top of page

Connections 2023 Speakers

Russell Bio

Melissa Russell

As IJM’s Global Resources Consultant, Melissa Russell has served at IJM for over 15 years.  During her career she has led corporate-wide strategies for marketing, brand, crisis communications and revenue for offices in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. For the last five years she has served as Regional President of North America, overseeing all executive operations in the region. She launched IJM’s work with transnational corporate supply chain partnerships, and under her leadership IJM has raised nearly $1 billion to rescue women and men from slavery and oppression and help protect over 10 million people around the world. 


Melissa received her B.A. in Journalism and her Master of Arts in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives in the DC area with her husband and two sons.

Derek McNeil

J. Derek McNeil, PhD, is President and Provost of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. He holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to his tenure at The Seattle School, Derek served as faculty in the PsyD program at Wheaton College Graduate School for over 15 years.


He has worked as a clinician in private practice, a diversity advisor, an organizational consultant, and an administrator. His research, writing, and speaking have focused on issues of ethnic and racial socialization, the role of forgiveness in peacemaking, the identity development of African-American males, leadership in living systems, and resilience.

Ned Bustard_Headshot 2023-03.jpg

Ned Bustard

Ned Bustard is a graphic designer, children’s book illustrator, author, and printmaker. Some of the books include Bible History ABCs: God’s Story from A to Z, Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups, History of Art: Creation to Contemporary, The O in Hope, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, The Light Princess, The Lost Tales of Sir Galahad, and volumes I and II of Every Moment Holy. 


He is the creative director for World’s End Images and Square Halo Books, Inc., curates the Square Halo Gallery, is an elder at Wheatland Presbyterian Church, and serves on the boards of both the Association of Scholars of Christianity in the History of Art (ASCHA) and The Row House, Inc.


Learn more at

Duke Kwon 22a_edited.jpg

DUke Kwon

Duke Kwon is the lead pastor at Grace Meridian Hill, a neighborhood congregation in the Grace DC network in Washington, DC, and co-author of Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair (Brazos, 2021). He is also active in public conversations around race, equity, and racial repair in the American church, and he writes and lectures of these topics around the country.


Duke's work has appeared in the Washington Post, Christianity Today, and The Witness. Duke received his B.A. from Brown University and M.Div. and Th.M. (New Testament) from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He lives in the District of Columbia with his wife and three children.

Curt 2019 pic v4_edited.jpg

Curt Thompson, MD

Curt weaves together an understanding of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB) and a Christian view of what it means to be human — to educate and encourage others as they seek to fulfill their intrinsic desire to feel known, valued and connected. He understands that deep, authentic relationships are essential to experiencing a healthier, more purposeful life — but the only way to realize this is to begin telling our stories more truly.

Through his workshops, speaking engagements, books, organizational consulting, private clinical practice and other platforms, he helps people process their longings, grief, identity, purpose, perspective of God and perspective of humanity, inviting them to engage more authentically with their own stories and their relationships. Only then can they can feel truly known and connected and live into the meaningful reality they desire 
to create.

Curt and his wife, Phyllis, live outside of Washington DC and have two adult children.

bottom of page