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Whitworth chaplain passes on confidence

Stephy Nobles-Beans office walls convey some of the messages she seeks to convey to students.


By Emma Maple - intern

Two things that stand out with Whitworth campus pastor Stephy Nobles-Beans—fondly known as Mama Beans by many students—are her immense love for God and an equally immense amount of drive.

Stephy says the story of her hiring at Whitworth in 1996 is her testimonial. She was working for a supervisor who made her job hard because, Stephy believes, she was prejudiced against her as a Christian and as a woman of color.

After taking seven days off work following a car wreck, she walked into her office to find a huge stack of accounts on her desk. Her supervisor told Stephy that she had 30 days to settle all of them.

"The stack was probably three to six months of work," Stephy said. "She left my cubicle. I cried.

"The Holy Spirit said, go get the newspaper. So, I got the newspaper, and started looking for a job," she said.

She found an opening at Whitworth for administrative assistant to the vice president of student life and dean of students. She called and learned the application deadline was that day, so she typed her resume and a faith statement, collected references and drove there to turn it in.

The next day, Stephy had a phone interview with Whitworth. A week and a half later, they called asking for an in-person one-on-one. She did it on her lunch break and returned confident.

About a week was left on the 30-day ultimatum her boss had given. No response the third week. On Wednesday of the fourth week, the university called.

They offered her the job that Friday, 30 days after the car wreck. Stephy had already packed up her office and typed a resignation letter.

"I had enough boldness, confidence and trust in God," she said. "I came to Whitworth University 26 years ago, and the rest is history."

Stephy has worn several hats at Whitworth. She was an administrative assistant for seven years, and then became coordinator of the chapel.

"It gave me the opportunity to build relationships with students," said Stephy, who decided to earn a bachelor's degree. Then her boss retired, and they hired Forrest Buckner as the dean of spiritual life.

He invited her to be the multicultural ministry coordinator to coordinate relationships with students of color and the chapel.

Next, three people—Forrest, a student and her son—encouraged her to work toward her master's.

At first, Stephy balked, wondering what she would study. She already had a good job, but realized that "sometimes we settle, because we think that's all we're capable of doing."

Finally, she decided not to settle. In 2015, at the age of 60, she started a master's in leadership at Whitworth, graduating in 2017.

Then, Forrest encouraged her to teach as a professor by building a curriculum and teaching it with him. Together they created "TH 174 - Diverse Christian Leadership," a course Whitworth has now offered for five years.

Now, Stephy is a campus pastor, as well as associate chaplain for diversity, equity and inclusion for campus ministries and the trainer for diversity, equity and inclusion for human resources at the university.

Her day-to-day life is full, exciting and sometimes "a little overwhelming."

Along with her Whitworth positions, Stephy started a business selling coffee called "Mama Beans On Holy Grounds." The business was born from a dream she had when she ran a home for women and children recovering from domestic violence from 2008 to 2017. During that time, she hoped to open a coffee shop in the house, to show women they could be business owners. "It never transpired," she said, but, at the end of 2021, "the Holy Spirit said to take the dream off the shelf and blow the dust off. I did that and started dreaming."

Stephy said Mama Beans On Holy Ground is "coffee with a purpose." The back of the coffee bag reads: "lovingly known as Mama Beans to many throughout the community, Stephy loves connecting conversation and coffee. She is excited about starting her online coffee business. Her vision is to help underrepresented women of color in her community through her program, Brown Girls Magic Leadership. Coffee sales will help women of color reach their potential through the three L's: Leading, Learning and Loving Leadership Program. Her goal is to help women of color create their own narrative for leadership. Her motto is 'Brown Skin Girls Lead, Too.'"

As Mama Beans On Holy Grounds completes its first year in March, it has 60 customers.

In January, Stephy started a Wednesday podcast called SHE-BREWS to talk about leadership.

Another of her brainchildren is a leadership and mentoring group called Brown Girls Magic, which she began three years ago.

The group is planning their first Women of Color Conference for Saturday, March 18, at Whitworth's HUB, featuring a speaker and panel.

About 30 women attend a Wednesday women's Bible study, which Stephy has led for five years.

Because the women's Bible study was popular, she started one for the staff this past year.

There's more: Stephy has written five books, including her newest book, Born to Be a Boss: Brown Skin Girls Lead Too! She describes it as "my little memoir of 30 to 40 years of talking about leadership."

"I wear many caps. People say, 'Don't you ever sit down?' I try, but it just don't work. God gives me all these gifts and talents, so I use them in the lanes that he calls me to use them in."

Stephy's not letting how busy she is stop her from dreaming. She is starting her own business as a leadership coach.

Her motivation for becoming a leadership coach is to be a role model for other women of color.

"I want women of color to know they can lead, and they can lead well. They can lead in any arena, whether it's in the courthouse, the schoolhouse or their house. They are able to lead and lead well," she said.

"Sometimes they don't have a template or a blueprint, but 'Oh, she looks just like me, and she's a leader,'" Stephy said.

When she first became a professor, one of the most impactful moments was having a student of color walk up to her and say, "I can become a professor. I had to see it first. I had to see somebody like me in the classroom teaching and not just sitting."

After being the role model for one student, Stephy knew she wanted to show more women of color that they could do anything. She wants to help other people uncover their skills.

"We all have a purpose. Some people just don't know what it is because they haven't tapped into it," she said. "As a leader, that's what I want to teach people. Each of us has gifts and talents that are deeply embedded in us. We don't know how to get them. I'm motivated to motivate others. I'm bringing my bucket and my shovel, we're gonna dig out those gifts and talents. I call them pearls and jewels that people have to help build the kingdom of God on earth."

Stephy's motivation for all of her work is her "creative flowing juices from the Holy Spirit."

"I sit and think sometimes. I know I didn't come up with all this stuff. I just sit and listen to the Holy Spirit," she said.

Stephy's love for God is evident.

"I think people think I'm crazy when I talk about God," she said. "I have seen God's goodness in my life. I've seen miracles performed. Nothing is impossible with God, to them that believe."

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2023