LEMA Board of Directors
Pastor Paul Laborde
Chair of the Board
Pastor Paul Laborde holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible from Cedarville University and a Master of Arts in Religion (Church Operations) from Liberty University. Prior to giving his life to full-time ministry, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army and a Patrol Agent in the U.S. Border Patrol. Pastor Paul has a love for the local church and seeing people come to know, grow in, and display Jesus to our world. Pastor Paul is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Otsego where he also served as the Youth and Family Ministries Pastor for many years. Paul and his wife Beth are blessed with three sons and a daughter. Paul enjoys staying active both mentally and physically with things like exercising, golf, church softball, and reading.
Reverend Joshua O. Amaezechi
Vice-Chair and President of the Institute
Joshua holds a Master of Divinity from Calvin Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honors) in Industrial Technical Education from the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is currently an ordained minister of the Christian Reformed Church of North America and is a certified Master Trainer of Timothy Leadership Training for Christian leaders. He has served in pastoral ministry as an associate pastor of Bridgeway Community Church (New Jersey), and most recently as Lead/Missionary Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Plainwell, MI.
Being raised and educated in Nigeria is not Joshua's only connection with Africa. As President of Pax Africana, Joshua facilitated negotiations among Christian leaders in Kenya following the post-election violence of 2007. This resulted in the signing of the Limuru Peace accord. During his tenure as President, Pax Africana also provided scholarships to 45 students in Liberia. In 2014 Joshua co-founded the One-Degree Foundation in Nigeria with Rev. Christian Ezurike as its National Coordinator. Over the course of only two visits prior to the formal establishment of LEMA, Joshua trained over 160 Christian leaders in Nigeria.
Director of Administration
An ordained Elder in the Reformed Church of America(RCA), Dave heads up the Care Ministry at North Point Church and is a member of the Prayer Team. He is also a certified Stephens Minister. Dave brings with him many years of marketing experience from the GALLOUP Company (Member of the Kendell Group) where he currently works. He hopes to retire in 2019, to devote more time to LEMA. Dave is married to Jane and they are blessed with a daughter and two grandchildren. Dave and Jane consider their service at LEMA as an opportunity to give back to their Heavenly Father, to thank Him for His graciousness to them throughout their lives.
Engr Nkem Ekeopara
Nkem Ekeopara is a University of Nigeria Nsukka-trained Agricultural Engineer. He also holds PGD in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. He has an engaging interest in Literature, and his short story, ‘Tears of a Country’ was nominated for Caine Prize for African Writing in 2003. He is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of poems, Flame of Freedom. Between 1995 and 1999, he worked as an Irrigation Engineer in the Greenery and Beautification Programme of Kuwait Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fisheries (PAAF). Prior to leaving Nigeria in 1995, he had been Executive Secretary of R&D International, an NGO for the promotion of Research and Development in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Also, he was a Factory Operations Engineer, M&W Pump Ltd, Maiduguri, an outpost of M&W Pump Corp. Florida, USA, where he is credited with setting up the first production line for indigenous manufacture of UNDP/AFRIDEV hand pump in Nigeria. He has been a contributing editor of the globally influential Houston-based multimedia networks, USAfrica, since 2001. His collection of writings titled, Twenty Years of Speaking Truth to Nigeria, nay Africa: An Except, will be published later this year. Ekeopara upholds with a missionary zeal and in the wildest possible sense the motto of his alma mater: ‘To Restore the Dignity of Man’. Nkem is the Associate Director of One Degree Foundation, the local LEMA partner organization in Nigeria.
Traci has a bachelor's degree in communication from Missouri State University. She has served as the women’s ministry coordinator at her local church for the past eight years. In this role, she oversees a variety of women’s groups and events, in addition to leading a Bible study and facilitating a Facebook group that reads through the Bible chronologically each year. Traci has a faith-based blog, Traces of Faith. In addition to writing articles, she manages the social media accounts affiliated with her blog. Her work has been published in Patheos, CBE International, Her View From Home, and The Mudroom Blog. She is passionate about church unity and helping believers develop a better understanding of Christ’s church across cultural and denominational lines. She’s blessed with a husband and one daughter - and if you include their dogs, cats, pigs, guinea hens, and chickens - then there are a lot more blessings to count!
Dan’s educational journey took him through Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC). Hope College, Kawneer Architectural School, and Bethel Seminary, St Paul, MN. Through these educational experiences and service in the ministries of Haven Reformed Church, the Lord has shaped him as a leader, teacher, and consultant. Dan committed his life to Christ at age nine. His faith was firmly grounded while attending young men’s camp with the Navigators camp at Glen Eyrie-Colorado, as well as at Hope College where he majored in Pre-seminary Courses. Dan believes that Christians are called to be in service of the Kingdom all the days of our lives, to be diligently proactive in Scripture reading, Scripture memorization, and being involved in others' lives under the leading of the Holy Spirit. Speaking about LEMA, Dan says “The project that LEMA represents is one in which I find remarkably interesting and important. I look forward to serving in this capacity to the best of my abilities.”. He is married for 44 years and blessed with Children.
Bio coming soon!
Board of Directors Emeriti
Former Board Chair
Gregg has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Applied Behavioral Science and a Master of Arts Degree in Psychology, both earned at Valparaiso University, Indiana. He has held several leadership positions in the corporate world and has served as the Associate Pastor of Congregational Care at Trinity Evangelical Free Church, in Big Rapids, MI. He has been on mission trips to Africa. He is a Charter Member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Christopher L. Palmer
Former Academic Dean
Chris was a Beeson Scholar at Asbury Theological Seminary where he earned his Doctor of Ministry in Leading and Preaching in 2020. His previous education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration & Philosophy from Central Michigan University, and a Master of Arts in Counseling from Spring Arbor University. He has also earned over 70 additional graduate-level credit hours in the fields of ministry and public adminstration.
Chris has nearly a decade of full-time ministry experience, primarily functioning as a youth pastor and overseeing adult discipleship in local churches in Southwest Michigan. He currently works in the public school system as a behavior interventionist and certified school counselor. Chris has always held a warm spot in his heart for Africa. However, when he traveled to Uganda in 2014 with his family, God turned up the heat. It is this experience of connecting with the African people, along with a passion for leadership development that fuels Chris to do his work with LEMA.
Elder Valarie Cunningham holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work and is a Licensed Michigan Social worker, servings as an Executive Director of the GFM, the Synergy Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She has served in ministry as co-Pastor alongside her husband for the past 19 years. Since that time, she continues to pursue fulfilling the purpose of God in her life. In 1999, she was ordained an Elder through Kingdom Fellowship Covenant Ministries. Her Presiding Bishop, Ralph L. Dennis, affirmed her into the Office of the Prophet in 2009. Elder Valarie trains prophetic people and has prophesied to hundreds, and built Prophetic Presbytery teams through Kingdom Empowerment Institute, an equipping college she started in 2007. Elder Valarie’s desire to reach those in other nations has opened doors for her to minister internationally in South Africa, Kenya, and Trinidad.
In 2015, Elder Valarie birthed the vision for VCMinistries International (VCMI) after a three year period of God challenging her to be a Prophetic Voice and Equipper of Purpose. Elder Valarie loves family and is the proud mother of three children, Phillip, Valorian, and Danielle. We are thankful for the perspectives and experiences that Elder Valerie brings to the Board of LEMA.
Dr. Sikkenga holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Psychology from Calvin College and a Master of Arts in Administration and Supervision of Instruction from Florida Atlantic University. His Ph.D., also from Florida Atlantic University is in Educational Leadership and Curriculum Development. Roger has over 40 years of experience serving as principal and/or superintendent at Christian schools in Bradenton, Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Birmingham, Alabama, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and Fremont, Michigan.
Since his retirement in 2006, Roger has served CRWM as a volunteer lecturer at the University of Jos in Jos, Nigeria in the graduate school’s Department of Educational Leadership from 2006 to 2009 and as the voluntary superintendent of schools for the Kalamazoo Christian Schools 2010 – 2012. He has short term mission experiences training teachers and mentoring administrators in Nairobi Kenya, Eldoret Kenya, and Zambia from 2012-2015.
He is currently serving together with his wife Joan, as “Business Affiliates” for Partners Worldwide at the Karin Medical Clinic in Gulu, northern Uganda from 2012 to the present.
Rev Christian Ezuruike
Christian Ezuruike holds a Bachelor of Theology Degree from Wesley International Theological Seminary and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling, from West African Theological Seminary, in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the Senior Pastor of Eternal Life Bible Church, Mbaitoli, and served as the National Co-ordinator of the One Degree Foundation, Nigeria, a partner organization with LEMA. Through his leadership, hundreds of pastors and other Christian leaders have been trained at the annual leadership Development conferences which LEMA co-sponsored with One Degree Foundation.