Today, we have Becca Stevens with us. She is a speaker, social entrepreneur, author, priest, founder of eight non-profit justice enterprises, and President of Thistle Farms. She has been featured on PBS NewsHour, The Today Show, CNN, ABC World News, named a CNN Hero, and White House Champion of Change. Drawn from 25 years of leadership in mission-driven work, Becca leads important conversations across the country with an inspiring message that love is the strongest force for change in the world.
Becca speaks to us about her work at Thistle Farms, fostering community and healing and how our journeys begin and end with God.
MW: Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood:
BS: I was born in Connecticut, but my family moved to Nashville when my father, an Episcopal priest, was offered a position as a pastor. I attended the University of the South, then Vanderbilt Divinity School, where I met and married my husband Marcus Hummon. I was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1991, and I’ve been the chaplain at St. Augustine’s Chapel on Vanderbilt’s campus since 1994. My passion is to create justice enterprises, community, and books that express how this life we are living is practically divine.
My life was marked by the death of my father by a drunk driver just a year after we moved south, when I was five years old, leaving my mother a single parent of five kids. Shortly after my father’s death, an elder of the church began sexually abusing me, and it continued for a number of years. Beyond those scars that have shaped me and my work was how both of my parents instilled in me a love for justice and to always cheer for the underdog. My dad taught me to give generously and to not make a fuss about it. And my mom taught me to always make sure love was expressed practically and to serve the community with compassion and hard work. I am the blending of the scars and the gifts of my childhood. I am the blending of my mother’s practicality and my father’s searching for meaning with an old compass.
“I am the blending of the scars and the gifts of my childhood.”
MW: Inspiring biblical passage of the moment:
BS: Matthew 6, consider the lilies!
MW: What is your spiritual growth focus, at the moment?
BS: Accepting there is a peace that passes understanding.
MW: Tell us about what inspired Thistle Farms and your mission there:
BS: I began in 1997 when I realized that women on the streets had few, if any, options for long-term, safe housing to recover from the trauma and abuse they had experienced. Thistle Farms started with one home for five women survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Women were invited to come stay for two years, at no cost to them. But as the women began to heal and flourish, felonies on their records made it difficult to find a job. In 2001, I started the social enterprise part of Thistle Farms to make natural candles and body balms to provide women income. Our mission statement, our guiding principles, and the belief is, “love is the strongest force for change in the world”.
Since then, the community has grown into a global movement for women’s freedom. Today, there are more than 350 beds around the country that have adopted the company’s model, and we have 36 global partners in 20 countries as part of our Global Shared Trade initiative. Last year, over $4M in revenue was created by the Thistle Farms social enterprises.
MW: If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
BS: Snake Oil! Wrote it it 5 years ago.
MW: When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him?
BS: I have no conscious memory of not encountering Love, thereby encountering God! I believe all our journeys begin and end with God.
“I believe all our journeys begin and end with God.”
MW: How has your relationship with Him changed you?
BS: I believe I am still changing as I try to love God with all my heart, and to love my neighbor as myself.
MW: What has been the darkest time in your life, and how did you see God in it?
BS: There are not times I see God and times I don’t. God is a consistent presence throughout.
MW: What has helped you grow spiritually in this season?
BS: My family has been my cornerstone through the last six months. I have never been so grateful! I also believe that appreciation of every small thing has made my heart stay soft and open.
MW: Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?):
BS: I have been reading so much, but mostly I have been writing a new book called Practically Divine for Harper Collins that has taught me so much about experience the extraordinary wonder of the divine in the most ordinary of days.
MW: Top three essentials:
BS: Tea, moringa oil, yarn.
MW: How did God speak to you recently?
BS: God speaks most often to me in the silence of the woods and the space of freedom in my bathtub! It is an awakening of my spirit that allows a thought to rise.
“It is an awakening of my spirit that allows a thought to rise.”
BS: Hiking, knitting, baking bread, all things that bind justice and crafts.
MW: Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
BS: Keep a simple daily ritual, trust work more than inspiration, forgiveness is the spiritual currency.
MW: Favorite person in scripture?
BS: The woman at the well.
MW: What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you?
BS: That God heals through love and community.
MW: How do you engage with your community?
BS: I have been building community for three decades! Please look @thistlefarms and @staugustineschapel and @larkspur for a few examples of community I have helped to build.
MW: Favorite holiday?
MW: A goal you have?
BS: Write a trilogy of mysteries that talk about justice and healing in fun new ways!
MW: A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep:
BS: We paint together, we vacation together, we eat Sunday meals together, we watch movies together, and we always spend holidays together.
MW: What question you will ask when you get to heaven?
BS: I will not have a question then.
MW: Thing you want to raise awareness about:
BS: The work of Thistle Farms that is a global movement for women’s freedom!
MW: What does your morning routine consist of?
BS: Getting my husband coffee (I am a tea drinker) and bringing it to him with a word of thanks!
MW: What is on your nightstand?
BS: A lamp and a stack of books!
MW: Define Christianity in a sentence:
BS: Followers of the way of Jesus trying to love the whole world.
For more Becca:
IG & FB: @beccastevens
Until next time, keep witnessing!