Simon and Eleanor have a challenge for all followers of Jesus: “If you think serving and encouraging others in their local context is something you’d like to be involved in, then go for it. But be willing to do whatever it is that God puts in front of you.”
They’re in their mid fifties. Simon describes himself as a jack-of-all-trades and Eleanor is a nurse. They had time and experience to offer so in 2007 they spent six months in South Asia. This began what is likely to be a regular activity – a few months a year serving overseas.
This May-September they’re living on a 10-acre property in Momi Bay, Fiji. The owner is a Christian with a vision for a self-sustainable farm for local skill development and income generation. There is a vision for a hostel also, for troubled youth to come off the streets into a place of security, learning new skills to serve them in the future.
Simon and Eleanor oversee the farm – domestic management, development of the chickens, the fish farm and responsibility for completing the accommodation/teaching building, which currently houses a kindergarten.
Simon also oversees the numerous mission teams that come at this time of year. These visits can be distracting because priorities change, but on the positive side, they enjoy the variety of people. However they make an important point: “If you’re going to do a specific project, ensure that the team has a good range of skill sets and experience so that work can be done quickly and within set timeframes.”
Every day is different for the Stevens. They have learned to cope with the unexpected and the expected. Managing people means no two situations are the same. Time, priorities and business run differently to the New Zealand understanding and they have learned the value of patience, wisdom, servant attitudes, flexibility and a sense of humour.
Simon and Eleanor see themselves as mission supporters – people to work alongside long-termers. They understand their call to be one of encouragement, service and blessing, lifting the load for those who need extra assistance or allow people to take a break.
The willingness of Simon and Eleanor has allowed the long-term Fiji Pioneers workers to focus more fully on other vital activities, and their experience and expertise have contributed to the overall vision and development of the locals.
Next year for the Stevens? Another location may call, but wherever it is, God will use this couple for his work.
• Simon and Eleanor Stevens are from Wilson St Baptist Church, Timaru. They are serving with Pioneers NZ in Fiji for five months.