Stephanie grew up in a gospel-believing home in Australia. However, as a child, she let anger, bitterness and self-righteousness rule her life instead of surrendering to God. Throughout her life, God worked in Stephanie’s heart and prepared her to teach in Zambia, even before she developed a relationship with Jesus.
A family legacy and a prodigal daughter
Belief in the gospel goes back several generations on her mother’s side of the family. Stephanie described her mother’s side of the family as “a huge legacy of Christians.” She said: “I was born into a strong Christian family with a very strong heritage, but my story is very much the older brother in the story of the prodigal son.” Although Stephanie knew the popular Bible stories and memorised Bible verses, she didn’t have a relationship with God. On the outside, she talked like a believer, but in reality, her head knowledge about Jesus hadn’t penetrated to her heart and transformed her life. “I was very, very hard working, very dedicated to the faith, but very angry, very bitter and very, very religious,” she remarked.
Stephanie kept her anger inside and tried to live a godly life since her family was well-known and well-respected for their trust in God’s Word. But all her attempts to live a moral life without Christ just fuelled her pride and self-righteousness.
When Stephanie was 14 years old, she realised that she did not have a relationship with God. She needed to accept God for herself. The Holy Spirit convicted her: “Your parents have the faith, and your grandparents have the faith, but you also have to choose this for yourself. It’s not something you can inherit. Everything you know is good head knowledge, but unless it’s in your heart, then it’s worthless.” Stephanie gave her life to Christ when she was 14 and got baptised the same year.
Preparing for missions
Though Stephanie didn’t become a follower of Christ until she was a teen, she recalled: “God has been preparing me my whole life for this.”
Her family had always supported believers who shared about Jesus in other countries and hosted them in their home. Stephanie grew up hearing stories from these Jesus followers and reading biographies of people who served Christ in other countries. She loved hearing these stories, and thought that one day, she, too, could share the gospel in another country.
Stephanie and her sister also had opportunities to attend missions conferences with their aunt, who participated in missions work. “My heart wasn’t right then, but I think God was still putting seeds in me at that stage,” reflected Stephanie. At a missions conference when Stephanie was nine and her sister was 11, their aunt told them to attend whatever events they wanted. The sisters walked around a big expo hall filled with mission agencies, asking them to share stories. Most told them to come back when they were older. However, when they stopped at OM’s booth, they were welcomed. The OM workers told the girls stories and gave them pamphlets so they could learn more. Stephanie still remembers the name of the lady she talked to and waved at her when they left. “That has always stuck in my mind,” said Stephanie.
Around that same time, OM’s ship Doulos docked in Melbourne, Australia. Stephanie and her family toured the ship because some of their friends worked on her. The tour planted more seeds in Stephanie’s head about working for OM.
Homeschooled for most of her life, the flexibility of learning from home allowed Stephanie to gain unique skills and experiences that she has used in Zambia including first aid, how to start a fire, how to ride a motorbike, carpentry, car skills and how to effectively learn new languages. Her background as a gymnast has helped in leading sports training in Zambia.
Serving in Africa
Africa always interested Stephanie. This interest deepened after a children’s choir from Uganda sang at her church when she was about to finish grade 12 and was trying to figure out where she would go and what she would do. When the children’s choir took a break from singing, they shared what they wanted to be when they grew up. They had big dreams, such as being a professional football player, doctor, teacher or president — great dreams, but Stephanie realised the children weren’t likely going to finish school. This reality angered Stephanie and she told God that someone should do something. Immediately, He told her: “You do something.” She said: “Show me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” God responded: “Study teaching and go and teach in Africa.” At that moment, Stephanie committed to go to Africa as a teacher.
Stephanie went to university where she studied childcare and teaching. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree, she felt that she wasn’t ready to serve in missions and needed teaching experience, so she taught in the United Kingdom for two years. Then, she returned to Australia and got a job in media. She almost accepted this job full-time when God reminded her that she was supposed to teach in Africa.
Answering the call
Randomly, Stephanie’s brother sent her a web link for a media position on OM’s ship Logos Hope. She didn’t think the position was right for her, but scrolled through other job openings on OM’s website and found a teacher trainer opening in Zambia.
She applied and six months later, Stephanie made the move. In Zambia, she trained teachers and was the vice principal of a training college for two years before the programme transitioned to a mentoring coaching model where people went into schools and trained teachers. Stephanie and the other teacher trainers spend two to four weeks at each school, training the teachers.
For the past four years, Stephanie has lived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia. Three times a year she travels to various countries across Africa to train teachers, and when she’s not travelling, she trains teachers and villagers who live and teach along the lake.
Stephanie sees God’s hand in her life as He’s prepared her for missions since she was a child. She encourages others that “He’s always preparing you for something, even when you don’t know what He’s preparing you for.”
Pray for God to prepare and call more people to the mission field. Pray for teachers across Africa to set a good example for children and train them well. Pray for children in Zambia to accept the transforming message of the gospel.