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IDEAS Speakers Forum

The IDEAS Speakers Forum is a community of professional practitioners who speak and teach on transformative international development topics and issues. They offer their expertise and experience through speaking engagements, classes, lectures, and webinars.

To inquire about a speaker at your church, group, or organization, please contact Barb Larson at

IDEAS Speakers & Topics

Dr. Bill Merrifield served cross-culturally in Beirut, Lebanon for 17 years. He holds an EdD in Educational Leadership from George Fox University, an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the American University of Beirut, an MA in Religion from Trinity International University, and a BA in Theology from Wheaton College. His experience includes roles in educational leadership and teaching in higher education, secondary education, and theological education. Dr. Merrifield’s research interests focus on the development of contextual critical thinking and refugee education. His dissertation examined the impact of socio-contextual, cultural, and linguistic variables in the critical thinking processes of multilingual students. His post-doc examined refugee education and employment in contexts of protracted displacement. Dr. Merrifield currently lives in Wheaton, IL and is the Director of Education with IDEAS.

Making Sense of Islam
This webinar examines Islam through a religious, historical, and cultural lens. It investigates Islamic beliefs and practices; addresses common misconceptions; explores the Christian-Muslim divide; and outlines practical steps for how to engage with Muslim neighbors and coworkers. With questions about the Muslim world at center stage politically, religiously, and socially, come discover how to demonstrate the redemptive message of Jesus by showing the world a response to Islam that is worthy of His name.

The Art of Critical Thinking
It seems like everyone touts the importance (or lack) of critical thinking these days. But what is critical thinking? Is it problem-solving, skepticism, self-reflexivity? Is it a set of skills, a disposition, or both? Is it a moral or amoral activity? Does critical thinking mean the same thing in different cultural contexts? This webinar presents different views on the purpose and goals of critical thinking and addresses the complicated question of what it means to promote critical thinking as a Christian in a multi-cultural world.

Christian Professionals & the Great Commission

Renewing Our Vision: Faith & Disability

Transformational Educators: A Special Education Perspective

Patrick Brady is IDEAS Agriculture Sector Director and has two advanced degrees in Agriculture from California Polytechnic State University and the University of California Davis. With IDEAS he has worked in fruit orchard renovation and development in Central Asia for 22 years. 

Spiritual Lessons from the Orchard

Principles of Cross-Cultural Ministry

Dr. Thomas L. Boehm, MDiv, PhD, is the Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith and Disability, focused on making disability discourse biblical, normative, and transformative for all. His research and writing focus on building inclusive community within schools and congregations to improve family quality of life for both people with and without disability. Thomas also serves as the Ann Haskins Associate Professor of Special Education, the Coordinator of the Special Education Program at Wheaton College, and is the founder of the nonprofit Faith for ALL.

A Biblical Theology of Disability: Faith and Flourishing for All

What does the Bible say about people with disabilities? How should a biblical theology of disability shape our view of God, others, and the way we engage in the world as followers of Jesus? Come join Dr. Thomas Boehm, Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith and Disability, as he presents a biblical perspective on disability that supports normative and transformative engagement with people with disabilities that can help us missionally move toward creating communities of hope, belonging, and flourishing for all.



Jayson Casper (MA, Islamic Studies; BS, Economics) has received awards and nominationsJayson Casper Headshot from the International Center for Journalists, the Religion Newswriters Association, and the Evangelical Press Association. Serving as Middle East correspondent for Christianity Today, his position provides the unique opportunity not only to interpret the news to American evangelicals, but also to live a gospel witness as he faithfully represents and honors local actors of all religious persuasions. He and his wife have lived in the Middle East region for 15 years and have 4 children.

Christians & Muslims: Building Peace in a Climate of Hostility

Lebanon: A Nation in Crisis and the Family That Lives Through It

Strife and Sorrow: What Devastation Abroad Can Teach Us about Division at Home

Chris Wiorek (MA, Communication; BS, Architectural Engineering) is the IDEAS Director of Community Development and has been a Project Director working with rural communities in Asia for 20 years. Working in partnership with residents, leaders, and government offices, he applies his engineering experience and knowledge of community development processes to bring lasting change to rural farming communities.

Community Development on the Ground: What Does It Look Like?

Gravity-Fed Water Systems: Design, Implementation, and Impact in Communities

Transformation through Community Development Professionals: Case Studies

Assessing Appropriate Technology for Rural Settings

Michael Miller is the Director of IDEAS Professional Sectors and has over 30 years business experience, including IT, financial reporting, and business process improvement. He served 9 years on IDEAS Board of Directors.

Is Work a 4-Letter Word?

Do you look forward to Mondays or dread them? Why should we work, and is there any value other than earning a regular paycheck? 

Discover through this webinar how your work is a vital part of life and even an act of worship. What you do 2,080 hours (or more) a year really matters! Work can be life-giving rather than life-draining. You will begin to comprehend the impact of the historic separation of sacred work and secular work, and your understanding of kingdom work will be expanded to include any good endeavor accomplished for the benefit of society and for the glory of God.

Best Practices for Transformational Businesses Internationally
The Value of Business in Marginalized Communities

Barb Larson (BS, Biological Sciences) has served with IDEAS in various capacities for nearly 10 years, after living and working in Bermuda, Cote d'lvoire, and France for 15 years. She is the Director of Community Life where she focuses on helping IDEAS Associates thrive in community throughout the lifecycles of their overseas work. She has spoken at conferences and retreats nationally and internationally for the past 17 years.

The Gospel for All Nations 

Renewal for Those Who Wait

Raising a Family Abroad

Building Community Overseas

Deirdre Harlow (MA, Biblical Studies; BS, Business Management) is the Director of Growth and Development at IDEAS and served 10 years as Associated Faculty at Denver Seminary as a Hebrew Professor and Training and Mentoring Professor. She has 20 years combined experience in graduate-level teaching, international nonprofits, publishing, coaching, and spiritual direction. Deirdre grew up as a military kid and loves traveling, running, and silent retreats.

Discovering and Living Out Your "Why"

5 Benefits of Partnership Development

Libby Bergstrom (MLS, Library Science; MA, Education – Library Media; BA – Elementary Education) has been with IDEAS since 2002, working in Turkey and Morocco, and now, based out of Jordan, in many other countries in Africa and Asia. She directs the IDEAS Global Reach Libraries project, which provides training, mentoring and professional expertise to librarians and libraries in forgotten and overlooked communities so that library users have access to books and information resources that will help spark transformation. She loves to read and in her current role reads a lot, searching out excellent books to share with readers around the world.

The Power of Books