Rev. Saehee Duran has made it her life’s work to celebrate cultural diversity and better inclusion for the marginalized.
Since planting the intentionally diverse Life360 Intercultural Church in 2015, Duran says the church has served people from a wide assortment of ethnicities, languages and cultures from over 50 nations.
She says their numbers include multicultural and interracial families, international students, refugees, immigrants, Hindus, Muslims and atheists.
“I feel proud to lead a church that values all peoples and honors all cultures. As I see my biracial children growing up with friends from different backgrounds, I feel confident that we are changing the future,” says Duran, who immigrated to the United States from South Korea.
Through her role as pastor, Duran became involved with other groups, including the International Institute of Southwest Missouri, Grupo Latinoamericano, the Korean-American Association, Minorities in Business, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Prosper Springfield and Springfield Public Schools’ Diversity and Equity Committee.
“As a spiritual leader, who grew up in a broken, dysfunctional family in South Korea, I find joy and purpose in serving the community outside the church walls for the common good,” Duran says.
One of her brightest achievements was hosting Springfield’s first CultureFest, in 2019.
“I was able to build a team of diverse influencers who were passionate about changing the cultural narrative in our city by celebrating ethnic diversity instead of tolerating it,” she says.
The event’s success surpassed her expectations. The hope was to attract 500 to the festival. Actual turnout was closer to 3,000.
Plans for the 2020 celebration were scuttled by the coronavirus pandemic, but Duran has high hopes for 2021.
Duran also serves on the Chief’s Citizens Advisory Group and as the only female chaplain with the Springfield Police Department’s Police Chaplain Association.
She says her role is particularly challenging at a time when racial tensions and distrust of police officers is running high.
“I have found my role extremely valuable as I work as a peacemaker and comforter to those that are hurting, including the … SPD wives that are dealing with a lot of stress, anxiety and depression during this season,” Duran says.
When not ministering to the needs of others or working as a Korean interpreter, Duran holds several other roles of responsibility. She is vice president of the Assemblies of God Korean-English Fellowship, alumni board member at Evangel University, national training director for the AG Network of Women Ministers and on the board of the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions.
“I wholeheartedly believe that the best way to help our community be a better place to live and work is by simply living my life in a way that is life-giving, enriching, encouraging and empowering,” she says.
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