Meet a remarkable woman with a passion for helping others. Using her own life experiences and her deep and abiding faith in the Lord, Barbara Stroup has compassion for those who find themselves in challenging circumstances. Listen as Barbara shares her life story, amazing world travels, words of wisdom and surprising connection to Sew Powerful.
The Wisdom and Callings of Barbara Stroup
IN THIS EPISODE
California Baptist University, Philippines, South America, Honduras, Nicaragua, Managua. South Africa India, Macedonia, widow, minister, widows and orphans, Teen Challenge Girls, Department of Social Services
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Teen Challenge Girls, https://teenchallengeusa.org/
California Baptist University, https://calbaptist.edu/
California Department of Social Services, https://www.cdss.ca.gov/
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Barbara Stroup
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
I want you to imagine a person who has a heart for service, is kind to others, loves the Lord and follows His calling when they see people in need. So, they build a ministry, and they get others to follow along. And then their passion becomes your passion, and you bring others along on an amazing journey. Plus, they are a charismatic bundle of energy. Now, you might think I'm describing Jason Miles, and you would be correct. But this description also fits a lovely woman named Barbara Stroup, who just happens to be Jason's mother and our podcast guest today. Welcome, Barbara Stroup. How are you?
Barbara Stroup, Guest 01:11
I'm well, thank you. Thank you very much.
We are so excited to talk with you and there is so much to uncover here, so so let's just get started. Barbara, where are we talking to you from today? Where are you?
Yuba City, California. It's in approximately the middle of the California State.
Okay. And it's in the northern half of the state
Northern half, where all the the fruits trees and all the beautiful things that we produce that feed a lot of people in our country.
Oh, how wonderful. And where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in, about eight miles from here, in a small community. So, this is my native state.
Wow, that is so unusual to talk to a native Californian. Tell us a little bit about growing up as a child there in California. What was your family situation like there?
I was the second child of four children. My Dad was a farmer. At the end of his career, he raised and had ranch fruit. In the summer, it was busy with harvest, harvesting peaches and prunes and walnuts. And my dad would be up early and leaving. And my dad had five siblings. My mother had four siblings, and we had many cousins. So, we went to school in the same school that my mom and dad went to, that their cousins, their siblings went to the same school, same high school. So, we had a plethora of many cousins. And that was good. It was real close time. And not everything was perfect, which, no family has everything perfect. But basically, we were kind of middle income. We weren't rich. We weren't poor. We had everything we needed. And I went off to college when I was 18 or so and got a degree from a university in Southern California called California Baptist University.
What did you study in college?
Sociology and Psychology. That was my degree.
And that led to your career choice. Is that correct?
Yes, it is.
So So tell us about your career.
I worked for Department of Social Services in San Bernardino beginning, but then moved back to Yuba City and spent 25 years as a program manager, a social worker supervisor, supervising social workers who were working with low-income families who needed help, who had children, who needed a fresh start. Some of them had addictions, some of them had other circumstances, but we were working with them to try to get them self-sufficient and protect their children and be a positive supporters of the community that they lived in.
And I understand that you were a single mom, raising your children, is that correct?
I had been married 15 years. And so, from the time Jason was nine and a half, 1980, till I married my second husband, I was a single mom. I had three older children, and Jason was the youngest. And so, I worked in my career, and I connected myself very closely with my church family. That was my lifeline, to be honest with you, and I continued to do what I needed to do as a single mom. It wasn't always easy, but I always had support of my parents, my husband's parents and family were very supportive of me. And so, time goes on. We moved along and my children grew up. And I continued my career and retired from Department of Social Services as a Program Manager four or five years before my second husband, and I got married and started actually ministering and going overseas on missions trips.
Okay. You've mentioned that you became a minister of your church. Is that correct?
Well, not on staff at anybody's church. But
at the end of the second marriage, I had a degree and I had been working with Teen Challenge Girls for 15 years and working in women's ministries, and my second husband just thought it would be good. He wanted me to get a minister's license. And that's how that happened. So, I did some studying and I had to take some tests, and I passed the requirements for our denomination, and I got this minister's license. That doesn't make me any different of a person, but I have this thing that says, I'm a minister,
Well cool. Okay, we're gonna come back to that in a moment. But you've mentioned Teen Challenge Girls a couple of times. Can you tell us a little bit about what that program is?
Teen Challenge is a program that was started by a man about 60 years ago; his name was David Wilkerson. He went to New York and was troubled about some teenagers who were on trial, who were in addiction behaviors, and just started working with them. He felt a call to that. And it started this program called Teen Challenge, which was kind of a life changing program for people who had addictions, who had issues in their life, who could not function in society as responsible citizens, who needed help. And it's basically been a very, very successful program. Probably 85% of the women and men who go through Teen Challenge programs stay clean and sober, stay productive. And that's the highest percentage of any treatment programs that have been recorded at this point. So, it's still a very active Bible program for people who have life controlling problems. It doesn't have to just be addiction. Some people come in because they're suicidal, or they're depressed, or they have addictions, like I said, and it's, it's really a discipleship program. It's not just a rehab program.
And so, what was your role when when you work with them?
When I work with them, I went in individually, because when they go in into the house, they can't share amongst themselves what their issues are, their problems. So, it was expedient and good for them to bring somebody in who could do that under the umbrella of my minister's license. I wasn't as a psychiatrist, I never went in that way; I couldn't do that. But I was a minister of the gospel. So, I would go in and women who wanted to talk to me personally, were allowed to do that on a weekly basis. A lot of times, it was women who just came in through the front door, who were just detoxing or just trying to get themselves clear-headed and stabilized, having just maybe come off the streets. So, I would go as I was called, and it became a weekly thing. They would, staff would select women who wanted to see me, and I would go in and talk to them. I'd say, you know what you say to me, it's confidential, unless I think you're gonna hurt yourself or somebody else, I have to share that. Otherwise, you can be assured I'm not gonna go tell anybody. And I think that confidence that the women had was a great blessing, because I've had many women come back over the years and tell me that just being able to talk to someone was so helpful.
That's amazing. That is amazing. Now, you alluded to some travels. And are these the travels that you and your husband, Jerry did together?
The majority of them are, yes.
Well, tell us a little bit about number one, why were you making these trips? And where all did you go?
We were making the trips because early in my husband's life, he went to a youth camp and really felt like the Lord had shown him that he would be ministering to people with many different cultures, not just locally where he lived in Oklahoma. And he felt very strongly about that and he became a minister of the gospel. Right after that he started going in that direction, went to Bible school, got a doctor's degree in ministry, as a matter of fact, from a university in Oklahoma, and began to be pastoring. He was pastoring churches, pastoring, pastoring. And so that vision actually hadn't happened yet. But when he and I got married in 2008, he resigned his church that he had been into it for 18 years, it's about 35 miles up in the foothills above where I live now. And we began this travel adventure, fulfilling that vision that my husband had when he was 15. He reconnected with a friend who had he had gone to college with, and then they were called him in a song. They traveled and sang, on the weekends when they were in college. My husband was a gifted pianist, gifted. And so, he would play the piano and they'd all sing, and he got reconnected with this man right after we got married. The man only live about 35 miles from Jerry. He never even knew that but, so he was ministering in the Philippines a lot. So, we started going to the Philippines. We went to South America, Honduras, Nicaragua, Managua. Jerry and I went to South Africa with Jason and Cinnamon. We went to India with ministers, friends, and we're able to minister there. We went to Macedonia and help build the first Bible college that Macedonia had ever had. We went to, I'm trying to think of all the places we did go. It was quite an adventure. It was wonderful. And it really was the fulfillment after 50 years, what Jerry saw in a vision and just really felt the Holy Spirit telling him when he was 15, really, actually became a reality when he and I got married. And we were both senior citizens at that point. But that didn't stop us because God opened that door, and it was this right season for us to do that.
Well, Barbara, I've noticed that you've spoken of your husband Jerry in the past tense. I understand he passed away last August. So, it's been less than a year, right?
Yeah. So how would you want Jerry to be remembered? How would you describe Jerry?
Jerry really was, and actually this was a statement that Jason made at his service. He was the beat and the physical part that I would say that exemplified Jesus in every way. He was a kind, loving man. He always said, You can't offend me (because he always, people in the church get offended about everything) because I'm dead in Christ. And you can't offend a dead man. You can't offend a dead person. So, he'd say you can't offend me. But he was a person that loved people. He touched people. Everywhere he went he he was a shepherd. He was a true shepherd. And he was, what he said and did, he really was that person. I was blessed to have him as a husband. He, he helped me. He really enlarged me. He, he covered me, and he just really helped me grow in some areas that I needed to grow in. It was a real God thing. And I felt very blessed to be his wife. I knew when we were married, I knew that I would be the one that buried him. He had buried two wives with cancer. He was a widower twice, gracious, but he moved on in his life. He never stayed in the past. I never could get him to compare with one of his former wives. He just wouldn't go there. He would not do that.
Very wise man. But I feel nothing but thankfulness and being blessed as having had him in my life. He was a wonderful man. Godly, very godly man.
Well, thank you for sharing that, Barbara. We're gonna take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk about a couple of things. Number one, how your life changed after Jerry passed away and how you recognize some of the struggles you were going through in others and what you've done about that (which, listeners, does this sound familiar? Anybody we know?). And number two, we want to talk about your trip to Zambia with Sew Powerful early early on. I think it was one of the first trips and we want to get your impressions of that as well and and talk a little bit about how you are a supporter of Sew Powerful. So, listeners please stay tuned. We will be back in one minute with Barbara Stroup.
Have you gotten the second edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original bestseller, 4.9 out of five stars by the way, is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen, and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order, if you use smile.amazon.com and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.
Welcome back. We have been speaking with Barbara Stroup, who is Jason Miles' Mom. Barbara just shared with us that her husband of 12 and a half years passed away in August of 2020. And so, for Barbara, she's been widowed for less than a year. Barbara when you first lost Jerry and you were a widow, what were some of the struggles that you faced? What were some of the needs that you had that maybe weren't being met?
Well, first of all, I would like to share that I asked the Lord to show me when Jerry went to the hospital and give me a word. What, what, what's happening here, Lord? And that morning, came home and read My Daily Bread, which I read every day, and did get showered and tried to go back to the hospital. He was unconscious, he'd collapsed in our bedroom floor, and he didn't ever regained consciousness. But so, I came home, I read My Daily Bread, and I'd asked the Lord for word. And the scripture that was given to me with Psalms 116. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of His faithful servants." I knew then that Jerry was in heaven, that he was, it was his time to go. That was a clear word to me. So even though his body had not completely stopped, that helped me going forward with that. I felt a great comfort from my church family, my family, my own children, a lot of support. It's just in that first, first time period, you're just kind of numb. I guess numb.
What I said at one point, in the beginning of the process was I was, felt like I was hemorrhaging. That's the only way I can describe it emotionally, I'm assuming, obviously, not physically. But I had confidence, I knew the Lord was with me, I knew He'd give me a strong word. If you can make good out of a hard place, God directed my steps, He prepared me, He, He provided the money for the cremation, He gave me words. I really felt comfort in that even though my heart was bleeding, that there would be a sun again in my life, and progressively, and it's a progressive thing, it doesn't happen overnight, you begin to heal. And the memories became greater than the grief. Of what we had together, the man he was, the great memories that we had, those became my lifeline. And I had to watch myself not to make him an idol because I think women have a tendency to do that. But so, I stayed connected to the church, stayed connected with people who love me. And I became very busy in working through some of the financial things, the things I needed to deal with that Jerry had left. And there were some, there always is some, the business of life, the business of life.
Working through those things for took me probably the first three months. My children, especially Jason and Cinnamon, came and stayed with me for a week, helped me with those things. And that was good because I didn't have my partner in life to say, what do you think about this? What should we do about this, you know? So, Jason and Cinnamon came alongside. I have a very dear friend who's been a friend for 45 years who was right there to help me. And so, we walked every day, one day at a time, and read the Word and stayed close, walked through the process of grieving, which you need to go, you have to go through it; it's a process. But there is sun gradually.
My friend described grief process as a square with a big ball in it. And at the top of the square is this little red button. And in the beginning, because the ball is so big, that it hits that red button frequently, bang, bang, bang. But as time progresses, the ball starts decreasing and the smaller the ball gets, the less you hit that red button, which is the grief button. And that was such a good picture for me, because I see that has happened in my life. And so, Jerry's six children were very loving and kind to me and supportive. And I have seen how God has opened my eyes to what it means to be a widow. I had no clue. I always wanted to be a widow, though, is that interesting, that I would say that to the Lord? But in my years that I was walking and having to have another label on me, which was a divorced woman, I always said, Lord, I want to be a widow, please, I don't want to be a divorced woman. Because I felt like in the day where I was raised, being a divorced women in the church was not something that you looked on with favor, regardless of what the circumstances as you had to get a divorce. So I, it's kind of a joke to me when I think about it. I don't tell a lot of people, but I actually am a widow now. That's what I prayed for. But I stayed involved.
And you've told a lot of people now.
Yeah. I am a widow. And as I walked through that, one of the ladies in our church just seems to have this just huge burden for the widows in our church and a ministry she'd worked in in Canada with widows and so I said, I'll help you with that. I guess I hadn't quite crossed the road from being an administrator and a women's ministries leader and pulling meetings together and being a widow. I guess I was kind of kinda in the middle of that road. So, I told Bridget I would be glad to help her with that. And we've had a couple of widows' functions. We tried to connect with our widows in our church, those who just seem to be out there in the periphery with no one contacting them. Sometimes they don't have families. They're lonely. That's not right, scripturally it's not right. God had a heart for the widows and orphans and He directs us. That's one of the greatest things is that taking care of the widows and orphans that we should do that. So, I got involved with Bridget. We've had a couple of widows meetings, we've contacted, we've sent letters out. Really just feel a burden and this door has just become wide open.
That's so inspirational, Barbara, thank you. I understand that you traveled to Zambia in 2015. That was the first official Sew Powerful trip for purse distributions. Can can you talk a little bit about that? And you went on that trip with Jerry, right?
Exactly. Right. We were excited when we were invited, and we felt like physically we could go on that trip. We were supporters of Sew Powerful from the beginning. And we flew to Zambia, we met Esther, we went to the school. Those children were such a blessing, such a blessing. And when I reflect back, they love Jesus, they came out singing, they were happy, they were upbeat, they were smiling, and I, and I'm looking at their circumstances thinking God, it has to be You. These children are impoverished, they have nothing that we consider important in our world. They have one drinking fountain with the school with 900 children. They go home to, who knows, you know, mostly single mothers, that they're probably lucky to have that one meal a day that they were being fed at the school. And so, I'm kind of convicted in my own spirit about taking things for granted and how blessed we were in this country and, and got such a different picture. You don't have to have a lot of things to praise the Lord and be happy. It's an attitude that you take on yourself.
Hmm. And you said, you have a favorite scripture verse that you feel like everybody has a testimony. What is yours?
My favorite scripture verse is Revelation 12:11. And that is that they overcame him (the dragon, the Satan) by the blood of the Lamb Jesus and the word of their testimony. And so, I really strongly believe our testimonies are, are the things that we just go forth and tell people about. You know what, what my testimony is, without the Lord Jesus, I probably would never have made it this far in my life, to be honest with you. So just the things that have happened to me and how the Lord has helped me through every season of my life, every issue of my life, and it has not all been pretty. But God has always been faithful to me.
That's amazing. Well, Barbara, that would be an inspirational place to wrap this up. And I want to thank you very much for your time and, and just sharing such personal and inspirational things with us. Thank you very much.
Yes, you're very welcome. It's my privilege.
It's it's our privilege for sure. Have a great day. We will talk with you. Hopefully I'll get to meet you in person one of these days.
Yes, that would be great.
That would be great. Okay, thank you very much. Bye-bye.
You're welcome. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.SewPowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.