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Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Russi

Graduation Year: Evangel (2003), AGTS (2009)
Major: Social Work (Evangel); Counseling (AGTS)
Current Position: Executive Director Perles de Prix France/AGWM
City and State: France

Tell us about your career and what you do now.

Immediately after graduating from Evangel, I went to Southern Asia to volunteer at a children’s home with the Assemblies of God World Mission (AGWM). At this home, I created and implemented child protection policies. In addition, I established a transition program to support graduates from the home adjust to adulthood. After working on this project for three years, I then established a safe home for the daughters of women in prostitution in the same country.

In 2014, with the support of AGWM and in partnership with the Assemblées de Dieu de France, I co-founded Perles de Prix France. Perles de Prix is a grassroots movement of churches that offers spiritual direction, practical resources, and community to survivors of human trafficking. This ministry is also in network with Project Rescue (Springfield, MO). The ministry trains and equips the local church to provide prevention, intervention, and restoration to survivors of human trafficking.

What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

I have such fond memories of Evangel. I enjoyed dorm life and the friends that I met on W2S. It was so wonderful to have friends with the same faith and similar life goals. It was wonderful to study, pray, and have fun with the same group of women. It is difficult to pick just one memory. We painted our hall together, spent endless hours solving the problems of the world, enjoyed floor devotions, went barn swinging, and enjoyed a lot of silly moments together. I was blessed to have an immediate connection with the women on my floor. Though we don’t get to see each other often, I made lifelong friendships at Evangel.

How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?

I arrived at Evangel knowing that I wanted to serve in ministry overseas. However, I was not sure what to study. I spent hours speaking with professors from different disciplines trying to discern which major worked best for me. Ultimately, when I settled on Social Work, my professors effectively connected the discipline to the mission of God. I appreciated how Prof. Lacey Nunnally, Dr. Jeff Fulks, and Dr. Donna Washburn successfully integrated our faith into each course.

We also had so many opportunities to connect with both local and international practitioners. For instance, Lacey invited us to a meeting hosted by Healthcare Ministries (now CompassionLink). It was there that I first learned about human trafficking from a practitioner in Thailand. Subsequently, Dr. Beth Grant (Project Rescue) shared at a chapel on the same subject. Both experiences planted a seed for the calling I would receive to work with this population.

How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

I chose Evangel because I wanted to understand how to integrate my faith with my discipline. While studying social work, my professors prepared me to work among individuals with different worldviews than my own. They demonstrated how to balance grace and truth in real-world situations. I also appreciated that my Bible and theology professors taught us to think critically. At the time, I struggled with the difficult and unanswered questions often posed in the biblical studies classes. However, these classes challenged me to assess my beliefs. These courses strengthened my faith and gave me the tools I needed to navigate cultural changes.

What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

Undergraduate coursework trains students to think critically, work diligently, and set healthy work-life balance. It might be tempting to look for shortcuts or ways to accelerate this season of learning. However, I would advise them to embrace this season of preparation. They should start setting healthy rhythms and take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in a community and grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Also, I would advise them to take advantage of office hours and learn from professors that they would like to emulate.

What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

Several students or recent graduates have ask to intern/work with me. Aside from the Christian faith required to work in our ministry, I look for evidence of the following:

  1. Intellectual courage. Is the individual willing to challenge their own assumptions and learn from the perspective of others?
  2. Autonomy, Ambition, Entrepreneurship. Does the individual have the capacity, motivation, and intuition to create new aspects of the project on their own?
  3. Grit. Does the individual demonstrate passion and perseverance that will sustain them through adversity?