelor of Architecture. In 1994 my wife and I founded America World Adoption to assist other former orphans like our first daughter, Fei, and share the blessing of adoption with Christian families.

I work for my family business, a building development and management company and serve America World Adoption solely as a 40+ hour/week volunteer (no salary). Like the Apostle Paul who made tents, I enjoy having the ability to earn my income through a source that is separate from my primary focus/ministry. My father was a first generation American born to a poor immigrant family from Yugoslavia; he was a very successful developer in the D.C. area and it was his commitment to hard work that has enabled me to volunteer at America World.

In 2006, I went back to school, and by late 2007 I had earned a Master’s in Nonprofit Management. During school, I applied every project and assignment to America World Adoption and

orphan issues

. This was a great time for me to learn and study the business side of managing a non-profit organization.

My wife, Renee, and I now have five children: four by adoption and one by birth. God has revealed one of his greatest blessings to our family through His

Spirit of adoption

and it is our passion to share this with families like you. We are excited about what God is doing through America World and consider it an honor to be building families like yours through God’s design of adoption.

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Susan B. Maines, LSW, LCSW

Senior Executive Director of Programs & Social Services
It has been my privilege and joy to serve families through America World since May 2001. I hold a bachelor and masters degree in social work and have had a career that spans 4 decades. God has provided me with jobs in both the public and private sectors and in all aspects of child welfare. It has been my greatest joy to work with adopted children and families and to provide direction and support to the dedicated staff who have worked here at AW over my ten years. I have always known that God wanted me to work on behalf of children, and my almost 40 year social work career has enabled me to serve Him and His precious children.

On a personal note, my husband and I have raised our daughter, Sarah, who is a senior in college and very excited about launching herself into her chosen career. One of my many and consistent blessings is my work here at America World and the wonderful staff and families I have come to know.

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Ryan Hanlon, MA, MS, MSW

Executive Director of Programs
In 2001, I traveled to China with America World Adoption and volunteered in an orphanage for a week; that trip really impacted me – allowing me to see the importance of adoption for parentless children. I have worked for AW since 2004, holding different roles including my current position overseeing international adoption programs. I love my job because I get to work with both adoptive families and with co-workers throughout the agency. I am convinced that adoption is one of the best fields a person can work in and I'm grateful to be able to work with such a committed team of professionals. I greatly enjoy what I do here, and I consider it a privilege to be serving America’s families and the world’s orphans. In addition to my work for America World Adoption, I have served in roles with child protective services and as a foster care caseworker. I live in Falls Church, VA with my wife and our two children.

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Anna Graham

America World has given me an amazing opportunity to live out my passions daily by working directly with families and helping orphans all over the world. I came to America World in 2004 with the desire to help orphans and families in a very tangible way. It has been truly a gift and life changing experience to work with hundreds of families as they are united with their children. I feel extremely blessed to be part of such an amazing organization that strives to love and serve God in all areas.

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Julia Norris

Director of Affiliate Offices
Hello! My name is Julia Norris and I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I graduated in 1989 from the University of Richmond with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations. My passion to work in International adoption began in 1987, when I traveled the world by ship in a college program called “Semester At Sea.” During that trip I visited orphanages in several third world countries, and those images never faded from my heart. It was then that I knew I wanted to work in International Adoption, and someday adopt a child.

After college I spent 10 years as a Federal Investigator, Private Investigator, and even worked part of that time for the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” Although my career was challenging and rewarding at times, my heart still longed to want to help the millions of orphans in the world. After a lot of prayer, God opened the door for me in 1999 to come to work in the field of adoption with America China Adoption Association (now known as AWAA). I have held many different positions within the organization over the years, but since 2007 I have been overseeing our Affiliate offices.

The Lord has truly given me the desires of my heart through my work with America World and especially through the adoption of my two children- an eight year old boy from China in 2001 and a 10 month old baby girl from China in 2004.

It is such a blessing and honor to be a part of the dedicated staff at America World helping to unite these precious children with loving families!

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Mike Stone

Public Relations Director
It was on a mission trip to El Salvador in 1996 that the Lord planted a seed in my heart to consider ways in which I can care for orphans. During this time we were stuggling with infertility and why God was not giving us children? Years later adoption became 'Plan A' for my wife and me after attending an America World adoption seminar and hearing Brian Luwis' Spirit of Adoption message. On October 22, 2003, we brought our beautiful daughter home from China. It was very clear that this was God's plan for our family. Then, just 5 months later, our son was born. We believe God wanted us to see that there was no difference between growing a family biologically or through adoption. I am privileged to be a part of the ministry of America World Adoption since 2004. Sharing the miracle of adoption with others and daily working alongside our amazing staff is such a blessing. If you have not ever considered adoption, I pray that you will seek His will for your family.

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Amanda Lawrence

Director of Missions
I started working for America World Adoption as a Public Relations Manager back in 2004. From there I worked as the SE Public Relations Director and ultimately helped start the Orphans Ticket Home program as the Development Director. While I worked at AWAA, I began leading mission trips to Ethiopia through the start up not for profit which our President Brian Luwis created called Visiting Orphans. Once I began truly visiting orphans on the mission field I was undone and basic work from an office setting, without actually getting to hold and minister to the orphans physically just became too much for me. So in 2009 I thankfully and wonderfully became the new Executive Director for Visiting Orphans from my home town of Nashville, TN. I loved every minute of it! Then the Lord blessed me with the birth of my first son in 2011 and my heart was to be with him full time, so I resigned from Visiting Orphans.

After a year of being only a stay at home mom, I was still yearning to send out God’s people to care for orphans. In God’s perfect timing, He opened the door at America World for us to start an in-house mission department called Storyteller Missions and I am now the Director of Missions for Storyteller Missions. Being a mom to now two baby boys and sending out mission teams to orphans is truly a joy and I’m thankful I get to live out the call God both on my life as both a mom and a missionary.

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Mary Hamilton

Senior Accountant
My name is Mary Hamilton and I am originally from the Tidewater Area of Southern Virginia. At the age of fourteen I left home to pursue my education at a Christian-based boarding school in New Market, Virginia. During those years I fell in love with the Shenandoah Valley and chose to remain there. I am a busy mother of three, who are each seven years apart. Presently, my oldest is in her second year of college and my youngest is in Kindergarten, and my son (the middle) is aptly in middle school. After spending the majority of my professional life in the technology sector, I am thrilled to be associated with America World. It is truly a blessing to work with such a warm and dedicated group of people in the service of children and families.

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Abby Konyndyk, MSW

Director of Domestic Adoption
It is an honor to work for a Christian agency, where you can come together in prayer and fellowship, and play a small role in bringing families together. I have come to appreciate how blessed I am to grow up in a Christian family, and am pleased to work for an organization that is allowing other child the same opportunity. I received my Masters in Social Work from the University in Michigan, and have previously worked in foster care and disaster response.

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Leah Rockey

Assistant Director
Since joining the America World team in 2005, I have had the honor of working with an incredible team here at America World and have been privileged to work with many wonderful families throughout the years. I graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Psychology/Human Services and Youth Ministry. My first exposure to orphans came while working in an orphanage in India and it was from this experience, that God began to stir a passion in me for international ministry and for children around the world. After returning to the States, I could not get the smiling faces of these precious children out of my mind. My life was greatly impacted by these children’s lives and their stories, and I returned to the States and prayed that God would allow me to find a job that was not only involved in missions, but one whose heartbeat was to make a difference in the lives of children around the world. After waiting on God, He truly gave me the desires of my heart and I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve families and children through America World. Since that first trip to India years ago, God has given me multiple opportunities to minister to children in a number of countries, including special needs children in China, children in Africa, as well as living in South America and ministering to youth and street children. I count it a true blessing to be able to help build families through adoption. “Unto Him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…unto Him be all the glory…” – Eph. 3:20

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Elise Lowe

Family Coordinator
It’s such a blessing to be a part of each family’s journey as they are united with their precious children. A Washington D.C. area native, I completed my undergraduate degree at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. Adoption had been on heart since a young age, but during my studies the Lord used an experience in Swaziland, Africa to impact me deeply. I had an opportunity to observe God’s heart for orphaned and vulnerable children first-hand. Since that time, it has been my desire to advocate for the fatherless. It is amazing to see how God has directed my steps, and placed me in an organization that is doing just that. It is a privilege to serve alongside the team at America World.

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Johnna Wilson

Senior Family Coordinator
When I was very young the Lord placed the scripture James 1:27 on my heart. I had no idea at that time where and how God would direct me through my studies and in my career. I grew up in southwest Virginia just outside of Roanoke and completed my degree at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I have been blessed to work with so many families and it is tremendously rewarding to see all the little ones come home! For several years I have been active in children’s ministry through my church and on the mission field. It is exciting to expand this ministry into helping orphans find loving, Christ-centered homes.

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Jennifer Van Ee

Director of Intake
My name is Jennifer Van Ee and I hail from the great state of Iowa where I grew up. My background is in social services, advocacy and technical assistance for child-serving programs. After living in Chicago for my undergraduate and graduate work, I moved to the Washington DC area to start a career in policy research and advocacy. God had other plans. After spending sometime in consulting, I am excited to be able to live out both my faith and my calling by working at America World by serving children and families to the glory and praise of Christ. My personal passion is to work with the church, families, and children to help change the lives of vulnerable children throughout the world. Micah 6:8 - “And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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Lauren Durrer

Assistant Director
Having worked as a Waiting Children Family Coordinator in the China program from 2006-2009, I am excited to be back at America World in 2011! Very early on God placed a desire within me to serve families and children, and later cultivated that passion specifically for international adoption. My travels to China and Africa graciously allowed me to see first hand how our God is truly God of the nations. Working on behalf of families seeking to bring their children home is a wonderful blessing. I am honored and humbled to serve in such a capacity.

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Aimée Wilson

Family Coordinator
I am in awe as I look at the way God has directed my steps over the years to fulfill a passion He has placed in my heart. I have always loved working with children and have wanted to be a part of the adoption process for a long time. I obtained a degree in Social Work and had the opportunity to work with children in the U.S. foster care system. Over the years, God has continued to give me a burden for children all around the world. I was never sure where God would lead me, but one step at a time, He has faithfully shown me that I can trust Him to reveal things in just the right time. I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to serve in orphanages in Romania and China or that I’d move from North Dakota to Virginia to work at America World Adoption. As God continues to open doors, I’m thankful for each opportunity to see more of who He is and to be a part of the process of helping children become a part of their forever families.

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Michelle Reed

Haiti Program Director
I have had a heart for adoption for over 20 years. I have a passion for the people and children of Haiti and advocating for older children living in orphanages around the world. God has shown his never-ending faithfulness by providing me with the opportunity to purse the desires of my heart after working as an accountant and obtaining a Masters degree in Education. To be able to work with families as they pursue adoptions and host older orphans is a dream come true. I am incredibly blessed to be able to nurture both passions in my position with America World. God has orchestrated all the opportunities laid out before me in his perfect timing and for that I am forever grateful. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

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Kelsey Hansen

Family Coodinator
For as long as I can remember I have had a heart and passion for helping people. I went to school in Washington state (where I am from) and was blessed to be able to align my passions with my education. I graduated with a degree in Human Services and through this degree I have gained experience working with various populations, including families in the child welfare system, youth in chemical dependency treatment and children suffering from mental health issues.

I am so grateful to be a part of the America World team. I feel so blessed to be a part of AWAA’s mission to build Christian families and to be helping place the world’s orphans in loving, Christ centered homes.

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Celete Kato

Haiti In-Country Adoption Representative & Guesthouse Manager
I grew up in rural Michigan before getting my degree in International Relations & Politics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Growing up in a family that was involved in long-term refugee foster care sparked my interest in adoption and orphan care. Upon graduation one of my desires was to pursue a career that would allow me to show the love of Christ to others.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work in the corporate office of AWAA as the Travel & Adoption Programs Coordinator for a little over a year prior to moving to Haiti to serve more directly with our orphanage partnerships and Guesthouse in Port-au-Prince. The Lord has continued to show me His heart for orphans and it is an honor to be a part of the AWAA team that so passionately pursues God's design for adoption. Watching orphans become part of loving Christian families means getting to see the Gospel at work day after day and it is an incredible honor and blessing to be a part of that process.

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Sunny Lee

Social Services Coordinator
I grew up in North Carolina and moved to DC to pursue a career as an IT consultant. I then went to law school, and after a career as a corporate immigration attorney, the Lord directed me to America World. My mission trips to orphanages in Bolivia, Malawi and Gambia opened my eyes to God’s heart for orphans. He stirred in my heart a desire to become an advocate for orphans in some way. I am so blessed to be a part of God’s hand in helping these precious children and loving families experience the joy of adoption.

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Jackie Henneberg

Administrative Assistant
Nothing gives me a bigger smile in my work day than when I know that some precious child is about to get matched with their forever family. I grew up in the D.C. area and, after graduating from the College of William and Mary, I moved back to Northern Virginia where my husband and I settled down and raised our four children. I began my professional career as an elementary school teacher in both Fairfax and Arlington counties. After teaching in the classroom for several years, I transitioned to working for a law firm, which had a significant non-profit area of practice. I am grateful to be back working to help children. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by people who love the Lord and strive very hard each day to serve Him through such an effective, professional and Godly organization.

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Margaret Hebda

Haiti Family Coordinator
I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania, and attended college in North Carolina, where I received my B.A. in English and Christian Studies. I have long had a passion for service and reaching out to people, that I am grateful the Lord has directed toward children’s and family ministry. Although I do not have prior adoption-specific experience, international mission trips to South America opened my eyes to orphans. While in undergrad, I came to see adoption as a beautiful portrait of the gospel—doing for children what God in Christ has done for me, for I too was once fatherless. The Lord has put a heavy burden on my heart for orphans—a desire to place them in Christ-centered homes where they will be loved and cherished. I am so thankful to serve with the America World team, as we minister to families in the joys of adoption!

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Kelcey Engling

Family Coordinator
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career allowing me to work with children and families. For the last several years, God has continued to burden my heart for orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. I am beyond grateful to be part of the America World team and work with families adopting from China. It is truly an honor to be involved in each family’s adoption process and to see these children come home. Adoption is a beautiful reflection of God’s love and acceptance of us into His family. Originally from Indiana, I completed a year long internship with a ministry in Texas whose focus was to minister to teenagers across the U.S. Following my internship, I attended Regent University in Virginia Beach and obtained a B.S. in Psychology. Several years ago, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area with my husband. It is amazing to see how God has directed my steps and brought me to America World on the mission of helping more children be placed into families.

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Becki Carlson

China Missions Coordinator
My name is Becki Carlson and I live and work remotely, from the suburbs of Chicago. My husband and I adopted our daughter from China in 2006 through America World, and while I was still in China, I knew that I would be back. I wasn’t sure if I would be back to adopt again or for another reason, but I knew in my heart that was not my last trip. God was breaking my heart for China, the orphans there, and the nannies that work so hard caring for them. Since our adoption trip, God has allowed me to return to China 5 more times on mission trips, both as a team member and as a team leader. Now I have the privilege of working for America World and ACT missions as a Mission Trip Coordinator. I could not be more thrilled or proud to represent such an amazing organization and to be able to advocate every day for the children that desperately need the love of a family.

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Aleesa Ribbens

China Travel & Family Coordinator
I grew up in west Michigan and attended Hope College where I earned my bachelor’s degree in social work. After graduation, I moved to Northern Virginia to work at a respite center for children with special needs before joining the team at America World. When I was five months old, my adoptive parents brought me home from South Korea. Over the years, the Lord has used that experience to give me a desire to help families with their own adoption process. It is an honor to be a part of the incredible staff at America World. I am blessed by the opportunity to be a part of uniting children with their forever families!

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Lisa Adams-Reese

India Program Director
My professional career has been spent in the area of adoption for over 25 years with a passion to create a safer world for the most defenseless, by insuring that each child finds their God-given family to call their own. My scope of adoption started when God placed a desire in my heart to adopt at the age of 12 years old. A beautiful and lasting love for the country of India began 31 years ago when my 8 week old baby girl from India was placed in my arms. I am now a parent of seven children, four of whom came to my family through international adoption and a grandparent of ten children, two of whom were adopted from India. My life has been richly blessed by the children God has placed in my life. It gives me great joy to be a part of the miracle of adoption. My experience in the field of adoption encompasses directorships of a non-profit profit agency, branch office director and family services director. I have coordinated adoptions in the countries of Vietnam, Nepal and India. I have extensive training working with parents, specializing in the areas of grief and loss and facilitating reunions for birthparents and adoptees. I personally and professionally know firsthand the joys, frustrations and anxiety that families often experience during and after their adoption. I have the ongoing desire to support families who walk this path and to be a catalyst for change in the lives of vulnerable children by being a part of finding their forever families. I am blessed to be a part of the America World Team.

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Yasmin Thornton

Post Adoption Coordinator
I was born and raised in Virginia and also finished my higher education here. I have a Bachelors Degree in Psychology with a minor in Leadership Studies from Christopher Newport University, as well as a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Liberty University. I have a deep heart for children and families and have a passion to support them, counsel them and see them flourish.

Following some years of teaching, I became a Large Group Coordinator for a K-5 grade aged children’s ministry at McLean Bible Church for three years. It is during this time that I was able to walk, witness, and pray for one of the families in my ministry, through the process of their first international adoption that they were doing through America World. This family was so encouraged and felt so supported by America World through the process, I was continuously intrigued by their work and wanted to get involved in a more direct way.

Over the years I have specifically gained a heart for orphans and children coming from hard places during experiences on several mission trips to Kenya and other domestic service projects, as well as from my own experiences as a child coming from a hard place.

Frederick Douglass says, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Through the love, support and grace of God given through others, and our dependency on Him as Father, I believe many hearts, lives and memories can be restored, and what a gracious gift to have that opportunity to begin that restoration while these needy ones are still children.

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Rachel Melton Stockdale

Family Coordinator
I grew up in the St. Louis area and went to college at Union University in Tennessee where I received my degree in Intercultural Studies with the hope of serving in some international capacity.

A mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras in 2004 is what sparked my interest in serving children who don’t have families. Subsequent mission trips to Kenya and Tanzania further stirred my heart to help international children in some way. I’m incredibly happy to work at America World and have the ability to serve children and families each day! I live in Washington, DC with my husband and our three fish.