Speaker Bios

Dr. Valerie Carter | Executive Director, Women's Missionary Union of Virginia
Valerie Carter has worked with Virginia Baptists since 1988. She received her Master of Divinity from the School of Theology at the Virginia Union, Master of Science in Sociology from VCU, and the Doctor of Ministry from the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond. Valerie's life mission is to inspire and challenge God's people to mission action. 

Jeni Cook | Former National Deputy Director of Veteran's Administration (VA) Chaplain Service
Jeni Cook has devoted her 33 year VA career to ministering to Veteran's spiritual health and well being. She received her Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Melanie Lassiter | Church and Community Ministry Director 
Melanie Lassiter has a BA in Social Work from Christopher Newport University. She is the Church and Community Director with Peninsula Baptist Association. "One of my main focuses is on pouring into young disciples within our churches so that they will make disciples, live a Jesus-based life, and pursue their role in the body of Christ." 

Sonia Valadez | Director of Human Resources at Bay Aging
Sonia Valadez is a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy. She served as the Senior Advisor &
Legislative Liason Personnel & Medical Policy. Office of the Chief Legislative Liason U.S. Army from 2015-2017. She facilitated changes in legislative authorities that broadened opportunities for gender integration within the Army and served as a key congressional advisor on a host of congressional hearings covering topics including suicide prevention programs and policies, and workforce composition and structure strategies.  

Sandy McElfresh | Vice President, The Pastor's Friend International
Sandy McElfresh is a certified minister with the Assemblies of God and has been working with Pastors in Eastern Africa and Brazil since 2002. The Pastor's Friend organization conducts leadership training in the Word and provides African pastors in rural areas with bibles. Their goal is to empower these pastors with the Word of God in their local language. 

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