Keynote Storytellers

Our General Sessions will spotlight four successful, dynamic leaders and their inspiring stories of resilience 

Hear their unique perspectives on persevering despite trauma and tragedy   

Laurie N. Nafziger: High-Stakes Resilience 

A clash with an employee leaves one resident dead, the employee jailed, and an organization reeling. Oaklawn President & CEO Laurie N. Nafziger tells the high-stakes story of leadership amidst trauma—and how her Anabaptist values of community and justice for the vulnerable proved key.

Laurie hails from Goshen, Indiana, where she's found a home at 8th Street Mennonite Church. She believes stories have the ability to take a difficult subject and transform it into something approachable.  "Stories," she says, "provide a non-threatening engaging, and accessible vehicle for truth and challenge." 



Don Tyson: Anything That Can Go Wrong... 

With just two weeks of class remaining, Murphy’s Law strikes: From car accidents to cancer, the faculty team of Eastern Mennonite University’s Nursing Department is caught in a whirlwind, without designated leadership and with students to mentor. EMU professor, Don Tyson, RN PhD, and director of the MSN program, shares how an entire department managed to unite in the face of repeated tragedies, supporting one another despite the circumstances, thanks to their commitment to a sacred covenant.


Don lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he is a member of Lindale Mennonite Church. About storytelling, Don says: "it allows us to help others understand the human side of our experience. It personalizes our life, providing a creative vehicle for telling our experiences to others."



Vicki Pendleton: True Courage in Times of Loss

Vicki Pendleton, former Director of Program Services at Jubilee Association, is a spiritual director at PATHWAYS, as well as an author and life coach. Years of witnessing loss have made her courageous, resilient, and wise in the ways of both grief and support: her's is a story of character and love. Guided by her own life experience of unforgettable loss, Vicki reflects on the strength of her team as they witnessed death, grieved with families, and ultimately, celebrated life.


Vicki lives in North Wales, Pennsylvania, where she is near her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. She loves to read, believing that a good story is unforgettable, but that a great one "can alter your life and worldview."



Everett J. Thomas: Falling Into Resilience 

A 100-year old resident suffers a debilitating fall. Faced with a broken hip and weeks of demanding physical therapy, she questions whether it is time to “just give up.” Hear the inspiring story of one woman’s choice of resilience, despite the temptation to despair, and its profound impact on those around her, including storyteller Everett J. Thomas, who served as Executive Director and Chaplain for the Greencroft Communities Foundation. 


Everett is fully retired as of December 1, 2017. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, where he is a member of College Mennonite Church. For Everett, storytelling is a vital part of making history and life and experiences come alive, "transporting us back to those times, places and experiences."