Highlighting the Good: WIA’s Volunteers

By Lisa Quintana

You can never say enough about volunteers. They work hard, often behind the scenes, faithfully doing jobs that keep an organization functioning, without pay or accolades. To say, “thank you” to the volunteers who helped at the 2019 Women in Apologetics (WIA) annual conference is a modest way to show appreciation to these amazing people. This article is one way of showing gratitude to a few of these volunteers.

The youngest WIA volunteer is Conference Coordinator, Claire Gatzke, who is a wise 21-year-old woman. Gatzke was instrumental in helping to communicate and coordinate with our speakers and vendors. She created Excel spreadsheets with detailed information, made sure the speakers had what they needed, helped with registration and vendor set up, and was often the “go-to” person for general questions during the conference. Her energy and enthusiasm for the event were palpable!

What drew Gatzke into the study of apologetics, and ultimately to helping WIA, was attending a liberal arts school in Southern California. Although she was raised a Christian, attending Chapman College, a private secular, progressive college, was an eye-opener. Gatzke was surrounded by not only people who weren’t Christians, but who were anti-Christian. The homosexual lifestyle was celebrated, and most everything was considered a social construct. Atheistic and scientific attitudes were prevalent, mixed in with a heavy dose of social justice issues: reproductive rights, feminism, sexual identity issues, etc.

“It was okay to be a Christian there, as long as you were a ‘progressive’ Christian,” Gatzke said. “If you were an Evangelical Christian, you were considered neo-Nazi,” Gatzke said. She was lumped into that bias.

During that challenging time, her mom heard about a Biola on the Road apologetics conference and took Gatzke to it. At that conference, she heard about the M.A. in Christian Apologetics, and she felt called to enroll in the program once she finished her undergrad in Political Science (Dec. 2017). She is now currently enrolled at Biola, and her long-term plans are to work on the intersection of faith and politics, specifically Biblically-based public policy.

“Everyone should start reading some apologetics books. Reading Tactics by Greg Koukl showed me there is a way to engage the culture and question what other people believe,” Gatzke said. “I used to dread having those tough conversations about religion, wanting everyone to like me, and was terrified of what people would think. Now, I don’t fear that as much. More people need to start learning this stuff – it’s so important.”

Gatzke plans to continue to help with the coordination of the next conference and hopes to help increase the number of attendees. “I think there are a lot more women who would want to attend this event but may not know it’s happening,” she said. It’s Gatzke’s desire to get the word out to even more women for the 2020 WIA conference.

Another woman who helped behind “the lens” at the conference was WIA volunteer, Pam Williams, a self-taught photographer. Williams was the photographer for the WIA conference and took amazing pictures of the whole event pro-bono.

In addition to being a shutterbug, originally from New York City, Williams earned a BA in Home Economics and then received an MA in Public Health Nutrition/Education. She also studied writing and became a technical nutrition writer. She learned public speaking and conducted public speaking engagements on nutrition all over the US. She currently works in Southern California in the Newport/Mesa school district as a nutritionist and is blessed to be living where the weather is always nice and the surroundings are beautiful.

From nutrition to apologetics… how did that happen?

“Even though I grew up in the church, I kind of had one foot in and one foot out,” Williams said. She knew she needed to decide—either stay in the church or leave completely. Williams said that what she grew up with in church wasn’t about a relationship with Jesus Christ, but was more about religious rules or legalism. What she was seeking was meaning, purpose, and value.

As an avid learner, she wanted to make an educated decision. “I am a very curious person, and so I needed to know that God was real.” That is when she began reading a “gazillion books,” she said. This has been her spiritual journey for the past 30 years.

A self-professed bibliophile, Williams reads one to two books per week and is largely self-taught. As a natural researcher, Williams avidly searches for answers. She has read the Bible several times, written thousands of pages of notes, including questions about things she didn’t understand and found many of the answers by reading a variety of books. One of the first books she read that sparked an interest in apologetics was Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

“I read that book cover to cover, underlining it and so forth, and that started a hunger in me to know more about apologetics,” she said. Williams is currently enrolled in the Certificate of Apologetics program at Biola.

“I have no problem talking to atheists, Muslims, Jews, or anyone on a journey for answers,” Williams said. “If I don’t always have an answer, I’ll help them find one.”

When she’s not working, Williams enjoys blogging, reading (of course!), and photography. Williams’ photography of the WIA conference will be up soon, so be on the lookout! “When I do photography, I like to tell a story,” she said. WIA is glad to be part of Williams’ story too.

Last but not least, WIA gives thanks to volunteer Robert Bontrager, for helping with the video and live-streaming the keynote speakers at the conference.

He grew up in Salem, Oregon and was raised in a Christian family. Bontrager attended Biola as an undergrad and received a BA in TV/Film in 1991. This is when he met Krista Bontrager, one of the keynote speakers at the conference. They are married and have two children.

Bontrager worked at Stillwater Productions that produced the animation series, Adventures in Odyssey (Focus on the Family) for a few years. When Krista began working at Reasons to Believe, he also worked there as their media person for about a decade and worked on projects involving radio shows and documentaries. He now runs his own freelance videography business, while being a stay-at-home dad and doing some volunteer ministry work.

Bontrager became interested in apologetics when working at Reasons to Believe. He’s always liked science and thinks apologetics is useful for making the case to lead people to Christ.

“One main reason I support Women in Apologetics is that if a woman has particular gifting to teach or to lead, why would we want to limit that?” Robert said. “The main focus should be on the Great Commission, and it’s hard to do that if we’re telling half the Church you can’t teach or preach or anything of that nature.”

Robert plans to continue to be available to help the cause of WIA as he knows it is also important to have a good video presence. He continues to make himself available to help others through whatever door God opens. Currently, he is interning at a Pomona church, helping with outreach and evangelism. If you’re interested in hiring him for video work, please contact him via email at rwb134@gmail.com.

There is an old saying that goes like this: “Many hands make light work.” This could not be truer for all those who helped volunteer to make the 2019 WIA Conference a success! With our sincerest appreciation, thank you to all of our volunteers! If you are interested in being a WIA volunteer, please visit our volunteer page.

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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