Paula Silva is co-founder and president of FOCUS Ministries, Inc., and the director of FOCUS Women’s Center in Wood Dale, Illinois.
A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), Paula leads FOCUS Ministries’ Train the Trainer workshops. She leads a domestic violence support group, offers lay counseling and daily email or phone support to women who need help with relationship issues, and directs the daily activities of FOCUS Women’s Center.
Paula has coauthored the book, Violence Among Us: Ministry to Families in Crisis; the article To Terrorize No More, in the 2009 Fall issue of Just Between Us magazine; and the article, Domestic Violence Among Believers, in the 2005 Vol. 13 No. 3 issue of Christian Counseling Today magazine. She has been a guest on Midday Connection and Prime Time America (Moody Broadcasting Network), the Scott Thomas Show (WYLL radio in Chicago), Time for Hope, and the Harvest Show. She has served as co-host of “Restoring the Hope” conferences for women held in Illinois and Kentucky.
Paula has served on panels at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and has been a panelist at Mayor Daley’s Domestic Violence Seminar as well as a member of the Faith Based Advisory Committee for the Office of Domestic Violence. She has trained pastors, leaders, and churches on the dynamics of domestic violence at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. She has presented Behind Closed Doors, What Color is Your Elephant at seminars and Ten Keys to Counseling Victims of Domestic Violence workshops at the AACC World Conference in 2005.
Having received her BA in Elementary Education from Elmhurst College, Paula was a second grade teacher for seventeen years. She also received her MA in Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University and was Counseling Intake Coordinator for a Christian agency. She has also attended Larry Crabb’s School of Spiritual Direction.
Paula is a single parent of three adult children – John, Amy, and Charity – and a grandmother of six – Melissa, Jacob, Emily, Mirai, Kaden and Keilia – who are the joy of her life. She enjoys reading and singing on the worship team of her church.
“I stand in awe of my Lord that He would use my painful experiences and shattered dreams in life to make a difference in someone else. He has been so faithful to me showering me with His endless love and blessings. What a privilege it is to be in an intimate relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit knowing that a way will be made when there seems to be no way,” she said.
Paula is available to speak at churches, retreats, women’s conferences, schools, and conferences for pastors and counselors with a personal testimony or seminars/workshops on domestic violence. Contact her at 630-595-7023, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or regular mail at FOCUS Ministries, Inc., P.O. Box 2014, Elmhurst, IL 60126.
Karen Ferguson came to know of FOCUS Ministries in 1997. She was the Director of Healing Hearts Ministry, a support group ministry for survivors of sexual abuse/assault at Willow Creek Community Church from 1996 to 2009. Every support group in the 13 years of the ministry’s existence had 1 or 2 women that were either in an abusive relationship or formerly had been in an abusive relationship. She thought it was necessary to be educated on the topic of domestic abuse.
Karen also brings a business background to the ministry having run the day-to-day operations of her family’s small business for 30 years.
Evelyn Colon is a Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional, since 2011 and Abuser Intervention Facilitator since 2012, She has volunteered as a Hot Line Domestic Violence Advocate for a western suburb domestic violence shelter for women in 2009-10. Evelyn joined FOCUS in 2007 as a leader and facilitator for FOCUS Support Group Ministry. Since then, she has founded a Women’s Ministry on Domestic Violence and has been hosting monthly meetings out of her home to keep the victims. She has also created and hosted several successful seminars and conferences where she was presented an Honorary Award in giving back to the community. Evelyn has a heart for hurting women and has ministered to those women in the Christian community that have experienced domestic violence and abuse. She is also a trainer at Partners in the Journey seminar, training for Faith Base Domestic Violence. In 1990, Evelyn was an active volunteer as a Rape Victim Advocate in the medical field.
Paula Silva – President/Cofounder
Paula has counseled hundreds of women, family members, and friends caught in the dynamics of abusive situations since 1995. She feels FOCUS Ministries is her calling and purpose from God. Her passion is to walk the faith journey with each individual always pointing them to the healer of their soul, Jesus Christ.
Karen has kept an ongoing relationship with FOCUS and became a Board member in 2010. She has been an occasional contributor to the FOCUS newsletter and has worked on various administrative projects for the ministry.
Karen’s top spiritual gifts are shepherding, administration, wisdom and discernment. Her passion is shepherding hurting women. Throughout the 13 years of directing the ministry at Willow Creek she raised 11 small group leaders and apprentice leaders, over 200 women attended the support groups.
Lynn Charbonneau – Treasurer
Lynn has been involved in Focus Ministries since 1995 assisting in the ministry in different capacities. She possesses a heart for women who experience abusive relationships and has seen how FOCUS has ministered to hundreds of women over the years.
Over the years she kept her husband’s financial books for his contracting company. She brings a financial perspective to the FOCUS board.
Emilia Martinez – Secretary
Emilia Martinez first learned of FOCUS Ministries over 10 years ago. Through her own experience she attended a FOCUS support group for a couple of years in hopes of finding healing. It was through those few years of attending a FOCUS group that her passion grew for hurting women and decided to facilitate a support group for women of domestic violence. Since then has she decided that it was necessary to be educated in order to better assist the women with the dynamics of domestic violence issues. Currently she is attending Trinity International University working towards her Masters in Counseling Psychology to be better equipped beyond the scope of facilitating a support group. Emilia joined the FOCUS on board in 2011 and continues to trust in the healing that comes through the support of FOCUS Ministries and the love of Christ.
She works with the Deaf and Hard of hearing populations in the Public School system (Pre K-12). She also helps these families through the grieving process of not having a “normal” child. She serves on her homeowners association as a board member and has held the position of President and Treasurer of that association.
She has volunteered in the Healing Hearts Ministry, Special Friends Ministry and in a Special Projects Men’s Group at Willow Creek Community Church.
Currently, she serves in Divorce Care and facilitates the FOCUS support group at The Orchard Church. Her heart is to minister to those who experience abuse and/or divorce as she walks the journey with them to hope and healing.
Martha, a former Marine Corps Sergeant, has been a Certified Domestic Violence Counselor since 2005. Along her sister Vilma Matthews, she has coordinated and lead domestic violence support groups at several churches in the Chicago metropolitan area. She has also volunteered for Breakthrough ministries as a women’s support group leader and bible teacher. She has received her BA in Psychology from Governors State University, is currently enrolled in graduate school at GSU, and seeking to become a School Psychologist. She is the mother of three sons and a grandmother of five.
Martha is a survivor of a 22-year domestically violent marriage. As a result, her passion is helping women in domestic violence situations to learn their worth and value to Christ, teaching them what God’s word has to say about their situation, and walking alongside them as they gain confidence in their ability to not only survive, but to thrive.
As a Bible teacher, women’s conference speaker, and support group leader, Martha believes in the sufficiency of God’s word to address every life situation that is encountered.
Vilma Matthews was introduced to FOCUS ministries in 2004 and has maintained a supportive relationship with the ministry. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has been working in a counseling capacity for over 20 years. Her clinical experiences are in Domestic Violence (DV) counseling, premarital and marital counseling, working with at-risk youths, and counseling men and women in crisis who are currently living in homeless shelters.
She is a co-facilitator for Abigail’s Refuge, a therapeutic support group for women victimized by DV. Vilma is also a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education and Supervisor doctoral program at Governors State University (GSU). Her academic area of concentration is in DV within the Christian community.