Who is RiverCross?
We are a growing community of people who are on mission to set vulnerable children free from trauma. United in our belief that local people are best positioned to fulfill this mission, we partner with organizations and churches to train local people in trauma-informed care. Because we know that story is a powerful way to bring about change, our training program is anchored by our award-winning audio dramas. As a result, our training is unique, engaging, and effective.
Why RiverCross Exists
RiverCross exists because a group of orphan caregivers asked for it. Eighty percent of their children had been sexually abused or exploited. They wanted their children to understand the love of God, but trauma created a barrier. They needed training to learn how to clear the barrier of trauma out of the way so that their children could come to know Christ.
In this community and across the globe, the majority of the world’s orphans live in families and communities where advanced degrees are rare but intelligence and creativity are high. Stories are the preferred way to learn. If a trauma training program is going to be effective in the majority world, it has to honor the way the majority world learns. It has to be anchored in story.
We anchor our training program in story by producing audio dramas embedded with the core essentials of trauma-informed care. We have produced two programs, Holding Esther and Jabota Bridge, and are in the planning stages for ten more programs so that we have a complete library of trauma training modules.
Building bridges of hope so that children can cross from trauma to the arms of Christ – This is why RiverCross exists.
Jesus treasures children and so we treasure children, particularly the most vulnerable children, and desire for them the healing he brings and the hope and future he offers.
Because Christ has called us to his own excellence, we pursue excellence working to bring him glory through innovative and effective programming.
Viewing each person as God’s workmanship, we advance team by partnering with others equipping them with trauma care for vulnerable children.
We honor the people we serve seeking to walk with humility and to advance unity, looking forward to the Day when we are gathered, every tribe, around the throne of God.
We cultivate our personal and community relationship with the Lord seeking his direction, following his guidance, and trusting that he will establish the work of our hands.
We will train anyone anywhere. Sign up for a free consultation to discuss your trauma training needs.
Sign Up For A Free Consultation
Sign up for a free consultation to discuss your trauma training needs.
Cindy Finley believes that every vulnerable child needs hope, hope in Christ. It is this belief that drives her in her ministry with RiverCross.
In 2008, Cindy and her husband, Bill, traveled to Ukraine for a ministry trip. During this trip, they experienced a life-changing moment when they visited an orphanage that was home to more than 300 children. As they toured the bleachy-clean facilities, their thought was, “God sets the lonely in families, not institutions.” In 2009, Cindy and Bill welcomed Katya into their family.
Cindy began serving with RiverCross in early 2014. In May of that year, Cindy coordinated a trip to Zambia to oversee the evaluation of RiverCross’s first project, Holding Esther. On African soil, Cindy saw God use the power of story to bring healing and hope to the lives of caregivers. She listened as they shared their stories of pain and abuse with her. And she walked with them as they discussed how they would take the healing they had experienced and the training they had received and use it to help the children in their care. It was at this time that God again spoke to her heart and said, “This is what I’ve been preparing you for.” Since 2016, it has been Cindy’s joy to serve as the executive director of RiverCross. She is passionate about the mission, believes wholeheartedly in the methodology and is humbled and honored that the Lord has appointed her to this role.
Cindy and Bill have been married for 30 years and live in Raleigh, NC where Bill serves as Area Director with Search International. Together they have seven adult children, three of which are married, and one granddaughter with another on the. way. They love Sunday Dinners with family and friends, long walks with their dog, Zuri, and getting to the Blue Ridge Mountains any time they can.
Devon has the privilege of giving the great majority of her time and energy being mom to five amazing kids ranging the ages of 8-18, including one daughter adopted from Ethiopia. She and her husband Nathan, a pastor, professor, and air national guard chaplain, have had the joy of serving churches in Knoxville, Tennessee and Raleigh, North Carolina. Together, they have traveled to many parts of the world training pastors and leaders and have a great desire to be a part equipping the Church of the nations for ministry.
Over the years, Devon has established several ministries that use dance and drama to share the hope of the Gospel and is currently a dance instructor at Field of Dreams Performing Arts teaching students to express their hearts to the Lord and communicate the beauty of His Word through movement.
After years of informal counseling as a pastor’s wife, she received her MA in Biblical Counseling from Southern seminary, is a certified Biblical Counselor, and has a Trauma Certificate from Wheaton College Graduate School.
As a young teen, Devon lost her home in the 1994 Northridge earthquake and experienced the power of Christ to be her strength, joy, and healer during that traumatic experience and the radical changes in her life that followed.
Being an adoptive mom, Devon is continuously is reminded of the millions of children around the world that need care not only for physical needs but also to have Jesus heal their broken hearts.Therefore, when she experienced RiverCross during a training for caregivers who work with a local refugee population, she was immediately drawn to what God was doing through this ministry. It uniquely ties together so many threads of her passion, training, and testimony.
It is therefore an immense privilege and joy for her to serve as Training Director and Trauma Specialist, seeing the vision for caring for vulnerable children’s hearts shared and multiplied in others.
Executive and Ministry Assistant
Brenda had lunch one day with Cindy and learned about the work she is doing with orphans and vulnerable children around the world through the ministry of RiverCross. Through that conversation, Brenda’s eyes were opened to the issue of the emotional trauma these precious children face because of the abuse, neglect, and loss they have experienced. Brenda’s heart was burdened for these beautiful children and loved what God was doing through RiverCross. She wanted to do something to help. Having 15 years of church administration experience, Brenda used that experience to begin volunteering as the Ministry Assistant in 2016 and recently started working part-time as the Executive and Ministry Assistant.
In 2019, Brenda was diagnosed with a rare form of sinus cancer and saw God’s abundant grace, love, and healing through that journey. With deep gratitude, she continues to see God’s faithfulness through every joy and challenge.
Brenda loves spending time with her husband, Neal, and their four boys. She is completely outnumbered, but she really doesn’t mind being the only girl in the house.
Program Director for Zimbabwe
Tinofara is passionate about River Cross because it aims to strengthen the local leaders and caregivers to help vulnerable children heal emotionally and find hope in Jesus through its story-based training. Tino believes RiverCross is the tool to build bridges of hope in communities, our nation and all the nations
Tino lives in Harare with his wife, Faith, and children, Anesu, Adonai and Atida. He is a founder in community sports games, and Men of Courage group. Tino and his wife actively serve as pastors at Eternal Word Ministries International church. He was profoundly impacted by the Zambian trip where he met with the RiverCross team and had an opportunity to be trained as a RiverCross Trainer, from there he has never been the same and has a big heart for the vulnerable children and sees River Cross as a revolution against child abuse.
Allison is the wife of Chris Hodges, RiverCross Board Treasurer, and mom of three. Allison learned about RiverCross through Cindy and loved the message of hope that is delivered to some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Allison is a stay-at-home mom and had been looking for a volunteer opportunity, and RiverCross was at the top of the list. She believes that these precious children deserve to be shown the Father’s love in a way that is relevant and in a way that they can receive.
Cindy recognized Allison’s gifts of organization and hospitality and approached Allison with a volunteer position that lined up with these gifts as well as her season of life as a stay-at-home Mom. As the Gratitude Coordinator, Allison works closely with Brenda to ensure that our champions are also shown love and appreciation for their partnership.
Allison loves spending time with her husband and children, especially on the water. She grew up on the coast of NC and is a true Southern girl at heart, her drink of choice being a sweet tea.
Trainer and Childhood Education Specialist
Mary Kathryn is married to Joseph Bumgarner and they have three daughters, Winnie, Daisy, and Frances. She grew up in Raleigh, and as a teenager on a mission trip to Kenya, God gave her a desire to seek and to serve the nations.
Mary Kathryn is a practicing cardiac physician assistant in Raleigh with REX Hospital, alongside her husband, a cardiologist. She and Joseph have served refugees through ministries and resettlement agencies in North Carolina and Ohio over the last ten years.
Through serving with a local refugee organization, Mary Kathryn learned of RiverCross Global, and after participating in discussion groups, she began to see the need for an expansion of compassion for vulnerable children. She was drawn to RiverCross because of its commitment to excellence for Christ through audio drama, a method of discipleship she benefited from throughout her early life and one she and Joseph continue to use with their children today. She is growing in the knowledge that trauma healing can provide a way for vulnerable people groups and caregivers to learn to see their story in the context of God’s bigger story of salvation.
Mary Kathryn works as a RiverCross trainer and is serving as the Raleigh Refugee Coordinator alongside the leadership team. She humbly and joyfully joins RiverCross Global in caring for those whom God placed on her heart decades ago.
The RiverCross Board Of Directors
Chris grew up in Raleigh for most of his life besides a 3-year stint in London, England in elementary school. He attended NC State University graduating with a degree in business management and information technology. He spent the year after graduation as an intern for Cru International at NC State. While serving he helped lead an international mission trip to Slovakia for 6 weeks and attended a Christian conference in South Korea with over 18000 attendees from 117 countries, and was able to see spiritual persecution first hand. Many attendees that he met knew that if their governments knew or found out they were at this conference they would be thrown in jail or killed.
Chris currently operates Redeeming Development Group (RDG), a real estate development company, in Raleigh that renovates and builds residential and commercial properties in the Triangle. RDG focuses on redeeming both properties and lives through their work, mainly in the downtown market. They hire many people from the communities they work in giving them a second chance after incarceration and addictions and focusing on all the needs of employees (physical, emotional and spiritual.) RDG’s vision is “to steward investments to build communities and transform lives”. They accomplish this through giving new life to older properties rather than demolition. This allows them to sell their properties at a lower price point to allow greater diversity in each neighborhood they operate in.
Chris’s favorite thing is spending time with his wife, Allison, and, kids Bridger and Brecken, and enjoys traveling throughout the world. He currently serves as an Elder at The Point Church North Raleigh and enjoys meeting with young men to discuss spiritual topics and help them grow deeper relationships with the Lord. He was drawn to RiverCross mainly for the holistic approach to helping vulnerable children in need. This approach to meeting the children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as the training of the support networks these children need as they heal from unbelievable tragedy and trauma.
Meet Jessica Hughey, who serves as Vice Chairman of our Board of Directors and on our ministry team. Jessica is married to Michael and they have a daughter, Emily and a sweet boy they are in the process of adopting. Jessica has her Master’s in Teaching and was a teacher for seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. During the summer breaks from teaching, she travelled to various countries in Africa offering training and teaching respite, and traveled to countries in Southeast Asia working with ministries to sex trafficked teens.
Jessica connected with RiverCross when she was a first-time mom, and she heard that she could be a “kitchen table abolitionist.” She loved the idea of being able to continue serving with a cause that stirs her passion, and make her family her priority.
Jessica is so supportive of the way RiverCross approaches trauma. “I love that it addresses the spirit and not just the mind or body. I love that it speaks to people
in their own voice with a resounding message of hope.”
Since joining RiverCross in 2016, she has been developing training manuals and discussion guides to accompany RiverCross’ audio dramas, training facilitators, and served with RiverCross on the ground in Zambia in 2019.
Mary Vandel Young
Mary Vandel Young and her husband, Dr. Jason Young, have called Raleigh, NC home since 2005 where Mary has served in ministry with Young Life and the Executive Director of JourneyMates.
Mary grew up in Cheyenne Wyoming and graduated from Baylor University, in Waco, TX, with a BS in Secondary Education. She began her teaching career at the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1991 while serving with Young Life International, as a minister to third culture kids from around the world. Returning to the United States in 1994, Mary transitioned into a full-time ministry role in Colorado Springs, CO with Young Life International. In 1997 she moved to Lima, Peru to teach and minister to third culture adolescents at Collegio Roosevelt, an American School, and with Vida Joven, Peru’s Young Life ministry. Mary left Peru in 1999 to complete a graduate degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA where she met and married Jason. While continuing to pursue her degree at Fuller, Mary served as Assistant Director of Extended Education in the Center for Lifelong Learning. She graduated with a Masters of Divinity in 2003, just two months shy of delivering the Young’s second of two sons, Luke and Tobias.
In 2005, Mary’s husband, Jason, a clinical psychologist and North Carolina native, received a call to return to Raleigh to open Young and Brovet Psychological Services.
Mary’s passion for soul care and spiritual formation ministry led her to JourneyMates, where she began serving as a volunteer in 2006. In 2009, while continuing her volunteer role with JourneyMates, Mary returned to her Young Life roots, joining the Raleigh Young Life Committee and serving in a staff position. In 2012, Mary became Executive Director of JourneyMates when the ministry was formed as a 501C3 non-profit.
Alongside her work with JourneyMates, Mary serves as a spiritual director to individuals and teaches Christian Soul Care and Spiritual Formation through the Raleigh Fellows.
Cindy Finley believes that every vulnerable child needs hope, hope in Christ. It is this belief that drives her in her ministry with RiverCross.
Cindy and her husband, Bill, have seven adult children, two of which are married. Cindy and Bill served with Young Life and in church ministry with Bill planting and pastoring churches in Charlottesville, VA and Raleigh, NC. During these years, Cindy homeschooled their children, developed curriculum for the public school system, led the children’s ministry for their church, developed and led Bible studies, and was a sought-after speaker and workshop leader for women’s conferences and retreats.
In 2008, Bill and Cindy traveled to Ukraine where they led marriage conferences. During this trip, they experienced a life-changing moment when they visited an orphanage that was home to more than 300 children. As they toured the bleachy-clean facilities, Cindy’s thought was, “God sets the lonely in families, not institutions.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Cindy was preparing to speak at a women’s event when she received an email from her friend, Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Unseen. Sara wrote, “Cindy, I know your life is full, but God urged me to tell you about a seven-year old girl named Katya. Katya is an orphan and has been approved to come the U.S. through a hosting program, but her host family has fallen through. They are looking for a family who will not only host her, but will consider being her forever family.”
Cindy and Bill prayed with Sara, her husband, Nate, and their praying community. Within 24 hours they committed to welcoming Katya into their home as their guest. During Katya’s four weeks with the Finley Family, she experienced family life in the rolling hills of Charlottesville, VA, running in and out of the sprinkler, picking tomatoes, playing with their golden retrievers, and experiencing the 4th of July. During this month, Cindy and Bill saw the impact of trauma in Katya’s life and they began to ask God for direction. In November God gave them the clarity they needed and they began the adoption process.
After a year filled with prayer, preparation and perseverance, Cindy and Bill welcomed Katya into their family, not as a guest, but as their daughter. After six weeks in Ukraine, while Cindy and Katya were traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, Cindy heard God whisper to her heart, “I invited you to go after the one. Now I am inviting you to go after the millions.”
Cindy took note, but had no idea what God was talking about. RiverCross was not even in existence at that time, but God was already preparing her for this work.
Cindy began serving with RiverCross in early 2014 when the founder, Susan Vonolszewski, asked her to assist her with the ministry. In May of that year, Cindy coordinated a research trip to Zambia to oversee the doctoral testing of RiverCross’s first project, Holding Esther.
On African soil, Cindy saw God use the power of story to bring healing and hope to the lives of caregivers. She listened as they shared their stories of pain and abuse with her. And she walked with them as they discussed how they would take the healing they had experienced and the training they had received and use it to help the children in their care. It was at this time that God again spoke to her heart and said, “This is what I’ve been preparing you for.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Cindy and Susan shared what God had been speaking to each of them, and it was the same thing. Cindy was to join the RiverCross staff as the associate director with the intent that she would step into the role of executive director. Cindy served for two years as the associate director and in July 2016, Susan passed the leadership baton to Cindy.
Since 2016, it has been Cindy’s joy to serve as the executive director of RiverCross. She is passionate about the mission, believes wholeheartedly in the methodology and is humbled and honored that the Lord has appointed her to this role.
Cindy has her master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with internships in pediatric oncology and adolescent psychiatry. She holds a certificate in High Trust Leadership and earned her credential as a nonprofit leader from Christian Leadership Alliance. Cindy served on the Advisory Board for Innocents at Risk and has been an active participant in Mission Increase and now Mission Triangle since 2011. She is a dynamic conference and retreat speaker, Bible teacher, panelist and workshop leader presenting at multiple women’s and church events as well as Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit and World Without Orphans Global Forum.
Cindy and Bill have been married for 28 years and live in Raleigh, NC where Bill serves as Area Director with Search International. They love Sunday Dinners with family and friends, long walks with their dog, Zuri, and getting to the Blue Ridge Mountains any time they can. You can reach Cindy at email@example.com.
Partner with Cindy in her work to serve the world’s most vulnerable children. Donate here and write Cindy Finley in the notes.
Jeanne lives in Fuquay Varina, NC with her husband, Paul, and a
rotating population of foster dogs.
After working as a stay-at-home Mom for several years, Jeanne
returned to school to earn a BS in Information Systems at Meredith College
followed by an MS in Technology Systems/Digital Communications from East
Jeanne has endeavoured to use her knowledge, skills and sense of
justice in both the public and private sector, and in for-profit and charitable
organizations. She currently works as an Information Systems Manager in the
Both Jeanne and Paul have worked and lived in several countries,
including several states in their native America. They have seen first-hand the
injustice and devastating impact of trauma which encourages their personal
mission to, “Defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9b ESV)
Jeanne believes that human power, especially when disguised as
love, can stand as a barrier to Christ’s true love infiltrating children’s
hearts. Because RiverCross Global utilizes God’s incarnate power of team,
technology and informed teaching, Jeanne keenly feels the challenge – and
privilege – in serving as part of the RiverCross Board of Directors.
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