Our Staff has over 45 years of combined service at Bethel Neighborhood Center.
Each is dedicated to the mission of offering a renewed sense of hope to our neighbors.
If you would like to get to know each person a little better please read their biographies below.
Mang Sonna became the Executive Director of Bethel Neighborhood Center in May 2009. Prior to becoming the executive director, Mang served as the assistant program director at Bethel for two and half years. He also served as the Vice Principal and Principal of Rayburn College in Lamka, Manipur, India, for five years. He earned his Master of Science degree in Geography from North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya, India. He graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2004, and received his doctorate degree from the same seminary in December 2021. His doctoral dissertation is on "Christian Hospitality to Marginalized Persons: A Case Study of Bethel Neighborhood Center in Kanas City, Kansas."
Bethel gives him the opportunity to use his native language, other languages he knows, all his skills and creativity in the Bethel ministry. He said, “I am blessed to be able to use my whole being to serve God and God’s people. God is using me to be the voice for the voiceless to offer hope and help to those who need them the most.”
Mang oversees the programs and services, makes and executes plans, travels to speak at churches and visit donors, advocates, and interprets for refugees. In addition, Mang serves as one of the pastors of the Bethel Center Baptist Church. The lives that are transformed and the new hope people find because of the Bethel ministry excites him the most.
He believes that God made each human being equal, with a special purpose, and loves everyone the same. He said, “An inner city ministry like Bethel has many opportunities to show God’s love in words and in deeds. I am investing my life in the Bethel ministry because it emits the love of Christ and offers hope to the hopeless and empowers those who are powerless to become what God wants them to be.”
Mang’s top three goals are to bring financial stability, to have a new multipurpose hall, and to fulfill Bethel's mission of offer HOPE by making Bethel as a place of love, acceptance and renewal for all ages.
He is confident that by the grace of God and with the support of the churches, the community, and God’s people, Bethel will continue to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in our community.
Rosa Macias, a native of Wyandotte County, has been with Bethel Neighborhood Center since February 2007. She is the Administrative Assistant and Community Support Coordinator, and is most likely the friendly voice that will greet you when you call Bethel. She is responsible for many tasks such as administrative duties, managing the food pantry, coordinating with schools and groups for food donations, co-coordinating the Christmas Shop, working two mornings a week with our senior group, receptionist and office assistant duties, notary public and Spanish translation.
Rosa continues to serve at Bethel knowing she is using her skills to help the community and is happy to see that those in need have a welcoming environment to come get the services they need. Working at Bethel for her means helping to make a difference in the lives of many individuals and families whether it be a bag of groceries or a much needed smile.
Rosa feels the impact of what Bethel offers through the kind comments of those who have been helped by Bethel. As well as when she is out in her normal day life when she hears one of Bethel’s children say “Ms. Rosa, Ms. Rosa” waving to her with a huge smile. “I’m touched that they are so excited to see a Bethel staff member that they call your name out loud in the middle of a store or parking lot”.
She hopes to one day see Bethel grow into a larger facility, expand their food pantry and to be able to offer low-cost daycare for working parents which is much needed by many families in the community.
Sewing Instructor & Coordinator of Women's Enrichment Program
Nem Sonna is the lead instructor in the sewing training program and cooking class with young mothers. Prior to working at Bethel Neighborhood Center, Nem volunteered many hours at Bethel helping wherever help was needed. She said, “When my family and I first arrived in Kansas City from India, many people helped us, and I learned so many new things from those who helped us. I feel that it is now my turn to educate and equip young mothers with new skills to help support their family and to prepare nutritious and healthy foods. While my children were younger, they like to eat American foods more than the ethnic foods, and I had to learn how to prepare the American foods. It is very rewarding for me to work with young mothers as the role of mothers are very important to build strong God-fearing homes and community.”
Nem earned her Bachelor of Theology (B. Th) degree from Grace Bible College in Manipur, India, in 1995, and she completed a missiology training in Salem, Tamilnadu, India. Mang and Nem are blessed with two children – Mawi and Suan Sonna. After their children left home for college/university, Nem took two courses of sewing training under Once We Were Refugees. The basic sewing training she had while she was in high school in India, helped her to learn new skills faster. She enjoys learning new skills and teaching her students the new skills she learned both in cooking and sewing. She has gone to our students’ home teaching them how to use their oven and how to clean their homes, as our refugee women are not used to the appliances that are used in the American homes.
We accept donations of fabric, new and gently used sewing machines and sewing notions for the sewing training program. Nem's involvement in the Bethel ministry has diversified and widened our reach and impact. Bethel is blessed to have her working with our young women.
Picture and Bio coming soon
Program Director and
Hau Leivang joined the Bethel team in November 2022, and currently serves as the Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator. He has been part of the Bethel ministry since 2015 volunteering from time to time to do whatever was needed. He loves urban ministry and the diverse community Bethel serves reminds him of his high school and college days in Delhi, India.
Hau completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Delhi, India, a Master of Theology, and a Master of Divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Theology.
He believes in the ministry of Bethel in providing support and empowering individuals and families in the community and is excited about the role he plays in meeting people’s physical and, most importantly, spiritual needs. He hopes to impact the lives of many young people who participate in the children and youth program.
Hau is married to his wife, Muan, and they have one daughter, Nunmawi, and are awaiting the arrival of their second child. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and exploring the outdoors. Bethel is blessed to have Hau as one of our team leaders.
Liliana Arreola Perez
Assistant Program Director
Ms. Liliana Arreola Perez and her family moved to the United States from Mexico when she was 14 years old. With the hope to have a better future for their children, her parents made the difficult decision and took the journey. Lili went to Wyandotte high school and graduated in 2009.
Lili is married to Ivan Orta. She and her husband have three kids and four dogs. Her younger brother participated in the Bethel youth program for years, and her children are in our program as well. She was ecstatic when she found out that she would be able to work at Bethel. “My brother loved Bethel, and my kids love Bethel too. I am very excited to work at Bethel because Bethel helps people all the time.” She joined the Bethel staff in September 2021, and she became the Assistant Program Director from January 2, 2022.
Lili enjoys going to church and helping out with kids whenever help is needed. Lili said, “I enjoy helping others because my family and I received a lot of help when we first came to the United States. What makes me happy is knowing that God will always provide our needs.” In her free time, she enjoys cooking, listening to music, and doing arts and crafts. Bethel is blessed having her as a team member.
Julio Javier Macias
Julio Gonzalez Macias has been with Bethel for about 12 years. He started participating in the Bethel after school program when he was in 1st grade, and he is still in the program as a high school program participant. He is a senior in high school, and is looking forward to graduating in May of 2022. He started to volunteer in the after school and summer program when he was in the 9th grade and got offered a job in 11th grade.
Now as a staff, he works with kids, helping them with their homework, lead group games and other activities. He is more mature than his age, and he has become a great leader. He is hardworking and takes his responsibilities seriously. He enjoys working with children and other Bethel staff. During our summer program, he taught how to cook and bake healthy food to our students. He has been teaching and encouraging our youth to cook some healthy food at home. When not working with kids, he helps clean around Bethel and in the food pantry or wherever help is needed. Bethel is proud to have a very responsible young man like him.
Pau Cing was born and raised in Myanmar. Her family came to the United States in May of 2017. She graduated from Washington High School in 2021, and she goes to Kansas City Kansas Community College. She volunteered at Bethel about a year before joining as a program staff in Spring 2020. In addition to speaking the English language, she also speaks Tedim and Burmese languages fluently.
Pau Cing enjoys dancing, singing and reading books. Her childhood dream was to become a flight attendant because she enjoys meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. Working at Bethel has given her the opportunity to do that. She enjoys spending time with the kids and helping them with homework. Bethel is blessed to have her as a program staff.
Currently a junior at Wyandotte High School, Cristian plays the violin in his school's orchestra. His plan is to go into photography and graphic design after his high school graduation.
Cristian has lived here in Kansas City, Kansas for most of his life. From the time he was in first grade, he has been participating in the Bethel after school and summer program. He started volunteering when he was a freshman in high school, and he joined the Bethel staff in the summer of 2021. He continues to participate as a student in our high school program.
Bethel Neighborhood Center and his family played a very important role in shaping his values and worldview. He said, "I am a people person although I may not seem like it at first. I have been in this program for half of my life, and it has helped me become the person I am today. Bethel has taught me social skills and how to become a leader. I am now teaching younger students the same things Bethel staff have taught me." Bethel is blessed to have him as a staff member.
Vernita McMurtrey is a seasoned nonprofit executive and consults in the areas of strategic planning, grant funding and nonprofit management. Vernita has more than 25 years of executive management expertise serving over 13 years as the chief executive of the Missouri Health Insurance Pool. Ms. McMurtrey has provided executive management leadership of a full service family medical clinic, achieving the FQHC “look alike” designation.
Vernita previously served as the President of NAIC (National Association of Insurance Companies), a national organization leading nonprofit “high risk” health and insurance programs. Vernita has extensive experience in grant writing, planning, volunteer engagement, major gift development and stewardship, family philanthropy and strategic planning including matters of governance.
She is passionate about helping nonprofits, family foundations and individual philanthropists improve their practices effectively and joyfully impacting the causes to which they are committed. She is committed to community service and has presented on numerous topics to professional, community, donor and volunteer audiences across the country. Bethel is blessed to have her join the Bethel team.
Erik Acosta is currently a junior at Wyandotte High School. After high school graduation, he would like to study archaeology in college. He recently joined our staff after many years of being a Bethel student. He continues to participate in our high school program.
In his free time he likes to read books. He enjoys being at Bethel. He said, “I like to help students with their homework and help them get out of their comfort zone. I haven't been a staff at Bethel Neighborhood Center for long but I really like the vibe here and I learned many things. I enjoy meeting new people from different cultures and backgrounds.” Bethel is a place where he learned to open up more and show who he really is. Erik hopes to help others do the same.
Bio coming soon!
Bio coming soon!