Meet My Friends: Four Extraordinary Minds

Meet My Friends: Inés Velásquez-McBryde, Maren Jo Schneider, Phil Allen, Jr., and Jacob Slaton

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Four Extraordinary Minds

Hey, friends! Today marks the kickoff of a new series where I’ll introduce you to some interesting friends in my circle. Get ready to peek into the lives of extraordinary minds making our world better, each in their own awesome way. Without further ado, let’s jump into the first installment of this Meet My Friends series!

1. Inés Velásquez-McBryde: A Pastor with a Passion for Reconciliation

ines velasquez mcbryde

First, let me spotlight my incredible wife Inés Velásquez-McBryde, who has been my rock and partner in crime for the past 19 years. Inés is not your average pastor; she’s a force to be reckoned with. One pastor once introduced her as being able to preach the paint off the walls, and I am so here for that. Co-leading The Church We Hope For in sunny southern California, Inés and her co-pastor Bobby Harrison are on a mission to create a multiethnic sanctuary for all.

Equipped with a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, Inés has over two decades of experience in church planting and pastoral leadership. Her accolades include the Ian-Pitts Watson Preaching Award, a testament to the sermons she’s preached in pulpits and conferences across the nation. Inés is not just about preaching; she’s a storyteller, a soccer mom, and a Nicaraguan soul who loves a good café con leche.

But let me share a behind-the-scenes glimpse. I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of Inés’ preaching. Women often approach her after hearing her preach expressing how they had never seen a woman boldly preach in their previous churches and how impactful it was to them. Inés’ empowering presence and unique approach resonate deeply, breaking down barriers and inspiring a new generation of female preachers. Her passion for multiethnic church planting, racial reconciliation, and empowering women in leadership is simply awe-inspiring. And I’m blessed to have a front-row seat to all of it.

Discover two of Ines’ powerful sermons here and here. Check them out!

2. Maren Jo Schneider: Unveiling the Bible’s Hidden Narratives, Podcast-Style

Maren Jo Schneider

Maren Jo Schneider is an English major with a flair for unraveling the mysteries of the Bible through her podcast, “The Bible and the English Major.” Maren’s unique approach brings ancient stories to life, infusing them with her “English major magic.”

Season after season, Maren dives into the tales of women in the Bible, blending literary analysis, storytelling, and insightful reflections. Take Season 5, where she explores ‘The Woman Caught in Adultery,’ exposing societal inequalities and manipulative tactics while emphasizing empathy for the marginalized. If you’re seeking a fresh perspective on biblical narratives, check out Maren’s podcast.

I get to see Maren regularly at church and in various settings. Without fail, she consistently inquires about my well-being and is genuinely attentive to the response. She’s a person who sees others, and I count it a blessing to be her friend.

3. Phil Allen, Jr.: Racial Justice Advocate, Author and Filmmaker, and Founder of the Racial Solidarity Project

Phil Allen, Jr.

Next up is Phil Allen, Jr., an author and Ph.D. student in Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he also earned an MA in Theology with a focus on Christian Ethics. Phil has written two books, Open Wounds: A Story of Racial Tragedy, Trauma, and Redemption and The Prophetic Lens: The Camera and Black Moral Agency from MLK to Darnella Frazier.

Phil’s roots trace back to the Gullah/Geechee culture of the Lowcountry of South Carolina, adding a rich layer to his diverse background. A former pastor of Own Your Faith Ministries in Santa Clarita, CA, speaker/preacher, poet, and documentary film producer, Phil’s journey reflects his passion for racial justice and healing trauma from racial tragedies.

His short film, “Open Wounds,” premiered in Los Angeles in January 2020, addressing racial trauma head-on. Phil’s commitment extends beyond the screen; he founded and is the chairman of the Racial Solidarity Project, a beacon for anti-racist activism that aims to foster racial solidarity through justice and equity advocacy, education, wellness, and intentional community-building.

Solidarity, for Phil, is more than a term; it’s a gospel-informed ethic grounded in God’s covenant. Through this lens, he works towards true reconciliation, acknowledging that solidarity is the witness of authentic reconciliation. Join Phil on his mission to dismantle racial inequities and foster solidarity, making the world a better place for all.

4. Jacob Slaton: Graphic Designer, Photographer, and Devotional Creator

Jacob Slaton

My good friend and camping buddy Jacob Slaton is a creative spirit with a love for the Grateful Dead, the great outdoors, and sandwiches made by others. Jacob is not just your typical graphic designer and photographer; he’s the mastermind behind Whatever Media Group (WMG), where he brings his creative vision to life.

In addition to WMG, Jacob runs Drawn, a weekly devotional service that connects people with God amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life. This innovative project is a fresh take on devotionals, delivered directly to you once a week through text messages. Jacob crafts a unique experience for those seeking a simple and easy way to find solace and spirituality.

Jacob and his wife Micaiah are deeply involved in Castle Bluff, where Jacob proudly serves as the board president. They have three kids and share a love for exploration and travel. Jacob is not just a creator; he’s a man on a mission to bring fun, joy, and a touch of the divine to those around him.

Your Turn to Share

Thank you for taking this journey into the lives of extraordinary individuals with me. Inés, Maren, Phil, and Jacob generously share their lives through the sermons, books, podcasts, and devotionals they create, offering us glimpses into the incredible ways people can make a lasting impact.

Before we wrap up, I’m curious about your experiences. If you know any of these remarkable individuals personally, how have they left their mark on your life? Your stories and reflections are valuable, and I encourage you to share them in the comments below.

Our discussions add depth and richness to these narratives, creating a space for shared experiences and diverse perspectives. As we eagerly await more tales of cool people doing impactful stuff, let’s continue celebrating the remarkable individuals who shape our world, one personal connection at a time!

Stay tuned for more tales about people I know doing good in the world!

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