Who We Are

Corporate Staff

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Brian Andrew Luwis

CEO
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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Les Gallagher

CFO/COO
As we were praying and fasting about being used by God in our next season of life, an e-mail arrived about an accounting job at AWAA. I graduated from Villanova University in 1978 and went to work for a “Big 4” CPA firm. After ten years of auditing, with a two year stint in England, I held senior financial management positions in industry including as the CFO of a listed company during its initial public offering. For the ten years prior to arriving at AWAA in August 2010 I was a forensic accountant assisting attorneys in securities litigation. In the midst of a self-directed existence God changed everything and gave me new life in January 1989. I’m fortunate to be married to Connie for 35 years and we’ve been blessed with six children. Three of our children are married, the oldest with our three grandkids, and three are still at home, the last two by way of Russia and China.

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Anna Graham

Senior Director of Programs
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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Melissa Blauvelt

Director of Programs
I joined the America World team in early 2006 and since that time have been honored to serve families in various stages of their adoption for programs including China, Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador. It has been a privilege to work with many families especially when families return to adopt another child through AW. It has been an honor to advocate for many waiting children and to assist those families who were called forward for their adoption. I have valued my time traveling to countries where AW has programs to serve the children and learn about the people and cultures of Haiti, China, and India. I have also enjoyed mission team work with Visiting Orphans to Ecuador and with church mission teams to Zambia and a year of volunteer youth work in England.

My personal faith journey and educational background in Family and Community Services have created a foundation for my career and volunteer experiences. Prior to my work at America World, I worked as a coordinator for outreach services to children in Washington D.C. at a Christian nonprofit. Currently I enjoy various volunteer roles with churches and nonprofits in the D.C metro area. I continue to value and look forward to my work alongside dedicated staff as we accompany families on their adoption journey.

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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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Andrew C. Brown, J.D.

Director of Corporate Governance
I joined America World in the fall of 2010, shortly after graduating from law school in Dallas, Texas where I spent most of my life. Prior to entering law school, I honestly had not considered adoption as a profession and fully intended on continuing in my plans to become an attorney and work in government. Fortunately, God had other plans. During my second year of school, my cousin and her husband went through what would prove to be an unsuccessful attempt to adopt internationally. While this was incredibly difficult for them as well as our family, God used their experience to peak my interest in adoption law. I went on to enroll in Family Law courses, publish an article on international adoption law, and represent abused and neglected children as part of the law school’s child advocacy clinic. In each of these experiences, it was clear that God was whispering, “This is my plan for you; serve my children.” Shortly before I left Texas to move to Virginia, my cousin and her husband came for a visit and brought along their newly adopted son. It was amazing to see how God had moved in our family during those past two years and brought joy out of the midst of hardship. I am excited and truly blessed to be a part of the America World staff and working to place children in loving homes.

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood…” –Daniel Burnham

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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 AWA, 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 ACT and I am now the Director of Missions for ACT. 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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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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Caitlin Edwards

Assistant Director
Ever since a young age, I have had a heart for orphans and vulnerable children. In result of mission experiences in Venezuela and Africa, my passion was expanded even further. Upon my return from Africa, I deeply longed to advocate for children across the world. Thanks to America World, I am able to work in a position that seems to perfectly align with my passions and the gifts God has given me. I feel extremely blessed to be part of such an agency.

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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 take on the role of Senior Family Coordinator 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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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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Jillian Bashore

Communications Manager
I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, and attended college in South Carolina, where I received a degree in Organizational Communication and Business. I moved to the Washington DC metro area in the fall of 2009 to be part of a young start-up church. I love living in this area and have been richly blessed to be able to serve in my church and now here at America World. Although I didn't have prior experience with adoption, it's exciting to see the process unfold and share in the joy of adoptive families.

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Lauren Durrer

Family Coordinator
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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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

Travel & Adoption Program Coordinator
My name is Celete Kato and I am originally from Michigan. I grew up in a family that loves the Lord and chose to participate in long term refugee foster care, which sparked my interest in adoption and orphan care at a young age. My father is Nigerian and after traveling to Nigeria with him in 2008, I further realized my desire to work with families and children internationally. During my undergraduate career at Carnegie Mellon University I participated in the Semester in Washington program, which introduced me to the DC metro area and allowed me to study International Relations at Georgetown for a semester. I fell in love with the city and after graduating, I decided I wanted to return to the DC area. I feel so honored that I get to work as the Travel Coordinator at America World and that I get to be a part of helping families experience the joy of adoption!

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Rob Henneberg

Director of Welcoming Angels
Growing up here in the DC metro area, I was blessed to be a part of a vibrant, diverse community of people from all walks of life. As of product of a Virginia education, I decided to return the favor and give it back by pursuing a career in education. With a teaching certification and M.Ed. from the Currey School of Education, I spent eight years teaching and coaching students with learning differences. A large number of these students had been adopted and quite a few of those had been adopted internationally. During this time, I also spent a summer in Kenya and the Dominican Republic. I continue to stay involved in the lives of children in both countries through child sponsorship and, in Kenya, through a U.S.-based team that works with a school in one of the largest slums in Nairobi. My passion for adoption springs from my experience working with and for the marginalized and my desire to be part of a vocation that has a global perspective and a Kingdom impact.

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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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Abby Konyndyk, MSW

Director of Intake
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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Margaret Hebda

Public Relations Administrative Assistant
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
Originally from Indiana, I now reside in the D.C. area with my husband. I attended Regent University in Virginia Beach where I received my B.S. in Psychology and always knew that I wanted to pursue a career that allowed me to work with families. I am so grateful to be a part of the America World team. When I received Christ as my personal Savior in my late teens, my whole life was changed! Daily, I am completely humbled at the thought of how God loves me as His daughter. My experience in Christian ministries and mission trips inspired my passion to reach out to others and demonstrate the love of God. I love children and firmly believe that every child is a precious gift from God and deserving of a loving home. Adoption is so beautiful and I am truly honored to work alongside families on their adoption journey!

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Ashley Nielsen

China Family Coordinator
My experience with adoption and orphan care began with many medical mission trips to Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, and India. From caring for Chilean orphans with HIV/AIDS to visiting Indian orphans who had been abandoned because of their extreme special needs, God has placed these experiences in my life to give me a true heart for orphan care. Having cared for sick children in orphanages, it is a blessing and a privilege to get to work with parents who want to adopt special needs children. I love being able to connect parents with beautiful children in need of a loving family. Originally from Washington State, I attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where I studied English literature and medical studies. My medical background helps me serve families by giving them a better sense of the care that waiting children need. I have worked with orphans in South America and Asia, and that experience has only given me a greater passion for connecting children with loving parents and for helping parents work through the adoption process to get their children home as quickly as possible.

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Meggan Murkli

Community Coordinator
From growing up in a culturally diverse community, to studying linguistics at a Virginia based University, to moving halfway across the country to take on an internship with a missions sending agency to flying several thousand miles across the ocean to develop an infant rescue program for abandoned infants in Eastern Europe, my heart has significantly been impacted for orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide. With the desire to bring as many people as I have privilege face to face with a crisis, a story, an individual life known by God ­ and more than anything else the hope of rescue and triumph to be found in Jesus Christ and with the confidence that we are a living extension of that hope, I am deeply honored to work alongside the incredible team of people at America World Adoption and to promote over twenty yearly mission trips, to visit orphaned and vulnerable kiddos worldwide through ACT.


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