Our Team

Daniel Whitehead, MA, ThM - CEO

Daniel is a Regent College graduate and ordained minister with over ten years of full-time vocational church ministry experience in the UK. He has traveled extensively overseas working on various humanitarian projects and is a certified mediator with London School of Mediation. Dan studied the role of majority world theological perspectives in shaping a theology of mental health in his ThM research.

Dan says:

Having spent ten years in full-time vocational church ministry, I know the levels of brokenness that a community carries, often in secret, and I have witnessed at firsthand the good, the bad, and the ugly approaches to mental health. Thus I have personally felt the great need for this ministry, and I can personally attest to the challenges of leading at times when my own mental health was poor. It is undoubtedly these firsthand experiences, including walking with many friends and family members through debilitating mental health struggles, that have caused me to see the value and power of Sanctuary’s work.
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Michelle Furumori - Director, Operations

Michelle studied commerce and practices hospitality. She has served in non-profit management, private sector analytics and operations, and church communications. 

Michelle says:

Through mental health seasons when family, friends or I have felt like sinking, I have heard the need for the Church to echo poet Kelsey Savage: "I have grown to be the safe harbour she returns to, the island fluent in holding steady as those I love weather the heavy work of seeking and breaking and shining. I know best how to be solid ground for residual waves in the limbs."
Michelle is currently on maternity leave.

Kate Dewhurst - Director, Programs

Kate has an academic background in International Development Studies and English Literature, and has worked as a teacher, pastor, manager, and writer. She finds the common threads of social justice and community development woven through the many roles she has filled and is inspired by the ways church communities can become even more loving places of belonging and hope.  

Kate says:

I'm a pastor’s kid who has worked in pastoral ministry, and through the years, I've participated in many different Christian denominations. Within these environments, I've experienced the powerful ways God works in community to bring support, care, healing, wholeness, and transformation. Also at times, through a lack of mental health awareness and understanding, I've witnessed further marginalization of persons living with mental health issues. A couple of years ago, I attended a Sanctuary seminar and was impacted by the stories of people with lived experience and their insights into how churches and parishes could better support their recovery journeys. I wanted to be part of an organization that elevates these voices and their life-wisdom. 
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Corin Pilling - National Director, UK

Corin joins Sanctuary after having spent the majority of his career working with people experiencing homelessness, leading Livability's work with churches, and developing training and resources to build an inclusive church. Corin is delighted to build on an existing partnership with Sanctuary to support the UK church in its growing response to mental health.

Corin says:

In twenty years working with homeless people and eighteen years as part of a diverse church based on an estate in central London, I've seen the impact of poor mental health on communities. Yet in these settings, I've seen the positive impact when each group has chosen to prioritize mental health and wellbeing. It leads to stronger communities which reflect the love of God, which in turn offers freedom for everybody to bring their gifts. I'm excited for the future of Sanctuary's work in the UK and building on the partnerships we've already established. I believe now is the time for the church to move from awareness to action and Sanctuary is here to support this journey.
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Markku Kostamo, MSc - Director, Development

Markku has served as an executive in the non-profit sector for over twenty years and is passionate about seeing organizations grow and develop in executing their mission and impact. To enable this, Markku takes an entrepreneurial and relational approach to revenue generation and partnerships.

Markku says:

I first engaged with Sanctuary Mental Health as a volunteer after being diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder a few years ago. This work is so critical and timely. I love what Sanctuary does. It is a huge privilege for me now to serve with Sanctuary and help the organization have a broader impact on mental wellness. I love having coffee—please email or call me if you would like to get together!
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Leslie Roberts, MA - Communications Manager

Leslie has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and has worked in advertising, television production, and as the Communications Director for a church in Texas. In her time working at the church, she realized one of the biggest needs in the church is for education, awareness, and care for people living with mental health challenges. Following her ministry experience, Leslie earned a master's degree at Regent College in Vancouver.

Leslie says:

Working in ministry, I developed a strong conviction that communicating well is a way of loving people well. I also saw a deep need for equipping leadership for better mental health care in the church. So when I moved to Vancouver in 2018 to begin studying at Regent College, one of the first classes I took was Mental Health & The Church. I got connected to Sanctuary and loved their vision for supporting the Church in learning how to communicate about and care for people with mental health challenges.
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Jina Lee - Operations Manager

Jina found meaning in her work with Sanctuary after a life-changing career break wherein she saw God’s grace and provision working in a powerful way. She has volunteered serving women refugees from North Korea, and as support staff at a Christian school in Kenya. Jina is also a freelance photographer and music instructor.

Jina says:

While my friends of faith struggled with mental health issues, I struggled to find the right words to comfort them. I realized the need for greater awareness and understanding of how to journey alongside them in a caring way, and Sanctuary provides that in our churches, helping them become compassionate communities for mental health.
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Jane Born, MDiv - Program Development Coordinator

Jane has been involved in ministry for over a decade, volunteering as a youth leader and Sunday school teacher at various churches, and spending six years on staff at the International House of Prayer. She has designed curriculum for several mission organizations, and recently completed graduate theological studies with an emphasis on mental health and spirituality at Regent College.

Jane says:

The years I spent in pastoral ministry convinced me of the desperate need for mental health education within the church. Too often I saw hurting individuals offered counseling perspectives that neglected spirituality and theological perspectives that dismissed psychology. My search for integrative resources and ministry approaches ultimately led me to Sanctuary. Through the work of this organization I have received personal restoration and discovered an alternative ministry model that offers hope to people of faith experiencing mental health challenges.
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Lizzy Ojo, BCom - Communications Coordinator

Lizzy holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a specialization in Marketing. She has worked in marketing/communications for several start-ups and non-profit organizations. Prior to joining Sanctuary, she worked in sales and frontline management at a large food and beverage CPG company. She also brings volunteer experience in campus and kids ministry.

Lizzy says:

I first heard about Sanctuary from Michelle, the Director of Operations. Sanctuary’s need for another communications person coincided with a need for more purpose-driven work in my life. I have personally experienced the consequences of a church ill-equipped to support those facing mental health challenges and so I support Sanctuary’s mission whole-heartedly. Now is an incredible time to be at the forefront of this space and I couldn’t be more excited to help in making the Church a more inclusive and loving place.
Email Lizzy

Laurence Vicencio - Administrator

Laurence studied communications and has worked in church ministry for over seven years. He co-founded and ran an event planning business for four years where he served as the Executive Director and as one of the lead planners. He has had experience working in customer service, film, and hospitality industries. Laurence has over a decade of experience in leadership, development, content production, and volunteering with non-profit organizations that focus on families, youth, and kids.

Laurence says:

I've sensed God leading me into a season of change for a while now and I felt God has been placing mental health on my heart for the past few years. Working as a pastor and walking alongside people going through their own mental health journeys opened my eyes and heart to how faith and mental health are connected, and how the Church can always do more to promote awareness, provide resources, and erase stigma with a loving and Christ-centred lens. This realization led me to Sanctuary and the important work they do to partner with faith organizations so that they are better equipped to walk alongside people who experience mental health challenges, and I’m delighted to be part of this in a meaningful way.
Email Laurence

Isabel Ong - Social Media Coordinator

Isabel has worked in marketing communications in the civil service and as a journalist/social media manager for a magazine. She has also volunteered as a youth and young adult leader in church for over ten years. Since moving from Singapore to Vancouver in 2017, she has been working as a freelance writer and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Christian Studies at Regent College.

Isabel says:

I was searching for ways to integrate my work with my faith more tangibly. I also come from a culture where living with mental health issues is a largely taboo topic that is is often perceived as shameful, and I was interested in finding out how we could have a more Christ-centered view and approach to mental illness. I was—and continue to be—deeply impacted and encouraged by Sanctuary's vision to equip the Church to have thoughtful and theological conversations about mental health. I am inspired to create space for honesty and vulnerability to flourish in the communities I belong to, as well as in the social media sphere.
Email Isabel

Amy Deutscher, MC - Research Intern

Amy has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Masters of Social Health and Counselling. While working as a youth minister in Sydney, she developed training for youth groups and the broader church around how to understand mental health theologically and how to practically support one another. She came to Vancouver to upgrade her Graduate Diploma of Divinity to a Masters of Divinity at Regent College.

Amy says:

My interest in mental health came from having an interest in people. I’ve always enjoyed listening to those around me, but worried I wasn’t helpful enough because I didn’t always know what to say. Study was really freeing for me because I learned that I don’t need to have all the answers to be helpful. My experience working in a church has shown me a lot of Christians want to be helpful, too—but they’re afraid they’ll do or say the wrong thing, or simply not know what to say. I see the potential of mental health resources developed for the Church, so when I heard about Sanctuary, I reached out about an internship and am delighted they’ve taken me on.
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Sean Dykink - Film Producer

Sean is a filmmaker with over ten years of experience in studio and freelance roles. For the past five years, he has produced a variety of work with his company GUUDi Media for corporate and non-profit clients. When he has some spare time you can find him creating online classes and low or no budget creative projects.

Sean says:

I first learned about Sanctuary Ministries after filming an interview with Dan Whitehead at Regent College. Interested in what he had to say and having heard that he was looking to create films for Sanctuary, I was compelled to eventually share my own story. I expressed interest in helping create videos for Sanctuary's first mental health course as it touched a nerve in my own lived experience. I’ve always felt a great pull to help those vulnerable to mental health challenges, as I had experienced immense healing from those who have been supportive of me when experiencing my own. I’m extremely grateful to have found further recovery in my own life and feel hopeful that through Sanctuary's work we can be part of others' recovery journeys as well.
Email Sean

Chelsea Evans, BBA - Grant Writer

Chelsea has a bachelor’s in business administration with a focus on marketing. For nearly ten years, Chelsea has been serving US-based non-profits in a variety of roles: outcomes management, government compliance, marketing, development, grant writing, and more. The majority of the non-profits she has worked with have a focus on serving individuals and families experiencing poverty and homelessness. Chelsea loves hospitality and also hosts guests through a bed and breakfast in the Texas hill country.

Chelsea says:

Sanctuary has been in a season of rapid growth, and thankfully for me, they were searching for a US-based grant writer. I am really grateful to be a part of this team and have witnessed first-hand the incredible need Sanctuary is meeting through their resources. I have personally lost loved ones to suicide and have close relationships with people who struggle with mental illness. I am excited to see the Church begin to address mental health from a place of openness, understanding, and compassion.