Sylvia: Hi Dr. Stevens, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you. I admire your work! Congratulations on being selected as NAWR’s “10 Most Intriguing Women on the Rise. Tell me about yourself and your business?
Dr. Stevens: Thank you Sylvia. My name is LaVerne Hanes Stevens and I am a National Certified Counselor, an ordained Minister of the Gospel, and an international missions mobilizer. My purpose is to help people develop new responses to life that translate into God-honoring habits in every dimension of life. This is accomplished through my writing, preaching, training and counseling.
I am the founder and board president of The Joseph Alliance, Inc., with the mission of promoting global Christian missions that advance the quality of life for the betterment of humanity. Each year since 2005 The Joseph Alliance, Inc. (JAI) has taken diverse groups of men and women to Africa to work and serve in practical ways for 1 to 3 weeks. Each person is subsequently encouraged to consider how they can continue making a lasting contribution of their resources, time, skills and so forth. As a result, many JAI alumni are now independently active in on-going work in Africa by contributing and providing consultative services to ministries and schools; by financially supporting various initiatives; sponsoring orphans; and even raising up international mission teams in their respective churches to follow-up where additional manpower is needed. That’s the crux upon which the spirit of the ministry is maintained; JAI creates linkages! I hope those linkages will be JAI’s legacy.
Sylvia: What is success?
Dr. Stevens: Society generally measures the success of an endeavor by its outcome. By those standards, one’s accomplishments and activities would be the measure of a life well spent no matter what how far from the core of one’s purpose those activities may be. For me, however, success is being obedient to the purpose for which I was created. Success is tied neither to my accomplishments or the “results” of my activity because I believe God measure’s success differently. Evidence of this is found in a brief comparison of the “successes” of Moses and Jeremiah in the Old Testament scriptures.
With Moses, the people of Israel complained about the lack of water in the desert (Numbers 20). God heard their cry and told Moses, “Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water…” But Moses did it differently. “Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly…” If we only look at the outcome, we would consider Moses to have been successful.
After all, water did come from the rock. In the eyes of the people, Moses got results. However, in heaven’s eyes Moses was not successful because he failed to be obedient to God’s instruction for the task. As a result, the Promised Land to which Moses would lead the children of Israel, would be off-limits for him. Moses’ mistake teaches us that there is no success without obedience. Jeremiah, on the other hand, gives encouragement to obedient people who struggle with the results of their efforts. God gave Jeremiah a message to speak to Israel (Jeremiah 1:4-10; 3:12-13), but Jeremiah and his message were rejected by his family; by the false priests and prophets; by his acquaintances; and by the people of Israel. With that kind of rejection, Jeremiah’s efforts would, at first glance, seem totally unsuccessful. He spent years faithfully preaching a message of repentance that the people would not heed. That certainly doesn’t sound like success, but in the sight of God, Jeremiah had done well.
Where there is obedience, there is true success!
Sylvia: Great information! How do you give back to your community?
Dr. Stevens: I am often asked, with so many needs in our local communities and so many hurting people here at home, why should we spend our time and resources abroad? I believe that every person who serves internationally with The Joseph Alliance returns to their community with a broader worldview. JAI gives back to the community by returning our team members back to their homes and communities with a greater willingness to live the Christian’s commission, in all of its depth, its height, its breadth and its width– from home to the far reaches of the earth.
Admittedly, this is grounded in my own experience. On the last day of my very first visit to Africa, I sat down for a conversation with a retired African school teacher. We talked about many things in Africa and in America. The entire conversation was memorable because of the wisdom that literally poured from her aging lips. Yet, nothing was as memorable as these words that found a permanent home in the depths of my soul. She said, “We’ve been watching. We know you built Europe and we know you built America, and we are SO proud of you!” In that brief exchange, it was as if generations upon generations of my own ancestors were speaking. They were speaking to every son and daughter of Africa’s slave trade whose free labor had built the world’s economic and political superpowers. And for a reason that I may never be able to justify, Heaven allowed those words to fall upon the ears of this Pittsburgh steel-worker’s daughter. In that moment, I believe that I received more from Africa than I could have ever given. I also knew that every person of African descent could benefit from a conversation at the feet of an African mother in the Motherland. It was life-changing, life-affirming, and life-defining. So, by leading these mission service trips to Africa, I give my team members—the sons and daughters of those who built
America from their posts in steel mills, coal-mines, cotton fields, and farm houses—- the chance to experience their own life-changing, life-affirming and life-defining Motherland moment….in whatever manner they are meant to experience it. I believe, that they, like me, return to their communities on a new course…with a new passion…committed to making life better for people near and far. If that wondrous and reproductive seed takes root in just one life—or perhaps two—I have helped to improved a life, a village, a generation, a race, a nation.
Sylvia: How do you create work/life balance?
Dr. Stevens: Time is so very precious because there is never enough of it! Creating work/life balance requires embracing these two keys:
- Develop respect for small blocks of time.
Develop respect for small blocks of time. Like small bills or small coins, we can easily be dismissive of that which seems too minuscule and insignificant to have value, and therefore, the smallest segments of time are often overlooked. When we develop a respect for the small chunks of time it is akin to storing up pennies in a piggy bank. Throw away 25cents a day and in a year you’ve lost $91. Who wants to do that? Throw away 15 minutes a day and you’ve thrown away 91 hours in a year. Who wants to do that? Stealing ten minutes of extra sleep; arriving five minutes late for a meeting; losing 2 minutes in a trivial task; procrastinating on that project just a little while longer….well, those lost minutes can rob you of precious time that could have been spent with family. Examine the time wasters in your life. You may find that those minutes steal time from loved ones, from rest, from meditation, or other meaningful opportunities. Take those minutes back and watch them add up to 91 hours of time of quality time with God, quality time with someone you care about, or quality time just for you!
- Give important things precedence over urgent things.
At first glance, this principle appears to be counterintuitive or at least counterproductive! However, I believe that important things are all too often on the list of things that we think we can get away without doing: attending a child’s baseball game, making time for meditation, spending time with people who really matter! How often we exchange those important things for other tasks that scream for our attention, as if they can’t wait: the crisis at work, the last-minute request from a major client; putting out fires and doing damage control by dropping one thing for another in helter-skelter-like fashion. In reality, the things that have value are the opportunities for growth, relationships, relaxation, meditation, or even helping the least squeaky wheel among your relationships. When you consider the risks and consequences, there is often far more at stake by neglecting the important than by postponing the urgent.
Sylvia: What tips can you share with women business owners?
Dr. Stevens: In my book, “The Fruit of Your Pain: Experiencing Spiritual Renewal through Seasons of Struggle,” I suggest that life will always include a mixture of glad tidings and painful trials. Our task is to recognize that our greatest trials can be tools in the hand of God for cultivating the soil of our hearts. As women managing for-profit and non-profit businesses, we have probably learned to be pretty tough in the face of hard times; to keep going no matter what; and to hold back the tears when it seems that crying won’t really do any good. But when you understand that God is a gardener, and your heart is His garden, then you understand that just as rain breaks up the fallow ground of the earth’s hardened soil, our tears likewise soften the ground of our hearts so that good fruit (love, joy, peace, faith, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, goodness, selfcontrol) can grow within us.
- My first nugget of advice is to allow tears to do what they do. It’s the best way to ensure that the fruit of your pain will be sweet. Always making you better; never making you bitter.
- “Weed out” regularly! Don’t allow the weeds of discouragement, self-pity, envy, resentment, etc.to take over your heart, and choke out the loveliness of God’s good seed in your life.
- Remember that sometimes adversaries are good for you. In fact, if your opposition knew how much stronger they were helping you to become, they would leave you alone.
- Trust that you have been given the gifts and skills that you need! If you don’t have a skill that you need, it either means you don’t really need it, or you are being set-up for interdependence with another human being.
- It’s not about what you can do with God; it’s all about what God can do with you!
Sylvia: Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with our members and subscribers. How can we get in touch with you?
Dr. Stevens: You are welcome, my contact information is below:
Contact: LaVerne Hanes Stevens, PhD, Founder and President
The Joseph Alliance, Inc.
P. O. Box 692,
Tyrone, GA 30290