Alumni Profile: Laura Pritchard
Posted by: DVULI | November 23, 2022
by Kimberlee Mitchell, Staff
► ALUMNI: Laura Pritchard (Grand Rapids 1998)
► ORGANIZATION: Liberia Leads and Resonate Global Missions
► CURRENT POSITION: Executive Director and Partner Missionary
Tell us about your leadership work in Liberia and how you are seeing the mission fulfilled:
I am serving as a partner missionary for Resonate Global Mission. Stationed at Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, working primarily as the Director of Sister Church Relations, while currently serving as the interim Director of Worship, Music & I.T. Within these roles I head a leadership development training program called Liberia Leads, based on the Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders Initiative (GRIL) model.
The mission of Liberia Leads is to develop leaders who will serve as transformational leaders in Providence and in the broader community and society. Our leaders will create a cross-cultural connection in hopes of bridging the gap between Africans and African Americans in the African diaspora. These cross-cultural connections will facilitate the creation of identity healing spaces and opportunities for collaborations.
Why do you think God has called you to this work?
As I look back at my life, I have always been one to reach out to the other, thinking of ways to bring them in. When I was in high school, a new student moved to our city from Panama, and I wanted so much for that young man to feel at home and welcome. That mindset was spurred on by the Word where Jesus prays for us to be one, like He and God the Father.
I have spent my years in mostly white environments, from working at Zondervan Publishing for ten years to being a member of Madison Church in Grand Rapids. I began to be involved in initiatives about building relationships and bridges between primarily African Americans and white people. We addressed tough questions like: How do we build unity? How do we build unity in a just way? How do we overcome institutional racism? I became a bridge builder. When Pastor Sam Reeves arrived at Madison Church, my worldview changed, and I realized that reconciliation is not only needed between the racialized groups in the states, but I see the need for reconciliation in the African diaspora.
In 2005, I journaled a prayer that read, “Lord, if you would allow me, I would like to be an agent of reconciliation between West Africans and African Americans.” In addition to the missionary call, Liberia Leads is the fruit of that prayer. Liberia Leads is the fulfillment of a dream that Denise Fase (Grand Rapids 1998) and I started dreaming in 2008!
What do you hope to accomplish while you serve in this capacity?
I see a chasm between Africans and African Americans. The divide is a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade that dispersed Africans around the world, and the colonialism that followed. I am living in the middle of this chasm and hope to build a bridge of healing and empowerment while spreading the gospel.
My hope for Liberia Leads is to develop transformed leaders, who will be agents of transformation in Providence Baptist Church, the community, and society. I then hope to have influence from West Michigan to West Africa and serve as the bridge between our alumni and leaders in the US to build relationships that lead to collaboration and empowering of people of African descent on both sides of the Atlantic.
Liberia was founded by free African Americans. They were leaders seeking true liberty and self-determination. In many ways, we are continuing the work they started when they landed off the western shores of their African homeland. Transforming people, building, and transforming their institutions to serve people and honor God–that is what we hope to do.
What challenges have you or the organization had to overcome?
The first challenge for Liberia Leads was contextualizing the GRIL curriculum, which was created for Americans. Using videos with American pop culture, movies, and slang did not effectively illustrate the intended concepts. I remember stopping the video after seeing blank stares from the participants when a point fell flat. We had to look around Liberia for better videos that would better resonate with our Liberian audience.
The American facilitators, many of whom were DVUI alumni, were great. However, US English was difficult for the cohort to understand. The American accent is strong for Liberians, so I had to stop the video often and ask, “Did you get that?”
Maintaining our US-based mentor relationships was difficult due to the time zone difference and the high communication cost. Zoom data pricing was expensive so we tried to cover it, but timing and the lack of consistent electricity posed additional challenges. We are seeking solutions.
What are you most proud of that the mission has accomplished?
This cohort has been challenged to see themselves as participants in a work bigger than themselves. They have begun to see that their own transformation is possible. For example, one person did not see herself as a leader. Despite initially being intimidated, she asked to participate, and she fought through and applied the training concepts. Now she is exercising better communication and practicing situational leadership as a church supervisor! New ministry initiatives, especially with our College, Youth, and Young Adult Ministries, are being planned and initiated. Observing the cohort apply the concepts individually and then the ministry is amazing!
What kind of collaborative opportunities benefit this work?
Providence is known as the cornerstone of the nation of Liberia. The Declaration of Independence was signed in the church sanctuary of Providence Baptist Church, in 1847. The first legislature met in the sanctuary as well. Providence is the first church of the nation and now the first church to host the first cohort of Liberia Leads. The city and church’s historical significance lends power, credibility, and significance to our work. The position of the church and the pastor, Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves allows room for collaboration with other churches as well as other community developers in Liberia.
Biblical leadership transcends culture, and partnering with GRIL has allowed us to bring leadership training from Grand Rapids to West Africa. Liberia Leads is based on the GRIL model and Breakthrough Leadership Program curriculum for adults. Based on the DVULI model and principles, GRIL’s training content has been condensed and modified to be delivered in any city.
Collaborating with Denise Fase, GRIL CEO, to deliver high-quality leadership training overseas has been a beautiful challenge. We are honing and perfecting with each cohort.
How can your DVULI family be praying for you as you move forward?
Please pray for the preparation and training of Reverend Charles Diggs to become the coordinator in the 2024 Liberia Leads cohort. Pray for discernment regarding the structure of Liberia Leads; and for our continued contextualizing work. Please pray for the current cohort as they prepare their breakthrough plans and that they finish well. We have already got people clamoring to be in the class of 2023 cohort, so please pray for the development of the next group.
And last, we are also looking for a gospel musician to join our church worship ministry as a missionary, for one month to a year long term.