PRESENTER BIOS

Kevin Ellers, D.Min.

Kevin is president and founder of the Institute for Compassionate Care and RESET Life Coaching which is dedicated to equine assisted coaching for personal and professional growth and trauma healing, consultation, education and direct care. The Rev. Dr. Ellers has worked with the Salvation Army in the U.S.A. Central Territory for 27 years, most recently as the Territorial Disaster Services and Chaplaincy Director. Kevin is a chaplain with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and serves as faculty for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. He is the past chair of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee.  He has extensive training and experience in crisis response, disasters, chaplaincy, pastoral ministries, marriage and family therapy, and social services. As an author and speaker, Kevin teaches broadly on the aforementioned topics. He is author or co-author of: The First 48 Hours: Spiritual Caregivers as First Responders; Grief Following Trauma; Emotional and Spiritual Care in Disasters; Spiritual and Psychological First Aid; Understanding Suicide: Effective Tools for Prevention.

Miriam Gelo Ms. Miriam Gelo has worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since 2001 where she began her career in emergency management as a volunteer during the September 11, 2001 WTC response in New York and hired by FEMA during that event. She has since responded to over 50 events delivering the Individual Assistance programs and has served most of her career as a Voluntary Agency Liaison working in partnership with the voluntary organizations active in disaster in events such as Wildfires in CA; Hurricane Katrina, LA; Hurricane Maria, PR; Hurricane Laura, LA, and numerous others. She also assisted in non-Federally declared disasters such as the Haiti Earthquake providing donations management guidance to the Department of State; Deepwater Horizon coordinating social service agencies to assist residents financially impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf Coast; and most recently, supporting CBP with the migrant influx during the 2019 Border Crisis and HHS with the Unaccompanied Minors in 2021.

Miriam graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and prior to joining the emergency management community, she worked as an Interior Designer in New York City. In her “spare” time, she also proudly serves in the United States Air Force Reserves as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
 

Bishop Michael Girlinghouse has served as Bishop of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod since July of 2011. Prior to being called to serve as Bishop, he was Pastor of University Lutheran Church in Norman, OK and Campus Pastor for the University of Oklahoma. Ordained in 1987, Bishop Mike has served as a parish pastor, campus pastor and in congregations in transition or in need of a substitute pastor.  Bishop Mike has also served as an instructor at two universities teaching courses in Death and Dying and World Religion.

Bishop Mike was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, attended college at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN and seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

 
He is married and has one adult daughter.  He loves to cook, is a writer, and plays trombone and the djembe drum. 

 

Rabbi Vered L. Harris became the spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City in 2012. She is the fifth rabbi to serve the congregation since its founding in 1903.

 

Rabbi Harris’ community work in Oklahoma City includes interfaith dialogue, guest lecturing, and multi-faith prayer services. At the Temple she enjoys serving with a professional and volunteer team offering religious education, pastoral care, prayer, and social action opportunities. Although she was born Jewish, her formal study of the religion did not begin until college. Through learning and living Judaism, Rabbi Harris has become more passionate about civil rights, more compassionate for those who suffer, more open to universal truth, and overall a better human.

 

Rev. Pamela G. Holt joyfully serves the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as the Regional Minister.  During the last seven years, she has traveled the entire region visiting Oklahoma’s Disciples congregations and is moved by the diversity and depth of ministries around the region.  

Rev. Holt  is passionate about creating community, deepening discipleship, and attending to seasons of grief that come with loss of family, friends, pets, or life events.   She sees life experiences in particular ways and is often able to offer hope in the midst of despair.  In the long season of the pandemic, she has encouraged and cared for clergy who, in the reframing of meaningful  worship and ministry, have discovered a deep level of exhaustion.
 
Rev. Holt graduated from TCU in 1990 and Brite Divinity School in 1993 and was ordained by South Hills Christian Church in February, 1994.  She served three very different congregations in Texas prior to being called to serve as the Regional Minister in Oklahoma in January, 2015. 
 
She and her husband, Randy, live in Tuttle, Oklahoma on a few acres.  Rev. Holt  loves horses, and her two always keep her grounded in being fully present in relationship and leadership.  Pam and Randy delight in their daughter who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who live in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The Holt family travels regularly to Pagosa Springs, nestled in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, where they enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

Rev. Mary Gaudreau Hughes (series moderator) is an ordained United Methodist deacon, licensed professional counselor, and nationally known disaster response specialist with 25 years' experience working in crisis and disaster response. Rev. Hughes serves as the Executive Director for Crisis Care Ministries. A frequent teacher and facilitator in Oklahoma and beyond, she has authored and contributed to numerous disaster response curricula and resources and has provided key leadership in developing national standards and best practices in disaster spiritual and emotional care. She is the past chair of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee. Mary served for ten years as a national disaster consultant with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and she created a five-year pilot program based upon the National VOAD Disaster Spiritual Guidelines through the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. She continues to provide leadership in both the National VOAD and Oklahoma VOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committees.

The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson is Associate General Minister, Wider Church Ministries and Operations Co-Executive for Global Ministries for the United Church of Christ. Rev. Doc Karen Georgia is an inspiring preacher and theologian, who shares her skills and gifts in a variety of settings nationally and internationally, often using her poetry as a part of her ministry.

 

She is a gifted writer and poet. Her book of poetry Drums in Our Veins, published in 2020  is a compilation of poems that focus on the injustices facing people of African Descent and the fight and desire for racial justice globally. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, her poetry and writings reflect her Jamaican heritage and culture as well as the traditions and lore of her Ancestors.

 

Karen Georgia earned a BA from Brooklyn College in New York; a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC; and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. She also studied Public Policy at Duke University and earned her Doctorate in Ministry at Seattle University.

 

She is the mother of two sons – Everette and Patrick and has three grandchildren – Giovan, Elijah and Sara who are affectionately named by her as Peanut, Pumpkin and Pepper.