Leadership

AJS Co-Founders

Jo Ann Van Engen

Jo Ann Van Engen

Honduras

Jo Ann founded AJS with her husband Kurt and four Honduran friends in 1998 after realizing that many of the needs of the poor were the result of broken government systems. Since its founding, Jo Ann has helped create partnerships across Honduras and North America to work together towards justice. She currently serves as co-director and professor for Calvin University’s Justice Studies semester abroad in Honduras with her husband Kurt. Jo Ann has both a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Calvin University and Master’s in Sociology from Azusa Pacific University. Jo Ann’s family has called Honduras home for over 30 years now, and she loves getting to be part of the community in their neighborhood of Nueva Suyapa.

Kurt VerBeek

Kurt Ver Beek

Honduras

Kurt started AJS with his wife Jo Ann and four Honduran friends with the dream of transforming Honduran systems to serve the poor and vulnerable. He currently serves as the President of AJS-Honduras, overseeing AJS’s violence prevention programs and anti-corruption initiatives. Kurt collaborates with experts in Honduras to develop innovative solutions to strengthen systems. Despite the challenges that Honduras has faced, he believes that justice is possible for Honduras. Kurt is also a professor of Sociology for Calvin University, where he has directed the Honduras Justice Studies semester with his wife Jo Ann for more than 20 years. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Calvin, a Master’s in Human Resources, and a Doctorate in Development Sociology from Cornell University. Kurt and his family have lived in Honduras for over 30 years.

AJS-US Staff

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Jill Stoltzfus Executive Director

Michigan
jill@ajs-us.org

Jill leads our work in connecting people from across the globe to Honduras and sharing about AJS’s groundbreaking work for justice. Jill first visited Honduras when she was a student at Calvin University, and she was inspired by the work for justice she saw at AJS-Honduras. Jill has now worked with AJS for over 10 years. She also currently serves as a Steering Committee Member for the Faith and Public Integrity Network (FPIN), which helps equip Christians globally to address corruption and build public integrity. Jill received a B.A. in International Development from Calvin University and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Eastern University. Jill and her husband live in Eastern Michigan, and when the weather allows for it, you can find them outside golfing, gardening, or spending time their dog, Dakota.

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Alison Wabeke – Director of Programs

Michigan
alison@ajs-us.org

Alison oversees our programs in the U.S., connecting North American supporters to AJS’s work in Honduras and helping them learn how to do justice in their own contexts. After spending a semester abroad in Honduras, Alison wanted to be a part of building a brighter future in Honduras, and she has worked with AJS since 2012. Alison received her B.A. in Spanish and Recreational Therapy from Calvin University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. Alison is also an artist, focused on drawing and painting, and she believes that art is a platform to challenge everyday thinking and effect change. She and her husband manage Blue House Home Inspections in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Comfort Sampong – Communications Specialist

Honduras
comfort@ajs-us.org

Comfort shares stories of justice from Honduras through writing, presenting, and advocacy, with the goal of inspiring and challenging North Americans to do justice. Comfort studied Economics and International Development at Calvin University, and she has previously worked as a research assistant at the Calvin University Center for Social Research. Comfort first came to Honduras through Calvin University’s study abroad program, and ever since she has been impacted by the ways she sees brave Christians standing up for justice in Honduras. In her free time, Comfort loves preparing a new dish with friends, learning about tropical plants, and documenting the global connections that surprise us.

Luke Joyce

Luke Joyce – Executive Assistant

Michigan
luke@ajs-us.org

Luke works with our directors and manages the administrative functions of our organization. Along with his wife and two kids, Luke recently spent two years living in Gracias, Honduras, where he taught high school science at Abundant Life Christian School. Luke has been with AJS since 2019, and he loves that it allows him to stay connected to Honduras and continue impacting others around the world. Luke has a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from Calvin University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Grand Valley State University. He loves brewing beer in his free time and spending time outdoors with his family near their hometown of Holland, Michigan.

Karen Mendoza – Building Administrator

Honduras

Karen manages AJS’s office building in Tegucigalpa. She has worked with AJS since 2017, when our organization began construction for a new office for our partner organization in Honduras. Karen managed the development of the new building and served on the construction committee, and she continues to administer the office to support and facilitate AJS’s work. Karen is Honduran and studied in Tegucigalpa at the Universidad Tecnológica CentroAmericana, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and a Master’s in Business Administration. She has been inspired by AJS’s mission and humble work, and she believes that her country can be a better place if there is justice in the public sector. Karen and her husband have a daughter, and they enjoy spending time together as a family.

Allison Bassett

Allison Bassett – AJS Fellow

Honduras
fellow@ajs-us.org

Allison supports the work of AJS-Honduras by assisting directors in research and investigations while also connecting others resources about our work. Allison graduated from Wheaton College with a double major in Anthropology and Communication and a certificate in Human Needs and Global Resources. During her undergraduate, Allison interned with AJS-Honduras in Tegucigalpa for six months, working with the Honduran communication team. Allison is Salvadoran, and she grew up in Costa Rica, so living and working in Honduras has been an exciting way to expand her knowledge about in the region.

Katie Ulrich

Katie Ulrich – AJS Fellow

Honduras
fellow@ajs-us.org

Katie connects people to AJS’s work through our digital communications, helping more people learn about our work for justice in Honduras. She graduated from Calvin University with a degree in Strategic Communication and International Development Studies. Katie first got to know the work of AJS when she studied abroad in Honduras, which sparked her interest in connecting other Christians to justice work. Katie has worked with AJS in Honduras since 2018, first volunteering through Mennonite Central Committee. Katie loves getting to travel throughout Honduras and explore her new city of Tegucigalpa through its cafes.

AJS Board of Directors

Dr. Scott Johnson

Dr. Scott Johnson – Board President; Member, Finance Committee

Scott Johnson began his career in the 1990s working for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (now World Renew) in the Philippines and Grand Rapids. He joined the board of AJS-US in 2006, after finishing his Ph.D. in Strategic Management at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Johnson currently teaches Strategy and Business Ethics at Iowa State University in the Ivy College of Business.

Russ Jacobs

Russ Jacobs, JD – Vice President; Member, Finance Committee

Russ Jacobs works as General Counsel, Chief Legal Affairs Officer of the National CASA Association, which, together with state and local member programs and volunteer advocates, supports abused and neglected children in their dependency proceedings. In this role he serves on the executive leadership team, manages the legal function, and oversees membership change policies. Prior to National CASA he worked in private practice and then in-house at Starbucks Corporation.

Kim Lodewyk

Dr. Kim Lodewyk – Secretary; Member, Development Committee

Dr. Kim Lodewyk is a licensed clinical psychologist who works as a managing partner and clinician at Heritage Professional Associates with multiple offices in the Chicagoland area. She works with a variety of problem types and ages and specializes in working with trauma. Dr. Lodewyk and her husband have three adult children and live in the western suburbs of Chicago. She also serves on the board of Sunshine Gospel Ministries.

Mike Goorhouse

Mike Goorhouse – Treasurer; Chair, Finance Committee

Mike Goorhouse is President/CEO of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, where he oversees the Foundation’s donor engagement efforts, community impact strategies, endowment investment policies and internal operations. He studied at Calvin University and Grand Valley State University’s Graduate School for Public and Nonprofit Administration. He has received numerous awards for his work in philanthropy, including being named one of the top 30 Civic Leaders under the age of 30 in the nation by the National Conference on Citizenship in 2011.

Sharon Baker

Sharon Baker – Member, Program Committee

Sharon has been on the AJS-US board of directors since the beginning of AJS. She received her bachelor’s degree from Calvin University in Special Education. She has taught special education and early childhood education for 35 years and currently teachers at a Christian School in Byron Center, Michigan, where she lives with her husband.

Vilma Balmaceda

Dr. Vilma Balmaceda – Member, Program Committee

Vilma “Nina” Balmaceda is the president and CEO of Peace and Hope International, and a professor in Wheaton, Illinois. Nina earned her law degree from the Pontifical Catholic University’s School of Law in Lima, Peru, master degrees in International Peace Studies and Government & International Studies, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame.

Paul DeBoer

Paul DeBoer, CPA – Member, Finance Committee

Paul DeBoer is a member of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He is one of the original partners of the local public accounting firm DeBoer, Goodyke, Kahler & Tuttle in Grand Rapids, MI. He has worked as the CFO at Extol, Inc., an engineering and manufacturing company in Zeeland, Michigan, before returning to the public accounting practice he helped to found.

Stephen DeHaan

Stephen DeHaan, JD – At-Large Member, Executive Committee; Chair, Governance Committee

Steve DeHaan has more than 30 years of experience as a lawyer focusing on personal injury cases. He has a Master’s degree in physiology from the University of Wisconsin, and has done research into cardiovascular physiology. Mr. DeHaan attended law school at Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana. He graduated with honors in 1983 and became a member of the State Bar of Michigan that same year.

Luis Flores 

Luis grew up in a small town in Guatemala and just before entering high school he immigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan with his family. In 2013, Luis obtained a Bachelor’s degree in business from Calvin University and currently serves as a Sales Development Manager with Service Express. Luis and his wife have actively supported AJS since 2012, and they are also passionate about serving youth and families involved in the foster care system. Luis knows firsthand the prevalence of injustice in Central America, and he has remained deeply connected and committed to serving the Central American people in any way possible.

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James Nealon – Member, Program Committee

Jim Nealon has more than 30 years of experience in international affairs. His work in the U.S. Foreign Service has taken him to Spain, Hungary, the Philippines, and other countries around the world. Ambassador Nealon has served in public affairs, strategic communications, and human rights, including as the Civilian Deputy to the Commander of U.S. Southern Command. From 2014 to 2017, Nealon served as the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, where he led U.S. diplomacy, and connected with civil society organizations such as AJS to promote U.S. interests in reducing crime and violence in the country.

Maureen O'Keefe Hodge

Maureen O’Keefe Hodge – Member, Development Committee

Maureen has lived and worked in urban poor communities in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Los Angeles. Maureen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has helped start nonprofits and community programs that bring change and justice to the suffering. Maureen and her husband Chris lived in Honduras and have three children with a large extended Honduran family.

Kelli Schutte

Dr. Kelli Schutte – Chair, Program Committee

Kelli Schutte serves as department chair and professor of business at William Jewell College in Kansas City, Missouri. She holds an economics degree from Calvin University, a Master’s Degree in Finance from Western Michigan University and a Ph.D. in Labor Relations from Michigan State University. Dr. Schutte and her family are active in foster care both working with foster youth and volunteering with local organizations.

Mark Veenstra

Dr. Mark Veenstra, MD – Member, Development Committee

Dr. Mark Veenstra retired in 2014 after 27 years as an orthopedic surgeon, though he continues to perform surgery several months per year with medical brigades to Honduras. Dr. Veenstra studied at Calvin University before earning his MD from Wayne State University School of Medicine. He and his wife live in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and they regularly travel to Gracias, Honduras to work in a medical clinic they founded together with the Luke Society.

Team in Honduras

Our U.S.-based team works in tandem with a large Honduras-based team to pursue justice in Honduras. Our Honduras team (AJS-Honduras) is comprised nearly entirely of Hondurans and also has its own leadership. The work of AJS in Honduras has received international recognition for its effectiveness and creativity, and our US staff work to share the lessons of this work with others outside of Honduras encouraging others to heed the call to do justice. The website, in Spanish, of AJS-Honduras is asjhonduras.com.

ASJ Honduras Staff