Our Team


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).

International Program

Laura Ellis — Savings Group Program Manager

Laura is from Washington State and has a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Assessment from Western Washington University. She later earned a M.S. in Management/International Development from Hope International University in 2009. She is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Panama from 1996-1998 in natural resource management/sustainable agriculture.

Laura served in Mozambique with Food for the Hungry (FH) for several years from 2006-2009. While working with savings groups there, Laura became a passionate supporter and firm believer in the incredible potential that groups have to address both spiritual and physical poverty.

Laura continued to work in Washington DC with Food for the Hungry as Savings and Credit Association Specialist until October 2013. She helped to support FH savings group programs in over ten countries (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) and supported the development of savings group curriculum.

She enjoys running, being outside, and good coffee, and she is a sucker for dogs.

Gregg Burgess — West Africa Program Director

Gregg has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Methodist University and a Masters Degree in International Business from the University of San Diego. He has worked for the past ten years in business development and anti-human trafficking in Cambodia. Prior to this, Gregg worked in the pharmaceutical and other high-tech industries in the U.S. Gregg and his wife, Denise, have three children.

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.

U.S. Program

Jerilyn Sanders — Director of US Training

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.

John Mark Bowers — Curriculum Specialist

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.

Amy Kuenzel — Training Administrator

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

Laura Flack — Marketing and 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 — 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 son, Samuel.

Development & Stewardship

Tim Mahla — Stewardship Development Officer

Tim graduated from Covenant College in 2007 with a B.A. in Business. Upon graduation, he accepted a position working in the Covenant College Admissions Office. He worked at the College for seven years, two years in recruitment and five years in fundraising development. After a year working for a startup production company in Chattanooga, he joined the Chalmers Center's Development and Communications team as a Major Gifts Officer. Tim has a great passion for the transformational impact of God's word and is excited about this opportunity to serve Chalmers. He and his wife, Elea, live in the Highland Park community of Chattanooga with their brand new baby boy, William.

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.

Smita Donthamsetty — Director of Monitoring & Evaluation

Ms. Donthamsetty earned a B.A. in Sociology from Davidson College, and an MA in International and Intercultural Management from the School for International Training. Smita’s passions include Jesus, His word, her family, the local church, diverse cultures, being in community with the economically impoverished, and community development.

Nathaniel Bankhead — U.S. Research & Training Coordinator

Nathaniel has a BA in Economics from Covenant College, where he studied under several community development specialists. His connection to Chalmers began while he was a student at Covenant, where he managed data from the Faith & Finances program. His work on that project transitioned into research and training assistance for the U.S. side of Chalmers’ work. Nathaniel has worked in ministries in both rural and urban contexts, focusing on education and discipleship. He is interested in agriculture and lives on a small farm in Lookout Mountain, GA. He also likes to write and travel.

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 Calvary Chapel Chattanooga.

Faculty Advisors

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 — US 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.

Cathi Linch

Cathi Linch, CPA, CGMA, serves as First Vice President with Midland Mortgage, a division of MidFirst Bank. Previously, Cathi served as Financial Operations Leader and Treasurer of Life.Church/Bible.com, and a member of the leadership team that directed its global missions initiatives. Cathi also practiced public accounting as Senior Manager with KPMG LLP, serving insurance and nonprofit healthcare system clients in Oklahoma and Texas. Cathi and her husband Brian are raising their three children in Edmond, Oklahoma.

David Caines

David is the President at Kenco Group, Inc. David earned an MBA from Duke University, where he studied in their global executive program. He is a Deacon in the PCA, and served as the Chairman for Pearl Ministries, an orphanage and school in Kampala, Uganda. He currently serves as a Director on the board of See Rock City, Inc. David, his wife Mary, and their four children live in Lookout Mountain, GA and attend Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.

Nat Belz

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

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

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 is the Director of Community Transformation for e3 Partners / I am Second. 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. Ravi and his wife Vimla are moving from Atlanta to Dallas, TX, in March where e3partners / I am Second headquarters is based.

Back to Top