Who We Are

Board of Directors

Joan Benson

I am a first generation Chinese-American. My grandfather was saved by missionaries in China and became a pastor. That faith has been carried back across the ocean and down through the generations. I hold a BS in Elementary Education from George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbuilt University and an MLS in Library and Information Science from the University of Maryland, however most of my working career has been in the area of business, working for IBM. Currently, I help my husband, Kevin, in his business as his office manager in our home office where I'm also able to be a full-time mom to our 6 children.

Although I had two biological sons from my first marriage, when Kevin and I were married we wanted to have a large family. God gave us more than we could ask or hope for when he put adoption on our hearts and gave us three beautiful daughters in 1997, 1999, and 2003 and a rambunctious son in 2006 - all adopted from China. We were one of America World's first adoptive families and have seen how God has blessed the seed that he placed in the Luwis' hearts years ago. Thousands of families know the wonderful joy of adoption and have children to love and raise for God's glory because of them. It is a privilege to serve on the Board of America World because the heart and mission of this ministry is an echo of the Lord's heart to care for the fatherless and to help provide not only physical homes, but also eternal hope in Jesus Christ. It is an honor to be involved in this caring ministry.


Ralph D. Rinaldi

I am a life-long resident of Northern Virginia and I currently reside in Loudoun County, Virginia with my wife, Susan, and our son Maxim. I graduated with honors from Randolph-Macon College with a B.A. in Political Science and I went on to graduate with honors and obtain a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. Since 1995 I have been an attorney at Cowles, Rinaldi, Judkins, & Korjus, Ltd., and since 2000 I have been a partner at that firm which is located in Fairfax, Virginia. My areas of concentration are construction law, estate planning and administration, general business law and collections, and more recently some aspects of adoption law. Susan and I are Catholic Christians and are also active members of the People of Praise, which is an ecumenical, spirit-filled, Christian community with branches throughout North America. In 2001 we adopted Maxim from Ryazan, Russia and we are currently underway and proceeding with a second adoption through Russia. As adoptive parents, Susan and I, along with our extended families, are whole-hearted supporters of the work of America World in placing children from around the world with Christian families.


David Barwell

David Barwell was born in Australia of English parents, and his sons were born in the United States. His wife, Barbara was born in South Africa and is in the fourth generation of missionaries. In Australia, after 4 years of seminary, he became a qualified teacher of deaf children. After coming to Maryland, he graduated from the University of Maryland as an Audiologist, worked in an E.N.T.’s medical office, and started his own business / ministry performing Audiology services and fitting hearing aids mostly in senior living communities.

My wife and I had talked about adoption for years, but had to do it or put the discussion to rest. I went to one of Brian’s first adoption seminars, and emotionally broke down twice driving home and had to pull off the road. I knew that this day was the turning point in my life, my wife’s life and far more dramatically the life of a baby girl to be born somewhere in China. Two days later we put in our application. On my 50th birthday, we received the photo of Yu Ye. We traveled shortly after. Four years later, the three of us traveled with America World to adopt our second daughter XiaoYu.

I have been happy to serve on the Board since its creation. I am continually impressed with America World’s professional capability and the kindness of each staff member under the leadership of Brian. I am happy to do whatever I can to promote adoptions: do seminars, talk to prospective families in person and by phone (and e-mail but I’m a slow typist), because I know first hand the sheer joy that God sends to us with our two girls. The excitement and wonder of holding our daughters for the first time has only increased with the years. Some adults may be happy without children, but adoption makes a lifetime of difference to the child.


Mark Gregston

Mark and Jan Gregston began their work with teens 30 years ago, when Mark was a youth minister at First Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their involvement with Young Life moved them to open their home to work with those who were struggling through crisis family problems. During the 80’s while living at Kankakuk Kamp in Branson, Missouri, Mark was the Area Director for Young Life, a part of the Leadership Team for Doulos Ministries, and helped start the residential program there.
In 1989, Mark and Jan moved with their two children, Adam and Melissa, to Hallsville, Texas. Here they started Heartlight Ministries, dedicated to providing an effective program for struggling and troubled teens in family crisis.
Their commitment to providing this opportunity through the years has allowed hundreds of families to work through difficult situations. Believing that an atmosphere of relationships creates an arena for change, Mark and Jan share their lives through retreats, speaking engagements, and counseling.
Mark travels most weekends speaking or leading the Dealing With Struggling Teens Seminars in cities across the nation. His hope is to help others before they need a type of program like Heartlight for their child.
Mark and Jan’s daughter, Melissa, a Child Life Specialist, is the Admissions Coordinator for Heartlight. She is married to Blake Nelson, Heartlight’s Residential Life Director. Blake and Melissa have two children, Maile and Macie. Mark and Jan’s son, Adam, works for LECG, LLC in Dallas, Texas.
Mark's most recent book, When Your Teen is Struggling, was released in January of 2007 and can be found online at www.heartlightresources.com or at most Christian bookstores.


Lynne Prinzing, BSW

Lynne Prinzing graduated in 1999 from George Mason University with a B.A. in Social Work. Prior to coming to work for America World in 2000 she had experience working and volunteering with the elderly and teens. She was the first social worker to be hired by AW and was instrumental in building the China and Eastern European programs. Lynne also assisted the agency with their COA and Hague accreditations. Her roles at America World have included Family Coordinator, Program Director, COA Coordinator, and Hague Coordinator. Currently she is employed by affiliate offices to conduct home study and post placement work for families in New York and Pennsylvania. In 2002 Lynne got married to Scott Prinzing and moved to New York where her husband works as the Guest Service Coordinator for Young Life’s Lake Champion. There they serve together to present to gospel to thousands of high school and junior high students each year at the outreach camp. Scott and Lynne have two biological children, a daughter and a son. In February of 2011 they brought home their daughter from China.


Marci Mercado

I graduated with a BSW from George Mason University in 1993 and worked for Concerned Women for America for two years before leaving to start a family. I have been married to my best friend, Tito, for over 21 years. We have four children, two sons and two daughters, ranging in age from 16 to 7 years of age. Our two youngest children, Kaylin and Annie, were both adopted as infants from China through AWAA in 2002 and 2005, respectively.

While I’m happy to contribute my social work experience and education, I feel my strength for the Board also comes through our AWAA adoptions. Given my penchant for research and my thorough understanding of the adoption community and, most importantly, my passion for seeing orphans cared for and placed in godly homes for the sake of Christ and his gospel, I find great satisfaction in participating together with the Board to see this work continue. Our own adoptions have changed our lives and have given us an even clearer picture of what Christ has done for us as God adopted us into his family and called us his own. We want to tell this story to anyone who will listen and encourage them to consider it as well. I am thankful for this opportunity to serve the families of America World and consider it a great privilege to participate on the Board.


Cristine Martine

In 2006, the Lord blessed our family with our daughter from China. During that trip, we had the amazing blessing of being the first family ever to enter the walls of the orphanage where our daughter was from. It was in those moments; seeing babies in cribs of metal, laying on plywood, no blankets, no toys, and no sounds of cries that the Lord wrecked our lives for the Fatherless. It was also in those moments that we declared that we would stand at the feet of our Savior one day and our answer to him would be, we pursued what you said is “Pure Religion” (James 1:27 “pure religion is visiting orphans in their distress”) at all cost. For almost 4 years my husband and I have been honored to serve as America World’s Senior Texas Associates. Serving in this role, I have found passion in listening and caring for the concerns of families throughout the process. I am honored and excited to have the possible opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for America World Adoption Association. I have and will always be passionate about America World and the ministry of serving families well through the adoption process.


Patrick James Van Winkle

[Dr. Van Winkle is the medical advisor to the Board and is not a voting member.]

I am a Pediatric doctor working for Kaiser Permanente in Orange County, California. I have been married since 1997, and have 3 children through adoption, Trent (adopted from Korea), Diana (adopted from China) and Taliah (adopted from Ethiopia). We are currently (August 2010) in the process of adopting our 4th child through AWAA from Ethiopia.

My wife and I have been involved in medical missions since 1999. We are currently working in Cambodia supporting community health care workers and are involved in medical care and work with at risk children. My wife and I also started and run a small orphan care ministry called the Miracle of Adoption Ministry. We have been volunteer associates for AWAA since 2003, holding bi-annual seminars and helping local families through the adoption process. We love working with AWAA. We love the heart of this organization, its desire to serve the Lord, these children and their adoptive families.



http://www.awaa.org/whoweare/board.aspx