Our Team

Daniel Whitehead, MA - Executive Director

Daniel Whitehead 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 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 - Operations Manager

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."
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Kate Dewhurst - Program Manager

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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Jina Lee - Administrator

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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Sue Nickel - Program Assistant

Sue is a retired pediatric nurse and clinical counsellor, and the author of 'Be Held,' a daily reader for those living with clinical depression. She presently works as a Mental Health Advocate and Programming Assistant at Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries.

Sue says:

I grew up in a medical home and was a registered nurse myself but, even so, the stigma of mental illness prevented me from being honest with myself and those I loved. As a result, it was decades before I received appropriate treatment and got on the road to recovery. Part of the mandate of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries is about opening wide the conversation and education about mental illness and the welcome therein of those suffering from it. The subsequent hope and goal is a significant decrease in stigma. It is a privilege for me to participate in this invaluable social and faith-based revolution. 
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Sarah Kift - Podcast Coordinator

Sarah is Sanctuary's resident podcaster; she is also a writer, facilitator, webinar host, and mother of two small children. She has worked in front line mental health and community support both in secular and faith-based communities for over seventeen years, from the heart of Vancouver's downtown east side to local churches. She also hosts training webinars for shelter workers across the province and is passionate about mental health education and advocacy.

Sarah says:

I first encountered Sanctuary at an event, and was invited to train as a volunteer coach soon after. It has been a joy to work with the Sanctuary team in different capacities!
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Leslie Roberts - Communications Coordinator

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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Daniela Amestegui - Graphic Designer

Daniela is a graphic designer striving to find ways to merge faith and vocation with her career. She got her bachelor's degree in Graphic Design in Bolivia, her beloved homeland, and moved to Vancouver to study theology at Regent College. She completed her master's degree in Christianity and the Arts in 2020. She has worked with many NGOs around the world as well as higher education institutions where she has learned the importance of purpose-driven design.

Dani says:

For the longest time, I didn’t know how mental health and faith coexisted. I always had an strong interest in both subjects, but never knew if they could be talked about in the same space—especially within the Latin American church. When I first got connected with Sanctuary Ministries and learned what they do, I sighed with relief to know that finally someone was breaking ground in this area and taking the challenge to add mental health to the Church's vocabulary. It's a privilege to help visually communicate this vision to the world.
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Jane Born - Program Development 

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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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.
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