By Rebecca Hopkins, Paraclete Mission Group – Writer about nonprofit work. http://www.rebeccahopkins.org.
This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.
Part 25: Leadership Profile on Patrice Hunt
Listening and Speaking Up: How to Make Peace
Patrice Hunt is in the business of making peace. Sometimes it means listening. Sometimes it means speaking up. It always means moving closer to Christ.
“It was who I was raised to be, to love God and to love his people,” she said. “Ministry was just fulfilling the Gospel every day of our life.”
An African American raised in Chicago, she’s now in Florida, as senior director of staff management for Wycliffe Bible Translators. It’s an organization that has invested in giving people a Bible translation in a language and form they can understand. In her position, Hunt often finds herself in those spaces where people really need to feel heard and understood. She uses Jesus as her model for leadership.
“God has crafted me to engage in conflict and mediate conflict,” she said. “I would make peace and help someone feel what the other person may be feeling or experiencing. Sometimes Jesus just asked (people) questions, to learn where they are in their thinking.”
Her mom was one of her first examples of how conflict is done well or, instead, how it can diminish others. As a single mom, Hunt’s mom’s main job had been to upholster furniture. But after it took a toll on her body, she took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts. Her white boss often gave her extra tasks than others were required to do—of the more demeaning quality—and didn’t listen when she asked for fairness in her responsibilities. Hunt saw this and learned.
“I wanted to be a voice for the people who didn’t have a voice, to help them be seen and valued,” Hunt said.
In the end, the losses Hunt has experienced helped her find that voice. She lost her mother when she was just 21. She’s suffered miscarriages. And she’s gone through racial trauma of her own. But she’s developed resilience, which is one of the ingredients to using her voice with patience and hope.
“They’ve made me strong and resilient,” she said. “Things that would offend, I’m not easily offended. I’m able to see the bigger scheme in life.”
This has helped her lead during a season of important conversations in the nonprofit and church worlds around difficult topics, like COVID response and justice and equity issues.
“I found myself really partnering with the executive leadership as our organization moves through this season of COVID and civil unrest,” she said. “Being a woman of color, God has equipped me to engage without apology.”
Like many other nonprofits right now, Wycliffe is going through a time of learning and listening, which Hunt reminds us, takes patience to allow bridges to be built.
“We have executive leaders who serve and care for people and culture, diversity, inclusion and belonging,” she said. “They have been working with experts to further increase their intercultural competence.”
She’s grateful for the things she’s learned at Wycliffe, and for the community there that has loved her. She wants to pass that love and support along to people who serve with her, in a way that values unity.
“Leading with integrity and respect is so huge for me,” she said. “I lead from a stance of, ‘we are not going for uniformity but we want to be for unity.’ Different doesn’t mean wrong, it just means different. It allows staff to be broader in their thinking. It removes the limit of thinking when you create a space for them to be different.”
Patrice has facilitated a leadership workshop on Difficult Dialogues for Women’s Development Track, Leadership Pathways events. A godly and thoughtful approach to conflict of any kind is a key leadership posture and skill. For more info on her ministry of addressing conflict: www.difficultdialogues.net
This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track. Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.