Phyllis Stirewalt – 35 years in Kenya
Sincere, honest, humble, & joyous are just a few words I would use to describe Mrs. Phyllis Stirewalt.  Some of our other authors have called her exemplary, straightforward and faithful. The bottom line is that she loves Jesus and has spent the better part of her life sharing His love with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of souls in Kenya beside her wonderful husband, Randy.  This week, we are following the lead of my pastor, Austin Gardner, who featured three amazing interviews with Mrs. Phyllis on his Leadership with Vision podcast.  You’ll find one attached to each segment of our blog interviews this week. We loved the podcast interviews so much, we decided to come back for more so we could share this beloved lady with our readers!  So, pull up a comfy chair and enjoy reading about our friend, Phyllis Stirewalt.  Then, be sure to listen to the live interview provided below!
WBTS: Thank you for joining us! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Phyllis: My name is Phyllis Stirewalt and I was saved when I was 9 years old at Morning Side Baptist Church.  My father was killed when I was 6 in a road accident.  My mother took us to church for a few years, but then she quit going and never went back the rest of her life.  We were either sent to church or picked up by a neighbor, a bus, van, or someone else. I met my husband, Randy, when we were in high school.  We went to youth group together at Bible Baptist Church and were in the same class at school.  We dated our senior year of high school.  Got married right after we graduated and have been together since we were 17.  It is a VERY long story how we got from bus kids to missionaries, but when he surrendered to preach I nearly died!!!  I was sure he was crazy!!!  When he surrendered to be a missionary, then I knew he was crazy!!!  Bus kids just don’t go to the mission field!!!!!!!!!

Lots of changes have been made in my life and heart.  I realize now just what a disobedient brat I was and how very patient my God had been with me.  He loved me through all my rebellion and so did my husband.  He never condemned me but waited for God to make the changes in my life.  We enrolled in Baptist Bible College, and after we both graduated went on staff as youth pastor and then on to pastor a small church. Every time I would think the words “mission field” were forgotten (much to my delight), it always came back to haunt me!! I went to the pastor where we were on staff and told him I was not going to the mission field!!!!  He then told my sweet husband he needed to give up the idea because of his wife.  My husband’s reply, “I have to go; God called me.”

We arrived in Kenya in 1979 not having a clue what a missionary did or even how to speak the language.  I was 6 months along with our second daughter at the time.  Was it easy for me?  Was I a good wife, mother, and Christian? NO, NO, NO, I would cry myself to sleep.  Beg my husband to leave!!!  I got up every morning and went to language school, thinking I will never learn this language!!  Spent 9 months in language school, had our second daughter during the school break and went right back to class with my husband.  We have now been in Kenya from 1979 to this very day.  So glad and thankful for a husband who isn’t a quitter, even when I begged him to.  I have seen God do amazing things and He has changed my life completely and totally.  I have gone from the “will NOT” to “Yes, Lord, here am I, use me.”  I have fallen totally in love with our people, our ministry, our LORD, and, thank the Lord, He didn’t give up on me and waited for me to grow in obedience.

WBTS: Wow! What a candid testimony of the Lord’s work in your life!  We would love to hear more about your family and marriage.  What are some specific ways you encourage your husband during tough times in the ministry?

Phyllis: There have truly been some tough times in our ministry. I know the Lord used my husband to encourage me for years.  It is amazing how when Randy is down, God lifts me up to encourage him and when I am down Randy is there to lift me up.  I think one of the things we had to learn together is that this is God’s work and harvest field.  We are just workers in it; we are the servants!!  He is the Master!!  Coming to the end of ourselves and learning to listen and be open to the voice of the Lord’s leading took some time for both of us.

WBTS: Marriage is one of God’s most beautiful creations!  Shifting focus to your children, how did you handle the fears you had involving your children on the mission field?

Phyllis:  I had lots of fears coming to Kenya.  I had never been anywhere in my life. I think I had never traveled more than 100 miles from my home before I married and then so many changes.  I didn’t always handle things in a Godly fashion, of which I am not so proud of now.  But if I could give advice to young missionaries, it would be to surrender each new day to be a new and faithful servant, listen to the leading of the Lord, truly know He put you there, know He will do the work through you and really doesn’t even need your help. God is faithful, so just trust His Word and promises.  I was always afraid I would not be able to educate my children to the standard they needed.  Each child is different and it is important to pray each day for each child by name and ask the Lord for wisdom to be the mom that child needs.

WBTS: Thank you for your wisdom!  Many of our authors are working to balance the responsibilities of child-rearing and ministry.  Can you tell us how involved in ministry you were while raising your children?

Phyllis:  I came to Kenya with one daughter, added two more our first term.  Having 3 little kids is a full time job!!  Some of us like being OLD!!!  That is what I tell my kids now when they share with me some of the things their kids do.  If you home- school, it is harder to be involved in your husband’s ministry daily.  But isn’t raising Godly children a ministry?  Your husband is your ministry.  Wives are very busy people.  You have to do what is right for your family at the time.  Little children need lots of attention. I home-schooled and took care of my family way more than I was involved in the work in our younger ministry.
WBTS: What did your daily schedule look like when you had young children and how has it changed in your current season of life?
Phyllis: It has totally changed from when I had small children to today.  There is a season for everything.  I could not do the things I do now when I had small children.  Even when I had older children, I was still their mother, I was still a wife.  I would say “Don’t feel guilty, put your family first but don’t complain about the ministry because your children will pick that up.  Let them know you love the people and God has put the entire family there to serve.  You think the babies will never grow up but they do so very fast!!”

WBTS: Great encouragement for all mothers!  Thank you so much for sharing with us how God has used you in the lives of your husband and children.  We can’t wait to hear more from you on Wednesday!

To hear Part One of a live interview with Mrs. Stirewalt visit the Leadership with Vision podcast by clicking on image.


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