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Bishop D. Michael Franklin (Pastor Mike)

chief Executive Officer

Education: Bachelor of Science, Lee University

Master of Education, University of South Alabama

Master of Divinity, Church of God School of Theology

Experience: After more than 40 years of pastoral ministry, Pastor Mike is serving in his 19th year as Senior Pastor of The Torch in Demorest, Georgia, which now serves through four campuses.

Pastor Mike’s ministry role also includes teaching leadership seminars, mentoring pastors and serving on community boards and committees.

Why serve survivors of child sexual abuse?  “As a pastor of forty years, I have served countless survivors of child sexual abuse and learned a myriad of truth regarding the torment associated with the travesty imposed.  Since the pain lasts for a lifetime, I am fueled by personal passion to assist those dealing with this issue as much as is possible.  The tragic stories break my heart and move me to action. 

Each individual copes with his/her story differently, but all survivors of sexual abuse need to receive the unfettered, overwhelming, exuberant love of Christ.  The unconditional love of Christ, when granted in a safe environment, can and does produce miracles in the lives of those who receive it.  What is more, freedom that comes from broken cycles of pain can be accessed as survivors embrace the truth of Christ’s teaching.”

Why Hope Thrives? “To help survivors work through the tragedies of their stories, the traps of shame and dysfunction, and the rejection caused by perpetrators.  In short, my desire is to see each survivor experience freedom from the past that brings joy and life to the present.”    

Favorite Bible Verse:  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22


Kris Barnes

Director of Retreats

Training: Entrepreneur/Life Coach, Non-Profit Management, Sexual Assault Response Team, Crisis Hotline Operator, Advocate for Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Victims

Experience: Kris began serving in children's ministry in 1990, followed by volunteering as small group leader and trainer for a variety of christian women's groups.

She received certification as a sexual assault response team member and crisis hotline operator, while serving in a management role for an emergency women's shelter. She served as Director for United Way for over 8 years and as a non profit consultant for more than a decade.

Kris began volunteering with our organization in 2014, hoping to help survivors in some small way. Through the grace of God, this opportunity has grown into a vision of hope and full time ministry that allows her share her experience, gifts and talents with those we serve and their families.

Why serve survivors of child sexual abuse? As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I am thankful for the freedom I have found in Christ. It is my passion to share the love of God and essential resources from His word to help others on their healing journey.

Why Hope Thrives? Hope Thrives is dedicated to providing hope and healing support services built upon a foundation of the word of God. It is through Christ that hope is renewed and lives are restored. Hope Thrives is dedicated to being a light in a dark world. As we continue to lift up the name of Jesus, He restores the shattered hopes and dreams and brings new life to those who call upon His name.

Favorite Bible Verse:Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17


Marlan Wilbanks

Chairman of the Board

Marlan Wilbanks is the Chairman of the Board for Hope Thrives.  Marlan is a founder of the Atlanta law firm, Wilbanks & Gouinlock, LLP.  He is a graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law and specializes exclusively in representing whistleblowers who file claims under the False Claims Act on behalf of the American Taxpayers.  Cases that have been filed by his firm have resulted in over $3 billion being returned to his clients and taxpayers of the United States.  He is nationally recognized as a leader in this field and has been selected as the “National Lawyer of the Year” by his peers.

Marlan has served as Chairman of the Hope Thrives Board for the past two years.  He is also active in a number of other organizations that benefit child sexual abuse survivors.  In 2016 he founded the Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) Clinic in conjunction with the University of Georgia School of Law.  The Wilbanks CEASE Clinic is the first clinic of its kind in the United States.  The Wilbanks Clinic is devoted exclusively to providing free legal services to the victims of child sexual abuse and their families.  The clinic serves victims of child sexual abuse in seeking social justice from predators across the state of Georgia. 

Marlan is the Chairman of the University of Georgia Law School Board of Visitors, a Trustee of Young Harris University and a supporter of numerous philanthropies that focus on assisting and protecting children who have been sexually abused. 

Marlan lives in Atlanta with his wife Diane.  His daughter, Lauren Crites, is a member of the Hope Thrives Board of Directors and she and her husband Mark reside in Atlanta as well.  Marlan and Diane are members of Northside United Methodist Church.