This is our final interview with Mrs. Phyllis Stirewalt. It has been a blessing this week getting to know her and hearing about the ministry in Kenya. We at Women Behind the Scenes count it a great honor to learn from her many experiences. You will never meet a more humble woman with a heart for her people in Kenya.
WBTS: What do you do to get back on track when you’re discouraged?
I used to get discouraged a lot more than I do now. I think it is a growing process. When my kids would get discouraged, I would too!! I want them to be happy. I can feel sorry for myself sometimes even today. I know it is wrong, but I don’t make it my dwelling place now. I get alone with my Lord and read my Bible and he pulls me right back up out of the dirt I have dug myself into. God is truly my best friend.
WBTS: What is the biggest sacrifice you think you’ve made in your years of ministry?
My biggest sacrifice was my unyielding spirit in earlier ministry. I felt like I needed to help God and, trust me, I always got myself into a huge mess. I had to come to the place where I gave my wants, desires, longings, and dreams to the Lord. I begged Him to CHANGE me!!
WBTS: Could you share with us your biggest weakness? Biggest Strength?
Biggest weakness? I have so many; picking one is hard!! I tend to want to help God and fight my own battles when I know to “let go and let God.” The outcome is ever so much sweeter when I do that. Someone once told me, “If you are angry and go tell someone you’re hurt first ask yourself, if you are doing it to uplift the kingdom of God and to help this person grow spiritually. Then go tell them. If not, keep your mouth shut!!!” I always remember that, and 99% of the time, I have to keep my mouth shut!! My Strength? That for sure i that I LOVE children, and I want all of them to be saved. I love on them, I make sure they feel special, and I invite everyone of them to church. They sit on my lap, and they are all around me when I go out. Telling them Jesus loves them and that I do too.
WBTS: In your experience, what helps you keep a good attitude?
This one is easy- walking daily with the Lord. Reading the Bible, learning and growing, obeying, and putting others before myself.
WBTS: What is the balance between being a spiritual leader and also being real?
I am very real; I will tell you the truth, but it must be done in love and to uplift, basing my balance on the Word of God. Kind of like being a good mother; the way I correct my children makes all the difference in the world (positive or negative)!
WBTS: Share some tips on training pastor’s wives and why you feel it’s an important part of your ministry.
Let me tell you, when I went into Bible College, I did not know who Abraham was…I only knew I was saved and very little else. I saw the men here growing spiritually, but the women knew nothing about the Bible. I wanted them to grow with their husbands and not tear down the church. God took me from a very dark place in my spiritual life, and I wanted the same for our pastor’s wives. I always take my husband’s hand and say, “We walk and work together, we study together — we are TOGETHER. We are a team in the ministry.” About 80% of our pastor’s wives have studied the Bible for at least 3 years in school. I cheer them on and want to live the example before them.
WBTS: We know that your work with the children there has most definitely produced fruit over the years with 80% of those going into the ministry were fruit of the Sunday schools. Could you share what you did with the children there in Kenya?
I take NO CREDIT for anything GOD is doing in this ministry. This ministry belongs to no human; we are here as servants working in the harvest field of Kenya. It is never about ME; I can’t teach ALL the children in over 300 churches. Many faithful servants have spent long hours teaching Sunday School, loving on these kids and investing in their lives. I have invested too, but only GOD can bring the increase. It is like discipleship, you start as one person who pours your life into someone else. Then the two of you disciple 4, then those 4 disciple 8 and on it goes….that is how our Sunday Schools work. I have never trained anyone for the ministry. I just plant seeds, some grow and mature, but others don’t. The secret here is just loving on and pouring your life into others for Christ. My burden for children comes from myself being a bus kid, growing up with someone taking me to church and investing in my life. Here in Kenya, around 60% of the population is under the age of 12. Kids run around everywhere! Lots of churches think kids can’t be taught and so they don’t invest in them. They have no Sunday Schools at all. We, on the other hand, LOVE kids, have huge Sunday schools, encourage kids to come, and have time for them every week. It may not be like that in the country where you serve, but here, children are everywhere. We go after them, teach them, love them, keep them every week in class, and tell them they are special.
WBTS: Thank you for that! I think women often feel like their role with children isn’t as important as the man’s role with training men, but the two can work hand-in-hand to grow the ministry as the Lord blesses like you said. From those kids come “fruit,” and many will grow up and serve the Lord with their lives.
Be sure to visit the Leadership with Vision Podcast to hear a live interview with Mrs. Phyllis Stirewalt and Pastor Austin Gardner. If you’ve enjoyed these blog interviews, then you will love to listen to her!