Michael Briggs — Executive Director
Michael has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary and is completing a Doctorate in Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Earlier in his career, Michael worked as a manager with Accenture for eight years, focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry. He then served as a vice-president with Bank of America, where he focused on process design in the Wealth Management division. After moving to the non-profit world, he served for almost three years as a missionary in Spain with World Harvest Mission. Most recently, Michael worked as Executive Director of Third Millennium Ministries in Orlando, Florida. Michael and his wife, Kathryn, have three children.
Foundational Principles & Practices
Justin Lonas — Assistant to the President
Justin joined Chalmers in 2016 after serving in different roles for several years at AMG International, a non-denominational missions agency. He is a 2006 graduate of Bryan College with a B.A. in Communications. His interest in the Chalmers Center began when he read When Helping Hurts with his church missions committee in 2009 and they began to work through the implications of the principles they learned for the church’s ongoing work in Haiti. At Chalmers, his primary role is stewarding the President’s time and commitments for ministry effectiveness. Justin and his wife, Rachel, have three young daughters. He enjoys the outdoors, literature, writing, and cooking for his family and others.
Russ Debenport — Vice President of Programs
Russ has led for-profit and non-profit organizations, including roles in financial services, healthcare, and international development. He holds an MBA from Arizona State University, where he studied while also working at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. He and his wife lived in Thailand from 2005 to 2007, where they served as Christian missionaries with a local church planting team and volunteered with several NGOs focusing on orphan care, HIV/AIDS services, and Burmese refugee support. Russ joined Compassion International in 2007 and has held marketing, program, and advocacy-related roles with an emphasis in strategy and operations. Most recently, he served as the Director of Global Advocacy Strategy for Compassion International. Russ will be moving from Colorado to Chattanooga with his wife, Rebecca, and their two children, Kate (6 yo) and Jack (2 yo).
Daniel Ryumugabe — Director of International Programs
Daniel’s role at Chalmers involves leading ongoing operations and continuous improvement of biblically-integrated economic development programs in West Africa and launching new strategic partnerships across the Majority World. Daniel has worked previously as Head of Transformation for Africa at Opportunity International (OI). He has also filled various client training and staff capacity building roles with Urwego Opportunity Bank. Throughout his career, Daniel has promoted partnerships across various organizations that advocate for financial inclusion, and he has a passion for serving alongside the local church. Daniel holds a B.A in Christian Education from Global University, a B.A in Microfinance from Uganda Martyrs University and an M.A in International Development from Eastern University. Daniel is married to Grace and they have three children (Wesley, Daniela, and Favor) and live in Kigali, Rwanda. He enjoys reading, outdoors, and watching soccer.
Kate Lingbeek — International Program Officer
Kate grew up in Togo and Cameroon, where her parents worked with the International Linguistics Society (SIL) and Wycliffe Bible Translators. She is a 2009 Covenant College graduate with a B.A. in Community Development. She has worked previously as an agricultural extension agent with Peace Corps Senegal and as Director of Admissions for a center that provides English as a Second Language instruction. Kate speaks French and Wolof, and enjoys the adventure of language learning. As International Program Officer, Kate supports the expansion of Chalmers’ capacity to train and develop relationships with a growing portfolio of strategic partners in West Africa.
Mawoussé Tchegnon — West Africa Program Coordinator
Mawoussé, a citizen of Togo, West Africa, has a Masters Degree in Finance and Accounting from Lomé University. He worked for the Togolese Social Security Fund and two Togolese non-profit organizations. He also worked for Compassion International Togo as the External CIV Writer prior to becoming a Chalmers Lead Trainer in 2011. For the last five years, he has coordinated Chalmers’ most successful training operation in West Africa. He loves traveling, reading, and developing cross-cultural relationships.
John Mark Bowers — Director of Program Design and Engagement
John Mark Bowers is the Curriculum Specialist at the Chalmers Center where he has overseen the research, development, pilot-test, and publication of domestic and international development curriculum. Using these tools, Mark has trained field partners in microfinance and financial literacy, including church-based facilitators, NGO staff, and MFI lending associates. Mark earned a B.A. in Psychology from Bryan College and a M.A. in Intercultural Studies through Wheaton College while teaching at Quy Nhon University of Pedagogy in Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Outside of work, Mark enjoys reading and writing oral narratives, practicing foreign languages, and creating community with friends and family.
Jerilyn Sanders — Director of U.S. Programs
Jerilyn has a B.A. in Psychology from Biola University and an Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has worked in a variety of educational and youth development programs in the U.S., with an emphasis on urban communities. Her position at Chalmers synthesizes several things: love for people, passion for training that empowers disenfranchised people, and a desire to see God's church be all that He meant it to be. Jerilyn and her husband Duane have two children.
Amy Kuenzel — U.S. Operations Specialist
Amy Kuenzel has a BA in Corporate Communications from the College of Charleston. Her previous experience includes accounting as a consultant, international cargo shipping, website development and customer service. She owned and operated an online business during her years as a stay-at-home parent with her son. Away from work, Amy loves writing and playing music, especially in church worship.
Marketing & Communications
Adam Duguay — Vice President of Marketing
Adam oversees the strategic planning and implementation of the Chalmers Center’s marketing efforts. He brings more than 12 years of marketing experience at Compassion Canada, where he was responsible for championing Compassion’s brand across multiple channels and platforms. He enjoys learning about leadership development, productivity, and personality assessments. Adam lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wife Larissa and his daughters, Eden and Cadence.
Laura Haley — Marketing & Design Specialist
Laura earned a B.A. in Graphic Design from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Following graduation, she had the opportunity to work on marketing teams with other non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity, Unifi-Ed, and Young Life. Her work is guided by the belief that meaningful innovation requires a deep understanding of the people who use design. Away from work, Laura loves running, exploring national parks, and swing dancing.
Austin Humbles — Marketing & Communications Specialist
Austin studied English at Covenant College, where he discovered a passion for writing and storytelling. After graduating in 2011, he began his career as a copywriter at True North Custom Media. Since then, he has served in communications roles at National Christian Foundation and Leadership Ministries Worldwide. Austin joined the Chalmers Center as communications specialist in 2016. He and his wife, Grace, live in the St. Elmo neighborhood of Chattanooga with their two children, Sam and Maggie.
Planning & Operations
Stu Minshew — Vice President of Planning and Operations
Stu holds a B.S. in Sociology from Berry College and an MBA with a focus on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Organizational Behavior from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He spent seven years in Kenya where he started two organizational training and consulting companies that empowered businesses and non-profits to develop their leaders and teams. He also spent three years in the US helping grow and eventually sell a family owned business. Stu loves spending time outdoors, traveling to new places, and eating all types of exotic foods. He and his wife, Lauren, have two sons.
Ashley Black — Office Manager
Ashley has a BA from Duke University in Developmental Psychology. In the years since college, she has served as a shipboard Naval Officer, taught preschoolers, worked on church staffs, and led high school seniors in community service programs. She is passionate about helping people of all ages to thrive in every stage of life. Working in administration at Chalmers will allow her to pursue this passion by supporting the staff and operations that equip God’s people to empower the suffering and oppressed around the world. Ashley and her husband, Bryant, live in St. Elmo, have three sons, and worship at North Shore Fellowship.
Steve Corbett — Community Development Specialist
Steve Corbett is an Assistant Professor of Community Development at Covenant College and serves as a Community Development Specialist for the Chalmers Center. Previously, Mr. Corbett served as Director of Field Operations and Training for the Chalmers Center. Prior to coming to Covenant College, Steve worked for Food for the Hungry International (FHI) as the Regional Director for Central and South America for two years. Before assuming these responsibilities, he served as the Director of Staff Training for nine years. In this capacity, he participated in the orientation and training of 1500 staff working in 25 countries. Mr. Corbett has a B.A. from Covenant College and a M.Ed. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia.
Dr. Russell Mask — International Microenterprise Technical Advisor
Dr. Russell Mask is an Associate Professor of Community Development at Covenant College. He also serves as the International Microenterprise Technical Advisor for the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. Dr. Mask earned a B.A. from Wheaton College, an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, and his Ph.D. in Development from the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has extensive experience in microfinance and village-level development practice and research in both Asia and Africa. Dr. Mask is the co-author of From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty Through Church-Centered Microfinance, with Brian Fikkert, as well as Christian Microenterprise Development: An Introduction, with David Bussau.
Dr. Lance Wescher — U.S. Economic Development Specialist
Dr. Lance Wescher is an Assistant Professor of Economics and the Chairman of the Department of Economics and Community Development at Covenant College. He also serves as the US Economic Development Specialist and is the Director of the IDA Pilot Program for the Chalmers Center for Economic and Community Development at Covenant College. Dr. Wescher earned his B.A. in Economics with a minor in Theology from Wheaton College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Notre Dame. Lance has worked in banking with Wells Fargo and Company and consulting with Hewitt Associates. His areas of research include Labor Economics, Health Economics, Pensions and Finance. Prior to coming to Covenant College, he taught Economics at Wheaton College.
Our Board of Directors
Dr. Brian Fikkert — Founder and President
Dr. Brian Fikkert is a Professor of Economics and Community Development and the Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. He is coauthor of the best-selling book When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself as well as Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence, and From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty Through Church-Centered Microfinance. Dr. Fikkert earned a Ph.D. in economics from Yale University, specializing in international economics and economic development. He is the author of numerous articles in both academic and popular journals. Prior to coming to Covenant College, he was a professor at the University of Maryland—College Park and a research fellow at the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector.
Kevin O'Neal — Chairman
Kevin O’Neal is a retired businessman who focuses on non-profits that are expanding the Kingdom of God. He was the COO of a large multi-strategy hedge fund with responsibilities including treasury, accounting, operations, and technology. Prior to this, he was with Perot Investments where he was involved in both private and public investing in technology companies. Kevin completed the Colson Center’s Centurions program in 2005. He, his wife Kelly, and their two children live in Dallas, Texas where he is an active member of St. Paul Lutheran church.
Dr. Jeff Hall — Secretary
Dr. Jeff Hall serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Covenant College, where he serves as the Chief Academic Officer and the Chief Finance Officer. Dr. Hall earned his Ed.D. at the University of Tennessee and served as a teacher and administrator in Christian day schools for sixteen years prior to joining Covenant College in 1994. Jeff attends Saint Elmo Presbyterian Church where he serves on the session as a ruling elder. He and his wife, Lynn, have four grown children and two grandchildren.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, K.A. Ellis is a Research Fellow for World Christianity with Reformed Theological Seminary. She explores the zones where identity, human rights and theology intersect. Karen is president and co-founder of Makazi Institute, equipping the next generation of transcendent thinkers. Since 2006, she has collaborated with the Swiss-based charity International Christian Response, and travels internationally advocating for global religious freedom. She has written for Christianity Today, The Reformed African American Network, Urban Faith Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and others. She holds a Master of Art in Religion (MAR Theological) from Westminster Theological Seminary, a Master of Fine Art (MFA) from the Yale School of Drama, and is a PhD candidate at the Oxford Center for Mission Studies in England, under the supervision of Dr. Stanley Hauerwas.
Jeff serves as a Central Group Leader at Life.Church with responsibilities for team and program leadership spanning Life.Church locations in eight states and oversight to 80+ local and global partner organizations. Jeff has a graduate degree from Colorado State University and is an instructor for Development Associates International MAOL program. Jeff and his wife Christy live in Oklahoma City and they have three adult children.
Nat Belz attended Covenant College. He began his career doing communications work with Prison Fellowship. He has been involved in several startup publications, including World Magazine, Explore! Magazine for children, ByFaith Magazine and currently a new high-school-level news magazine. He, his wife Mindy, and one of their four children live in Asheville, North Carolina. Two other children have recently graduated from Covenant College, and another is currently enrolled there. Nat is an elder at Trinity Presbyterian Church and a member of the Asheville Christian Academy board of directors.
Dr. Derek Halvorson — President of Covenant College
Prior to his current role, Dr. Halvorson was the president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California. In addition to his current executive position, he brings experience in fundraising and constituent relations from his previous roles at Covenant, and experience in teaching at the university level and in the financial markets. He has been ordained as a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and he must pass a theological exam administered by the PCA prior to his inauguration. After graduating cum laude from Covenant in 1993 with a bachelor of arts in history, Dr. Halvorson earned a master of arts from the University of Arizona and a doctorate of philosophy from Loyola University Chicago—both in history. He and his wife, Wendy, are the parents of a son and a daughter.
Neddie Winters has served as a member of the Board of Directors, Executive Director, and now President of Mission Mississippi. He has over thirty years of experience encompassing organizational planning and development, management/administration, executive leadership, mortgage financing, loan making and servicing, agricultural and non-agricultural lending, and training and promotional activities. He has a proven ability to develop, interpret, absorb, effectively apply, and provide guidance in the application of regulations, objectives and policies. He serves on many different boards and community organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Public Financial Management from The American University, Washington D.C. He has been married to Tommie S. Jones Winters for over thirty-nine years; they have five children and eleven grandchildren.
Emily Mugisha is the Regional Technical Advisor for World Relief in their economic development unit for a program called Savings for Life. She is based in Kigali, Rwanda but frequently travels to support World Relief’s savings programs in east, central, and southern African countries. She has lived in Rwanda since graduating from Covenant College in 2011. Prior to coming into her current role in 2014, she interned with a local community development organization in Kigali before joining World Relief Rwanda as their volunteer Church Engagement Coordinator. Emily has an M.A. in International Development from Eastern University. She and her husband, Shami, live in Kigali, Rwanda.
Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran
Dr. Jayakaran has well over three decades of experience in international poverty reduction and strategic development programs. He serves as President/CEO of Medical Ambassadors International. He is also the Senior Associate / Catalyst for Integral Missions for the Lausanne Movement. Dr. Jayakaran has worked in senior management positions in the corporate sector, international NGOs, the Asian Development Bank, and the UNDP. He has lived and worked long-term in India, Cambodia, China, and the US and provided technical support in more than 23 countries.