Welcoming… Our New Executive Director!

new executive director

Dear Velvet Ashes Community,

Like many of you, over the past year as an organization we have experienced a lot of changes. We are seeing God move people to new places in His Kingdom. At the end of November, we said goodbye but not so long to Amy Young, as Director of Global Operations. We said hello to Sarah Hilkemann at the same time as our new Program Coordinator. During those first few months of transition, we couldn’t have been more ecstatic at how smoothly the work of the organization continued under Danielle and Sarah’s leadership. Our goal was to maintain the same rhythm, content and opportunities for you, our community, so that we could continue to meet you at the place of your need with encouragement.  Thank you for joining in the conversation with the blog posts, book clubs, Instragram posts and the annual retreat.  We love you and have you in mind with all the decisions made and efforts given.

As 2018 was drawing to a close, Danielle began a conversation with the Board about her future and where God was leading her. What could have been an uncertain time of wondering how Velvet Ashes would continue with the stepping down of two of the founding leaders, God’s hand was faithful at all points. As a Board, we stayed in a Unity of spirit and purpose that allowed us to see where God was moving and to trust Him with the next stage of Velvet Ashes. We have likened this process to growing up: going from a baby to a toddler, to an adolescent and so forth. At this crossroads we realized that Velvet Ashes needed to hire a full time Executive Director. This is a big leap of faith for us as we have operated with a small budget while providing first class content and experiences for our community.  As we step out in faith, we are trusting God to provide the finances through his people to cover the ongoing expenses of the organization.

We are so excited to announce the new Executive Director of Velvet Ashes. Many of you may remember Denise Beck from our past retreats as one of our video testimonies. Denise and her family served in South Sudan for over 7 years. They were part of a team that built infrastructure and brought opportunities to the people of South Sudan through a leadership training school, dental clinic, children’s programming and discipleship groups. Most recently Denise has served as the Client Services Director with LifeChoices in Joplin, MO.

We want to welcome Denise to our Velvet Ashes leadership team and eagerly anticipate how God will work in and through her to lead us in the next chapter.

With humble hearts,

Kim Nease, Board President

For the Velvet Ashes Board


You know that feeling when you sit across from someone you just met and realize you have so much in common and actually get each other? If there is any community I would want to pull up a chair in, it is this one. 

I still remember the feeling of the lump in my throat as we piled in our living room for family movie night in S. Sudan. Over the hum of the generator, while we swatted mosquitoes and situated our dirty bare feet around each other, my family laughed their way through “Mom’s Night Out”. Well, they laughed. I tried to hide my damp eyes and figure out how to communicate to my husband (who was giving me that “You ok?” look)  what was going on in this brain of mine.

I was fine until the mom sat cross legged on her CLEAN floor folding laundry out of a dryer. (lump forming) And then after a frazzled kid-crazy morning and a hurried round of car makeup on the way to church, her friends, her tribe, came around her as she walked in, lovingly looked at her and told her it would all be ok. They GOT her (full blown throat tightening and water works). I missed that. I missed my tribe. Not only that but I was trying to figure out, “Who was my tribe?”

My friends back home didn’t get this part of me really. And I wasn’t there to understand who they were…really.  I had a wonderful team and some great new friendships on the field, but we were remote and those friends who shared this feeling were borders away. They were “We need to plan a trip to see you” friends, not “I need to meet for coffee stat friends”.  I felt a longing for something I couldn’t fill. I didn’t know that at that moment God was moving in the hearts of others like me. Others who knew that our tribe was out there, but scattered. Like you, I am so thankful to know through the obedience of others, that God was listening to my longings, your longings, and the heart cries of others like us.  Through them He was preparing a way to care for those deep needs through Velvet Ashes.

I am so thrilled that years later, God has moved me to carry on the work that was started; to be a part of His story; to be a part of your tribe.

With Much Love,

Denise Beck


We are so thrilled to welcome Denise! What questions do you have for her? We invite you to get to know her more in this space!

Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash


  1. Amy Young August 4, 2019

    Denise! (and all of Velvet Ashes) this is a great day for Velvet Ashes :)! With you at the helm working with Sarah, the Board, the many teams that keep this community humming, God is smiling on us. This a great day that has been bathed in prayer and hope. Clapping, smiling, and raising my glass for the virtual toast — Clink! With love and joy, Amy

  2. Elizabeth August 5, 2019

    Welcome Denise! This is so fun how all these connections happen. And I hope to see both you and Danielle next summer when we’re in the States. 🙂

  3. Sarah Hilkemann August 5, 2019

    I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with you, Denise! It is so neat to see how God has prepared you for this role, and I know you will be such a blessing to this community!

  4. Danielle Wheeler August 5, 2019

    Such a joy for this to be public now! Denise, you are God’s gift to Velvet Ashes, and it’s been truly amazing to see our story unfold. He’s a good, good shepherd. I’m so hope-filled and excited for the future of VA! With much love and confidence, Danielle

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