Sanctuary Board

Garrett Thiessen, Chair

Garrett Thiessen is a Certified Financial Planner who owns a financial planning boutique firm in Vancouver, Granville West Group. Garrett's knowledge of the financial industry has provided him with the opportunity to partner closely with financial advisors and specialists in the past, which has increased his depth of experience in all aspects of financial and estate planning. Garrett's holistic approach to financial planning helps to create clarity beyond simple wealth management.

Garrett says:

Mental health does not discriminate as it can and does affect us all. I began work with Sanctuary to help provide a voice to those who too often are not heard. The team at Sanctuary provides a resource that I felt was missing within our communities. Whether community is defined as your local neighborhood, a place of worship, or any place where you wish to feel at "home," Sanctuary seeks to be there to provide tools and resources to help those in need. Every one of us deserve to feel that sense of relationship and belonging, regardless of background, faith or beliefs. I am proud to work alongside Sanctuary with this goal in mind.

Ceri Rees, Vice Chair

Ceri Rees is a communications professional with more than fifteen years experience in strategic leadership roles. Ceri has held roles in both education and business spheres, fulfilling curriculum design, teaching, business development, client management, brand, and communication roles. Ceri is deeply curious about what it means to be human, and has explored this question from a range of angles, including a degree in Biochemistry from Oxford University, and more latterly a graduate degree in theology.

Ceri says:

Sanctuary's focus on the integration of mental health and faith communities is absolutely critical. Over the last few years, I've walked with a number of friends and family members as they've wrestled through their own mental health challenges. I frequently found myself grasping for what to do or say, and realized I was ill-equipped to think well about their experience, or know how best to support them practically. During this season, I came across some of Sanctuary's resources, and was deeply grateful for a robust intellectual framework, together with practical tools to help.

John Diack, Secretary

John Diack is a former tech CEO who now provides mentoring to tech and for-purpose based founders all over the planet. BCIT (telecom engineering), SFU (executive management), and UBC Sauder (finance and strategic management) were the education sources along the way. Career roles ranged from engineer to CEO in companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies (in Canada, the US, and Israel). The most impactful events in John’s life read this way: meeting Jesus at forty-two years old, marrying Maureen, celebrating the birth of three children, and finding two mentors. He has been blessed to support amazing organizations such as A Rocha Canada, Poco Foundation, ACETECH (tech CEO association), and now Sanctuary.

John says:

I became deeply aware of the building mental health crisis about seven years ago when I began mentoring a mental health tech company focused on education, police, military, and corporate environments. In parallel, first-hand experiences in life and in our church revealed that none of us were equipped to support those dealing with any level of mental health challenge. Around the same time, I was introduced to Sharon Smith, one of the founders of Sanctuary. Her vision for a church community well prepared to support the mental health and wellbeing of congregation members, their families, and communities made so much sense. Since that time, Sanctuary has grown and matured so significantly. It is an honor to support the team.

Jean-Paul Beran

Jean-Paul was born and raised in Vancouver and still resides in the city. He spent over twenty years in the financial world before selling his practice in 2016. Since that time, Jean-Paul has played key roles consulting with non-profits in the lower mainland. He and his wife have been married since 1996 and have two daughters.

Jean-Paul says:

Mental health is something that affects each of us. Too often people tend to have a fear of talking and sharing about the struggles that they face. Sanctuary has provided a safe place for people to share openly. As a father of teenage daughters, I am grateful that Sanctuary has created a place that connects individuals to well-equipped people to help those with their journey.

Rod Bergen

Rod Bergen obtained a BCom from UBC in 1977 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1979, winning the gold medal for BC. He was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC in 2008. Rod spent seventeen years in the tax practice of a global accounting firm, providing advice to some of BC’s largest corporations, ultimately leading the firm’s BC tax practice and national real estate tax practice. From 1998-2012, he worked at The Jim Pattison Group as Managing Director, Tax and Financial Analysis. In 2013, Rod joined Power to Change Ministries and served as president from 2015-2021. Rod has been married to Cindy for forty-eight years and together they have five children and eight grandchildren.

Rod says:

One of my favourite Bible passages is Galatians 5:6 where saint Paul tells us that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Jesus said that his followers would be known by the love they have for one another. The broader Church, in its many flavours, should be a sanctuary, a safe place for everyone, including those experiencing mental health challenges. Someone once said that the Church is not a museum for the display of perfect people, but rather a hospital where the wounded, broken, hurt and injured find healing. By striving to engage the Church at the intersection of faith and mental health, Sanctuary is an instrument of love—helping the Church be a safe place where stigma is reduced and love is expressed to those who are living with mental health issues.

Bing Ho

Bing Ho earned his LLB from the University of Toronto and then studied law in Peking University from 1980-82. Born in Edmonton, Bing also lived, studied, and worked in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Chicago. He primarily acted for multinational corporations investing in China, became a partner of a major international law firm in 2000, and returned to Vancouver after retiring in 2015.

Bing says:

Too many family members and friends have struggled with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health challenges, and their difficulties have been exacerbated by stigma, discrimination, shame, lack of helpful information, and uni-dimensional approaches to healing. Sanctuary develops and shares resources and stories about lived experiences that compassionately and holistically illuminate these issues from psychological (science), theological (faith), and social (community) perspectives. Sanctuary’s work, dedicated to the awareness and promotion of mental health and wellbeing—in and through the Church from all of these perspectives—is critically important in a world where mental health issues are sharply rising. It is a blessing and privilege to be a part of their mission.

Patty Neilson

Patty Neilson is a native of Vancouver, married for fifty-one years, mother of three and grandmother to fourteen. For the past five years, she has served as President of the Vancouver Chapter of Legatus International. She is an interior designer with a love of textiles, grandkids, and creatively providing safe spaces where people can thrive.

Patty says:

The timing was right for me to join the Sanctuary board. As I considered it, I realized that I personally have been negatively impacted during my life in the Church with the lack of empathy and understanding around mental illness. I believe the time is now for Sanctuary. It is the ideal vehicle for God to infuse compassion, love, and healing into the communities of his people. I am excited to be part of such a dynamic, passionate group who are committed to strategically transforming our world.

Sanctuary UK Trustees

David Genn, Chair

David Genn is CEO at Goji, a fintech startup based in London. A software developer by background, David is passionate about building teams and organisations that make a difference.

David says:

I am excited to be part of the Sanctuary UK team's mission to equip the church to support mental health and wellbeing. This is such a critical issue for society at the moment and having a Church that knows how to bring good news to people in this sphere of their lives is essential.

David (DC) Logan

David Logan is a director of services for vulnerable people with sixteen years of leadership experience across London. He has designed, implemented, and managed new supportive communities for people journeying through various stages of social, material, and mental health challenges. David is also a songwriter, forming and leading indie soundscape collectives and music collaborations with those experiencing homelessness, amongst other projects. Together with his wife, Jen, he founded Fer, which produces theologically-informed artworks in a variety of forms responding to social issues. The severe learning and physical disabilities of his youngest child also continues to inform and inspire much of his work.

David says:

I have lived and worked closely with people with mental health challenges throughout my life. I’m convinced of the urgent, increasing need for compassionate and informed mental health care and of the intersectional benefit this makes to the flourishing of societies. I am equally convinced of, and excited by, the distinct place for the Church in this. With my work in mental health services, I believe we are asked by Jesus and resourced by the Spirit to be much more than another drop in, drop out service. We’ve been uniquely gifted with a deep wealth of spiritual treasures for good holistic mental health support that is rooted in something different to any other organization on earth. I am drawn to Sanctuary because they are supporting churches to take hold of this treasure and to operate under a hopeful and biblical practical theology whilst remaining guided by evidence-based practice.

Elli Johnson

Elli Johnson is a writer and poet working in Liverpool, where she lives with her husband and three children. Having initially trained as a theatre director, she began writing ten years ago. In 2019 she published her first book, a memoir about anxiety entitled How Not To Be Good. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry. Elli is a passionate advocate for increasing the dialogue around mental health. She hosts events and speaks regularly about her lived experience of post-natal depression and anxiety both in person and online.

Elli says:

I first encountered the work of Sanctuary via a friend and was blown away by the depth and insight of The Sanctuary Course. The combination of theological and psychologically rigorous content, combined with engaging personal stories has created a compelling and uniquely helpful resource for churches, small groups, and individuals. When Sanctuary UK launched, I was delighted to come on board as a trustee. I believe the work Sanctuary creates will be the answer to many churches’ questions around how to educate and offer support to its members—those who are already struggling with their mental health as well as those who haven’t given it a second thought.

Farayi Nyakubaya

Farayi Nyakubaya has worked as a Dialectical Behaviour Nurse Therapist for many years supporting people living with borderline personality disorder. He broadened his skills through a postgraduate diploma and worked as a clinical nurse specialist with patients with various personality disorders who had also committed serious offences. He has experience in staff training and team development. He moved into management and managed various inpatient services treating adults with complex mental health problems. He is currently working in an inpatient child and adolescent mental health service as a team manager looking after a service that treats young people with general acute mental health presentations.

Farayi says:

We are all broken and living in a broken world. The gospel is such wonderful news because it gives all creation hope for restoration. As we wait for the second coming of our Lord, the Church should use the authority of Christ to love the broken. Those in the margins of society should find love and acceptance in the Church of Jesus. The Church already does amazing work with the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. From my perspective, the Church needs to do more to support those living with mental illnesses and mental health challenges. Sanctuary’s work in equipping the Church in loving and supporting those with mental health problems is valuable and central to the call of the Church. This is why I feel so privileged to contribute to this work and believe that every church should glean from Sanctuary’s resources to equip itself.

Joy Johnston

Joy lives in London with her husband Tim, who is a barrister, and their three sons. Having completed a degree in psychology at Oxford University, Joy’s work to date has primarily been in the (politically neutral) UK civil service. Alongside this, Joy has helped to start several successful charities as a trustee and adviser. Joy was also one of the founding members of Community Church Harlesden and continues to be involved in leadership within the church. Joy is committed to social transformation and enjoys supporting people, organizations, and communities to grow and thrive.

Joy says:

I am really excited about Sanctuary UK. I was drawn to Sanctuary’s work because it is informed by both psychology and theology, as well as the important perspective of lived experience. I found the material in The Sanctuary Course really insightful. It has given me helpful tools for understanding my own mental health and supporting others. Given the scale of mental health challenges we face as a nation, I believe it is absolutely essential that the Church is equipped and resourced to better understand all aspects of mental health and wellbeing.