Following His Will is So Worth It: Anne Stephens

March 11, 2024 | 11 minute read
The Alliance Canada


Just before coming home on home assignment in June 2013, a man came to see me. “Mama Anne, I’m your disciple. I have burden for the people in my village. I want them to know God’s Word. I want them to learn what I learned. I want you to come to my village and teach the Master Life study.” 

I looked at this man and said to him, “Maloye, you can do this. You are my disciple, and you can disciple the people in your village. His smile threatened to divide his face in two. “Do you really think so?” 

“Yes,” I replied, “As Christians, we are meant to be disciples who are to disciple others. You are my disciple, and now you need to disciple others.” 

My Journey 

I was born to Graham and Ruby Stephens in Red Deer, Alberta, in April 1949, the second of three daughters. My Dad wanted us all to be involved in sports, so he flooded our garden, and at the age of three, I started to skate, pushing a chair around the home-made rink. When I was five, I joined a speed skating club and started skating in competitions. This led to travelling and competing all over Western Canada and Montana, where I earned my share of trophies and medals. 

My most significant skating achievement was being chosen to participate in the 1967 first Canada Winter Games in Quebec City. I was one of the youngest skaters and placed in the top twelve female skaters in Canada. Winter was my favourite season, but that was about to change. 

We were a church-going family, and at a very young age, I knew Jesus Christ died for my sins. When I was thirteen years old, while at a mission’s meeting in our church, I went forward to accept Christ. Although I was sincere in my desire for Jesus as Saviour, while in high school and later nurses training, I felt my life did not measure up to other Christians. Why was I not experiencing what I thought I should be in my Christian life? 

My first job as a nurse took me to Newfoundland and then to Nova Scotia. 

During this period of my life, I remained dissatisfied with my Christian life. I then moved from Nova Scotia to Edmonton, attending the University of Alberta, to become a nurse-midwife. My favourite part of training to become a nurse was sitting with women in labour and helping them through the miracle of birth. I absolutely loved it! 

When I finished the midwifery course, my friend, Marion Dicke, and I went to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to work in a hospital. We found a good church there with lots of young people who were very serious about their faith. I got into Bible studies and started to grow spiritually. 

During my stay in Yellowknife, I received news my mother was in the Intensive Care Unit in Red Deer, where she died the day after I arrived home. It was a tough time, but I will never forget the peace God gave my sisters and me. It was like my sisters and I were comforting everyone else. Of course, we were sad, but deep inside our hearts, we felt such peace; it was amazing. 

During my Mom’s funeral, I decided to go to Bible school, thinking maybe there I could learn more about this God who could give me such peace amid such difficulty, and also perhaps I could find out why I was not experiencing more in my Christian life. 

That fall, I went to Canadian Bible College (CBC) in Regina. I was so overwhelmed in class! I had gone to church all my life, but I found there was so much I did not know. What really blew me away was how the pastors and professors talked about the importance of making Jesus, Lord of my life. It was not enough just to accept Him as Saviour. I had never heard that! They kept saying when you accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour of your life, you need to give everything over to Jesus and let Him rule in all areas. They also taught that when you do, you could ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and He would help you live your life in a way pleasing to God. 

I went to my dorm and knelt down, giving Jesus control of everything I could think of—my family, friends, career, single or married, my future, and on and on it went. Then I asked for a filling of the Holy Spirit, and a new life started as God began to transform me. 

Not long after, I got a strong feeling God wanted me to be a missionary. I think I am rather a slow learner because He seemed to make it abundantly clear this was what He wanted me to do. On Friday nights, we had compulsory missions meetings; every week, it was as if the speaker talked directly to me! I was not a happy camper; I did not want to be a missionary. It was crazy, I had given everything over to Jesus, and then I took things back when I felt like I could handle them better than He could. I told Him I was a homebody; I did not like travelling. I am directionally challenged, and my favourite season was winter. Could I ever fit into a different culture or climate? Could I learn another language? Was I prejudiced? Could I live that far away from my family? 

I was chosen to go with Alliance Youth Corps to Thailand. I thought this experience would answer some of my questions. While trying to work through this, I told the Lord that if I was going overseas, and that was a big IF, I did not want to go single. I wanted someone right for me to lean on. I had a good friend at the time, and I decided this must be the person God had for me. I almost wrecked a good friendship because he studied to be a pastor with no interest in missions. Finally, one night in Regina, I went for a walk and just told the Lord He would have to break off that relationship if He wanted me to be a missionary. 

I continued to prepare for my trip to Thailand. For the first time, I saw God provide for my financial needs. God did use this short-term missions trip to help answer some of my doubts about the missionary calling. I lived with a single missionary who ran a youth centre in Bangkok. Through her ministry, I could see that God could even use single missionaries. I loved watching God use her with those young people. 

During the trip, God put me in ministries I could never have done in my own power. I taught English to Buddhist young people using the Good News Bible, and three became Christians. It was not me, but the power of God’s Word! I led a Bible study with the missionaries, asking the Lord what could I possibly teach missionaries? Following the study, a couple of them came up and told me they were touched by what was said. It was amazing! 

While there, I got a letter from my friend to tell me he had become engaged to the girl next door and, though it was hard, it was like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. God had a plan for me! When it came time to leave Thailand, I cried all the way to the airport, not wanting to go. 

I returned to CBC in the fall and started the application process to become a missionary, with God continually opening doors. My application was open for any location, but really, I wanted to go to Southeast Asia or Africa. God opened these doors for me. I did not tell them I knew anyone else who was a missionary. I really wanted His will, not mine. Instead, I told them to send me anywhere they needed me. I ended up in Zaire and on the same mission station as my good friend, Marion Dicke. God has a great sense of humour. 

In August 1977, I left Alberta and studied French at Albertville in the French Alps. The area was gorgeous, while French study was difficult and challenging. I then went to Belgium, where I took a university-level course in tropical medicine in preparation for my work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). To say this was challenging is an understatement. Exams were both oral and written, so my newly-learned French was tested continuously. I could see God’s hand in all of it, though, as He surrounded me with French, Swiss, and Belgium friends who let me study with them. I passed with distinction, which says so much about the God who enables me to do what He has called me to do. 

Nursing Ministries, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 1979-1993 

When I arrived, one of the first Zairians I met was the president of the Alliance, Rev. Kuvuna. He asked me if I was ready to love this country, its people, and its language. His question was one I will never forget. 

My first term at the hospital in Kinkonzi was a huge learning curve. Fortunately, Marion and the other missionaries were a tremendous help. I started learning another language, Kikongo, which occupied six hours of my day for the first year. One of the most traumatic moments of my first term was when my Zairian language helper, Lelo, suddenly got very sick and died of hepatitis. We went to his funeral, where I was really taken aback by his family’s hostility; they believed his death was our fault. They thought we had eaten his spirit and sent it away to another country. It was hard to accept their anger and the belief causing it, but it became so clear to me why God had called me to Zaire; to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ, loving them enough to die for them and reconcile them to God. 

Besides my language study, I taught some courses at our nursing school. I also went with Marion when she was called to help during a difficult birth. Time and time again, I saw God help us as we prayed through the almost impossible situations, and each time to see the miracle of a new baby. It was hard, but I really loved it. 

I had assumed making friends in Zaire would be the same as in Canada; it turns out that was not the case. It took a while for people to trust us foreigners. It took me coming back for my second term for people to see I was serious about being there, loving the people and the country enough to go back. 

The decision to come back for my second term was much more difficult than my decision to go in the first place. I knew if I went for my second term, it could mean I would never marry. Ultimately, I so wanted God’s will for my life; if His will meant being single, so be it. 

I had seen God give me the ability to do what He had called me to do. I saw how God had put me in families, both Zairian and those of our missionaries. I really enjoyed teaching at the nursing school and preparing students to become midwives. I helped at countless births and grew in my dependence on God to help me in all areas of my life. Some of the deliveries were difficult, and it was my responsibility to call the doctor to do a C-section. 

During my second term, I also started to teach Theological Education by Extension (TEE) in a couple of villages, which I really enjoyed. We, nurses, held weekly Bible studies with our students and were also responsible for having devotions in one of the patients’ wards. 

During my third term, I continued to teach at the nursing school, conducted my TEE classes, worked with other missionary nurses on World Vision, and financed community health projects in several villages. It was great to get out into the villages and discover how we could help prevent some of the illnesses we saw at the hospital. We did TEE classes in some of those villages too. 

After my third term, I found myself in Marion, Indiana, attending Indiana Wesleyan University, where I received my Master of Science with a major in Community Health. It was great to see the Lord continue to work out the details. He surrounded me with missionary nurses and like-minded people. While I was studying, all our C&MA missionaries were evacuated from Zaire due to severe civil unrest. It was a difficult moment being so far away and thinking of my Zairian family, the people I had worked with so closely. God brought fellow students, who had also experienced the necessity of leaving a country they considered home, to surround me. God is so good! 

Everything was up in the air during those months. Would I be able to go back? Would I be going back to Kinkonzi, where I had worked sixteen years as a nurse? After many tense months, I received the news I would be returning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), specifically not to my bush hospital at Kinkonzi. 

Bateke Plateau Leadership Development, DRC, 1995-1998 

It was a huge adjustment to leave the bush and work in a city of eight million people. Not only was the driving scary, but I had to learn the Lingala language. I started on a new missionary team composed of Stan and Connie Hotalen, Marion Dicke, and myself, working with the Bateke, an unreached people group. Although I lived in a vast city, my work happened in the villages where the Bateke people lived. 

Our team, which also included about five national pastors headed by Pastor Niosi, was training leaders who had become Christians but had had no formal Bible training. We would travel by boat on the Congo River or use four-wheel-drive vehicles to navigate the often treacherous roads. Our mandate was to train all evangelists and pastors in the area, including some from other denominations and leaders living across the Congo River. Little did I know at the time, eventually, I would move again and find myself working in Congo-Brazzaville. 1  

Along with Bible-based seminars, we also talked about health issues and practices. We assisted clinics in the area and provided the people with safe water by digging wells. I will never forget all those evenings spent around small fires discussing just about everything. These times brought us so close as a team, brothers and sisters, with our Congolese counterparts. I have never met anyone so committed to reaching the lost as the team leader, Pastor Niosi. He had a real heart for the young evangelists. Seeing a young man with a heart for serving God, he would say, “Come and work with me on the Bateke Plateau.” These young evangelists became disciples under his mentorship. He was amazing and such a hard worker. 

In 1997, while working on the Bateke Plateau, war came to the Congo, and we were evacuated to Brazzaville. Being removed from the civil unrest 2 presented difficulty. How could it be right that we were taken to safety while our brothers and sisters, with whom we worked, could not leave? The Congo River separates the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) from the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), making these two cities the world’s closest capitals. The war noises in Kinshasa could be heard while we were safe in Brazzaville. It was not easy. We prayed for our colleagues on the other side of the river, and we kept busy teaching at the Bible school in Brazzaville. 

An eight-minute flight had taken us out of a war situation into a city recovering from war. When we returned to Congo, things were still tense, living in an unstable country even after the war was technically finished. It was now difficult to travel into the Bateke Plateau due to the numerous military barricades we encountered leaving Kinshasa. Some villages told us we were the first people to travel through the area since the war began. We continued to train leaders on both sides of the river for another eight months. It was now time to depart for a three-month home assignment, travelling to see our families and visit supporting churches. 

At the end of three months, the war had re-started in the DRC, and we could not return. I do not know any way I can express how hard that was, but I felt joyless. DRC was the place I considered home. 

Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, 1999-2001 

Because of the DRC situation, I was assigned to Côte d’Ivoire, where, for the next two years, I became an assistant dorm parent for nineteen kids from several different African countries. I love kids! I had wanted a whole other ministry to heal from the trauma of leaving the DRC. This ministry was undoubtedly foreign; I have never worked so hard in all my life. 

I have a whole new appreciation for mothers after having all those 19 children under my care. It was fun helping with homework, having devotions with the grade five kids, helping them learn to cook meals of their own choosing, setting the grass on fire when we barbequed, listening when they were upset about something, loving those hugs I got from them, and making them snacks. It was a great two years; I am glad I had the privilege of being involved in these students’ lives. It was hard to say goodbye. 

Brazzaville, Republic of Congo 2002-2015 

From Côte d’Ivoire, I joined the missionary team in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo. It was good to return to Central Africa; knowing French and Lingala smoothed the transition. At the time of writing, I have spent twelve years there involved with leadership development, heading up TEE, short-term missions, finances, and member care. I love these ministries, and daily I see God giving me the ability to do what He has brought me here to do. 

I have been so blessed by Alberta churches partnering with the Congolese church and me to find land and build a church in Kinsoundi, a Brazzaville suburb. We are working on buying a second piece of property for another church. It is incredible to see how these two churches’ congregations in Brazzaville pray for their three Alberta church partners. When I come to Canada and see how the Alberta churches are praying for these Brazzaville churches, it is so thrilling! 

Through all these years in ministry, I can assure you that God will enable you to do what He has called you to do. He never leaves you alone but promises to be with you forever. Following His will for your life is so worth it! 

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 1. Download your free copy today.

  1. There are two separate countries in Central Africa that are separated by the Congo River. The larger is to the south and was colonized by Belgium and has had various names such as the Belgian Congo, The Republic of Zaire and today The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with capital Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville). To the north is the Republic of Congo with capital Brazzaville colonized by France. Both received their independence in the 1960s. The countries are sometimes referred to as Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville. 
  2. Civil unrest often occurred between regional private militias and government forces within one country.



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