Alumni Spotlight | Saehee Duran

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Saehee Duran is the lead pastor at Life360 Intercultural Church, a police chaplain for the Springfield Police Department, and a graduate of Leadership Springfield Access Class 6. As a champion for underrepresented groups and driven by her community-oriented spirit, Saehee is making an incredible impact in Springfield.

Saehee is also a wife, mother of three, and a professor at Evangel University. She continually seeks new endeavors and says, “If I have breathe in my lungs, then I want to give back in some way.”

Saehee reflects on her Access Class experience with gratitude. She says, “One of the best parts is getting to know the stakeholders in a community.” This class brought her partners and friends who she looks forward to working with. The experience provided takeaways about diversity, collaboration, and equity – equity perhaps being most important to Saehee. The Access Class session provided by Francine Pratt enlightened Saehee about how not everyone in Springfield has the same resources and access to social services. Working so closely with historically underrepresented groups, Saehee appreciated that lesson. Born and raised in South Korea, she is a part of a small Asian population in Springfield. She is also a female pastor. She considers these things an honor as they allow her to be a part of conversations where she gets to tell her side of the story, which in turn helps enrich the community. She also recognizes collaboration as a key takeaway that has proven to be true in her work and says, “Without collaboration, Springfield couldn’t be here where we are today.”

Saehee and her family moved to Springfield 11 years ago. They love the size, culture, people, and the fact they can get to know their neighbors here in Springfield. Saehee sees value in getting to know people’s stories and loves doing so with her children. She is a member of the CARES Act Funding Board, the Equity and Diversity Advisory Council, Minorities in Business, and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. In Saehee’s opinion, Springfield has done well at taking action on issues such as diversity, especially this year. As Springfield grows, she would love to see a multiethnic center downtown. She hopes that people would come there, become immersed in different cultures, and the minority groups can be proud of who they are.

Around 2013, Saehee and her husband, Damon, were led to pastoral ministry. Saehee remembers this time and says, “We saw the needs by observing the pockets of diversity thriving on their own as silos. But there is no unifying voice.” For five years now, they have been celebrating, collaborating, and cultivating the ethnic diversity in our city through their ministry at Life360 Intercultural Church. Her husband was the founding pastor and stepped down three years into the journey. Saehee became the lead pastor because Damon saw that she was a visionary leader. Saehee recalls, “He championed me along the way. I’ve been very blessed to be in a community that’s very supportive.” One of the most rewarding parts of starting the church for Saehee has been being “staged at a prime time to be the voice of hope and unity.” She compares her role to bridge building. “Building bridges between Christ, community, and cultures. I see myself as a bridge wherever I go.”

And a bridge Saehee is. Outside of her role as pastor, Saehee is building bridges as a police chaplain between the hurting community and hurting law enforcement. As the only female chaplain, she values being a part of the conversation with police wives too. She believes in “ministering them where they are at,” and being there to listen in good times and bad. Saehee is also the founder of the Springfield Culturefest. Over the years, she saw the need to showcase ethnic diversity by allowing individuals to share their cultures with Springfield. She would consistently go to events around town, networking and building partnerships with others. Eventually, the festival was born. She is looking forward to bringing it back next year and continuing to celebrate and highlight diversity in Springfield.

Saehee’s ministry and community involvement was recognized with the honor of being on of Springfield Business Journal’s Most Influential Women in 2020.  She has this advice for aspiring female leaders: “Be patient and thrive where you are planted.” She reminds them that you need time to network, learn, assess, and fail, all so you can do better the next time. Finally, Saehee has some words of wisdom for budding leaders: “As you learn to lead, be patient to be seen, heard, and valued. Thrive where you’re planted, and remember that your calling is to serve and lead regardless of recognition. Keep leading courageously with humility and integrity.”

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