Early in life Stephanie Peterson felt a call to help others. Little did she know that calling would lead her to a life of service as a hospital chaplain and lay pastor in her home church.
Along the way, God has brought her to each new place in life, providing just what she needed at every step, preparing her for what was next.
Raised in Berrien Springs, Michigan, by loving parents who created a harmonious environment for spiritual growth and development, Stephanie learned early to love the Bible and memorize Scripture. Her parents also set an example of hospitality and laid the foundation for her life or service. It was during these formative years that she had thoughts of becoming a nurse, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, Dorothy Starks.
While attending the Village Seventh-day Adventist Church school and participating in Pathfinders she was baptized, and when she moved on to Andrews Academy she says, “I began to discover God’s truth for my life.”
But by the time she enrolled in college at Southern Adventist University she was questioning if her beliefs about the church and God were her own, or if they were just her parent’s beliefs. She rarely attended church, did not pay her tithe, and dated someone who was not a good influence. She found herself asking God why she was so unhappy. God was quick to encourage her to return to Him, go to church, pay tithe, and leave her boyfriend. As she responded to God’s promptings, she felt impressed to enroll at Andrews University.
Not long after returning to Berrien Springs, Stephanie began working in Chicago, doing private-duty nursing alongside her grandmother. This time of one-on-one patient care grew to be very important to her, and she reflected that it “has always been my love.”
The next few years were busy as Stephanie completed her LPN, got married and gave birth to a precious daughter, whom she considers the highlight of her life. For many years, she was a stay-at-home mom. Once her daughter was in school, Stephanie returned to college, completing an A.S. in nursing, and passing her state boards to become an RN. Her childhood dream was being realized! Stephanie was seeing that God has “steppingstones in life that form a continuum of education and service.”
Stephanie began working at Luther Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and during her time there, she was often given some of the more challenging patients. She wondered, “Why am I getting these patients?” Her co-workers saw that she was able to help them with more than just medical needs. They were going through very stressful situations, and she had a gift for helping them work through difficult emotions and deal with difficult questions. Although some of the work was quite challenging, God was preparing her for what was next as soon she began volunteering as a hospital chaplain.
The opportunity came for Stephanie to begin working at the AdventHealth Clinic in Durand, Wisconsin. Again, Stephanie felt the call to chaplaincy and offered to fill in when the chaplain was away. The hospital instead asked if she wanted to work per diem as a chaplain. People started saying, “This is who you really are!” Stephanie thought, “Oh, they’re being really nice,” but then realized, “I’m really having a lot of fun! I’m happy. I love what I’m doing!”
Stephanie clearly recalls the day she was officially called to ministry. On April 21, 2020, she was at home in her dining room and as she walked into the living room she said, “Lord, I see that You’re really calling me to this, and I say yes to whatever You say.” Matthew 9:38 came to mind, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Realizing God was calling her to a life of ministry, Stephanie enrolled at Liberty University to pursue a degree in religion. From that point on she never looked back. Her classes renewed her commitment to Christ, and she learned a deeper dependence on Him as Satan tried to distract and discourage. She also reaffirmed her belief that Jesus is her Savior, and the Bible is the Word of God and the truth. Stephanie graduated at the top of her class but gives all the credit to God as she doesn’t know how it would have been possible in her own strength. “That’s how God is,” she says as she reflects on this period. “When you’re questioning and you feel like you’re nothing, He’s like, ‘Oh yeah? Well, you are created in My image and I’m going to show you right now what’s going on.’”
Looking back over her life, Stephanie says she sees a clear trend. “The Lord always goes before us and prepares the way, and He sends His Spirit to fill us, to enable us to do what He wants.” She goes on, “There is tremendous joy in serving the Lord and He is the reason why we live … our duty, our calling, our privilege is to love and serve Him.”
In 2022, Stephanie felt God calling her to serve as lay pastor for her own home church in Durand. Through a series of events, their church was without a pastor and Stephanie began to wonder what would happen. She started praying, “Lord, is there something I can do?” As she prayed, she began to wonder, “Is this something God would want me to do? And why would He want me to do that? I’m a woman and I’m broken … What will my church family think?”
As she was pondering these thoughts and questions, Stephanie felt like static was filling her mind, like a radio station that wouldn’t tune in. However, she felt impressed that if the conference asked her to fill the role of lay pastor, her husband was okay with it, and the church wanted her, she would be willing. As soon as she made that decision, the static cleared, and she had peace. Her husband gave the okay, the conference was interested and, much to her surprise, the church unanimously voted to accept her as their pastor.
Although still learning and growing in this new role, Stephanie is confident that just as God has led her in the past, preparing her for each new step, He will continue to lead in her future. Her parents’ example of love and hospitality prepared her for a career in nursing. Serving challenging patients as a nurse opened the doors for her to minister effectively as a hospital chaplain. And now, her experience as a chaplain has prepared her to serve as a lay pastor. “I don’t think Jesus wants us to stay on one steppingstone too long,” she says. “I think we move throughout our lives doing all these different things because we gain new insights and perspectives, and we have to rely on Him to survive.”
Laurella Case is communication coordinator for the Wisconsin Conference.