Who We Are

Syd Hielema – Team Leader

Syd Hielema serves as the Team Leader for Faith Formation Ministries.  His passion is to serve congregations in their calling to provide a sturdy spiritual home for believers and searchers of all ages. Before taking on this role in 2014, he served as a youth pastor, youth ministry professor and university chaplain. Syd married Evelyn in 1977, and they have three children. They worship at Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, ON, where Syd serves as a youth leader, pianist, and occasional preacher. Contact Syd at shielema@crcna.org.

Karen De Boer – Creative Resource Developer

Karen De Boer is the Creative Resource Developer for Faith Formation Ministries. The author of Home Grown Handbook for Christian Parenting, and the contributing editor of  You’re Invited: a Week of Devotions for Families on the Lord’s Supper and God’s Big Story Cards, Karen has been involved with children since she was a kid herself and says some of her favorite people are 4 years old. Karen and her husband Ron have four daughters and live in Kitchener, Ontario. Connect with her if you have any questions related to faith formation and children, families, and/or intergenerational ministry. Contact Karen at kdeboer@crcna.org. (Learn more about Karen in this interview.)

Sandy Swartzentruber – Resource Coordinator

Sandy Swartzentruber is the Resource Coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries. As such she manages the production of new FFM resources and helps identify and curate helpful faith formation resources from other sources for churches to use. Before joining the FFM team, Sandy served as associate editor for Faith Alive, where she also focused on helping create resources for faith formation for congregation members, from preschoolers to adults. A graduate of Calvin College and a member of Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church, Sandy lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Lon, and their two teenage children. Contact Sandy at sswartzentruber@crcna.org. (Learn more about Sandy in this interview.)

Paola Fuentes Gleghorn – Communications Strategist

Paola Fuentes Gleghorn serves as the Communications Strategist for Faith Formation Ministries. She is passionate about spreading the work of Faith Formation Ministries through numerous communications channels so that people have the opportunity to connect with others and the resources they need. She graduated from Calvin College with a degree in International Development Studies and a minor in Business. Paola is originally from Costa Rica, but grew up in Nicaragua where her family were missionaries working alongside local churches in the areas of pastoral training, youth leadership development, and evangelism. Paola and her husband, Jeff, live in Holland, MI, where Jeff is attending Western Theological Seminary. Contact Paola at pfuentes@crcna.org. (Learn more about Paola in this interview.)

Christine Dekker – Administrative Coordinator

Christine Dekker works as the Administrative Coordinator for FFM. She is working on making everything FFM does run smoothly. She makes sure “i's” are dotted, “t's” are crossed and that the processes in place are working and being followed. Christine has a background in administration and loves to be able to further the kingdom by using her skills to assist others in completing the bigger tasks. Christine and her husband, Jim, a ministry professor at Cornerstone University, moved to Grand Rapids from Chicago in the snowstorms of December 2013. They are transplanted Canadians, so the snow was a familiar friend. They have two daughters and a son-in law. Christine loves to cook and is a strong believer in the holy hospitality of food and fellowship. Contact Christine to assist with planning workshops and general questions at cdekker@crcna.org. (Learn more about Christine in this interview.)

Martin Contant – Team Consultant and Coach

Martin serves as Team Consultant and Coach to our Regional Catalyzers and advisor to the FFM team. He retired recently after 40 years of ordained ministry in the CRC. Martin pastored congregations in Ancaster, ON; and Langley, BC; and then joined Christian Reformed Home Missions as Regional Leader for Western Canada. In that capacity, he worked extensively with local congregations, pastors, and leaders, encouraging and facilitating greater engagement in God's mission in the local context. He also helped to catalyze new church planting work and campus ministries. Martin now serves as a spiritual director, coach, and consultant to local congregations. Mart and Sue have three adult married sons and 11 grandchildren. They live in Surrey, BC, and have been members of Willoughby CRC in Langley for 36 years. Contact Martin at mcontant@crcna.org. (Learn more about Martin in this interview.)


Mimi Larson - Children's Ministry Catalyzer

Mimi Larson is the Children’s Ministry Catalyzer with Faith Formation Ministries. One of Mimi’s greatest joys is being with people, learning with them, and encouraging them on their ministry journey. For over 25 years, Mimi served in local church ministry in both small and large churches and had the privilege of writing curriculum for Faith Alive Christian Resources, Big Idea/Veggie Tales, and the 50-Day Spiritual Adventure. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Covenant Theological Seminary and has a Ph.D. from Concordia University-Chicago. In addition to her work for FFM she teaches at the college and seminary level, preparing students for ministry. Mimi lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Keith, and their very spoiled rescued dog, Millie. If you have children's ministry questions or challenges, contact Mimi at mlarson@crcna.org.


Ron DeVries - Youth Ministry Catalyzer

Ron DeVries was appointed in early 2017 to serve as the Christian Reformed Church’s first-ever denomination-wide youth ministry catalyzer, meaning he will focus his work on teens and young adults. Read more about Ron’s position and his dreams for equipping youth leaders and youth ministry in churches in this CRC News article. Ron is also our Faith Formation Ministries Regional Catalyzer in Alberta. Ron and his wife Monique planted roots in the London/Exeter Ontario areas where they attended Bethel CRC London, Newlife London and finally Exeter CRC until 2007 when they moved to Devon, Alberta to fill the position of Youth Ministry Consultant for Classis Alberta North. Having served in the business world for many years, Ron took the call to youth ministry and has been involved in that ministry for 22 years. They have two children, Amanda and Shawn.  Contact Ron at rondevries@crcna.org. (Learn more about Ron in this interview.)


Faith Formation Regional Catalyzers

Midwest - Trudy Ash

Trudy Ash is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation in the Midwest Region (Minnesota, Iowa & Wisconsin). She lives in Minnesota with her husband of 16 years, Matt, and her four kids, Brody 14, Logan 12, Carson 10 and Kendell 7. She grew up on a dairy farm in New Era, Michigan. She graduated from Dordt College with an elementary education degree and taught for three years before getting married and moving to Minnesota. She feels very blessed to have worked for her home church of Pease CRC as Ministry Coordinator for the last 13 years. In 2016, she started part-time as a regional catalyzer for the Connections Project with the CRCNA. In March of 2017, she opened up a coffee and ice cream shop called King Sparrow Coffee & Soda Shop in her hometown of Milaca, Minnesota. Contact Trudy at tash@crcna.org. (Learn more about Trudy in this interview.)

California - Kristen Rietkerk

Kristen currently serves as the Church Mission Catalyst at Crossroads Church in San Marcos, CA where she assists disciples in becoming agents for change in their neighborhoods. Kristen and her husband Tim, a retired US Army chaplain, have been married for 27 years and have 4 children and a lovable dog named Lady. Kristen has a deep love for connecting people in meaningful ways and served for 10 years as a small groups and leadership development consultant for local churches near military installations.
Kristen holds a Bachelor’s degree from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and a Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. In her free time, you’ll find her listening to bluegrass, reading fiction and eating a York peppermint patty. Her greatest joy is listening to people share their stories about life, love and the eternal search for meaning. Contact Kristen at krietkerk@crcna.org. (Learn more about Kristen in this interview.)

California - Ron Chu

Ron serves as the Global Ministry Pastor at Ttokamsa Mission Church. He is also a regional catalyzer for the Connections Project with the CRCNA. He and his wife JC have three children (Samuel, Abigail, Gabrielle). Ron has a passion for raising leaders for Christ and believes ministry should be FUN! Contact Ron at rchu@crcna.org. (Learn more about Ron in this interview.)






Michigan - Laura Keeley

Laura Keeley is a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries for congregations in Michigan. After graduating from Calvin College and the University of Colorado with degrees in Education, Laura taught for 7 years, most of them in Denver. After moving to Holland, MI, she took the role of Director of Children’s Ministries at Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church. Laura has written the Church Staff Handbook and a number of units for the WE curriculum. She has also co authored (with her husband Bob) a number of articles and Christmas dramas and the books Celebrating the Milestones of Faith and Psalm for Families. Laura and Bob have four married children and one grandchild. Connect with her if you have questions about faith formation, children, families, or intergenerational ministry. Contact Laura at laurakeeley@crcna.org. (Learn more about Laura in this interview.)

Vancouver/BC - Liz Tolkamp

Liz Tolkamp serves as a Faith Formation Regional Catalyzer for BC and Northwest Washington. She has been serving as an ordained commissioned children’s pastor at Willoughby CRC in Langley BC since 2001. Her involvement in children’s ministry began at an early age; moving the flannel graph pieces as her mom told the Bible story to Sunday school children in the church of her youth. Liz and her husband Tim live in Langley, BC and are parents to three emerging adults. Connect with Liz if you have questions about faith formation and children/families and/or involving children/youth into the life of the church. Contact Liz at ltolkamp@crcna.org. (Learn more about Liz in this interview.)

Iowa/Heartland - Jill Friend

Jill Friend serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the Heartland. She is passionate about how the Spirit works to form faith in the young and old alike. She is a music educator at Sioux Center Christian School and has also served for many years as a church musician and worship coordinator in Sioux Center and in Ames, Iowa. She is married with three adult children and attends Covenant CRC in Sioux Center, Iowa. Contact Jill at jfriend@siouxcenterchristian.com. (Learn more about Jill in this interview.)


Ontario - Lesli van Milligen

Lesli van Milligen is a Regional Catalyzer for the Faith Formation Ministries. Lesli holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Education from Calvin College and a Master of Divinity from the Fuller Theological Seminary. She has co-pastored in both Canada and the US with her husband, Tom, for 17 years. They have 2 young adult daughters, one in each country, so they are a true bi-national family. Lesli is excited at the prospect of working alongside congregations as an encouraging resource, assisting them in their efforts to support the cradle to grave Faith Formation journeys of believers and seekers in their midst. Contact Lesli if you have any questions about faith formation, youth ministry and youth and young adult leadership initiatives, as well as inter-generational and family ministry. Contact Lesli at lvanmilligen@crcna.org. (Learn more about Lesli in this interview.)


Alberta - Ron deVries

Ron deVries is our Faith Formation Ministries Regional Catalyzer in Alberta. Ron and his wife Monique planted roots in the London/Exeter Ontario areas where they attended Bethel CRC London, Newlife London and finally Exeter CRC until 2007 when they moved to Devon, Alberta to fill the position of Youth Ministry Consultant for Classis Alberta North. Having served in the business world for many years, Ron took the call to youth ministry and has been involved in that ministry for 22 years. They have two children, Amanda and Shawn. Connect with Ron if you have questions about faith formation and youth ministry. Contact Ron at rondevries@crcna.org. (Learn more about Ron in this interview.)