Scott Stephenson: a testimony and a funeral
In mid-2010 a young man in our congregation, in a small coastal town in north Queensland (Australia), received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour (John 1:12). His name was Scott Stephenson, and he was a driver of trains hauling coal in the region. At his baptism on 20 March 2011, he recounted how his conversion had happened.
It was clear to many in the church that he had struggled with evolution. And that the message and materials of Creation Ministries International (CMI) played a vital ongoing part in the joyous Christian walk they observed him living.
Tragically, less than six months after being baptized, he was dead, killed in a freak accident. Despite the sadness, his funeral became a vital testimony to many in our community. But first, some background.
In his baptismal testimony, Scott said that his parents raised him in the Christian life: “I went to church each Sunday and attended Sunday school.” He even attended a Christian high school, but after a certain age, things changed. He decided that he did not need God, who was only holding him back. He said:
“I took whatever path I needed to take to get to what I wanted, in the quickest, easiest way. I lied, I stole, and I cheated. I held no regard for the feelings of others.”
But with his childhood Christian teaching, he says, “I felt guilt. I knew I was doing the wrong thing.”
Nevertheless, he tried to justify his sin, till he reached the point where, he said,
“I knew I had to kill off God inside myself to get rid of the guilt. ‘Kill the judge, kill the judgment.’ So I started telling myself there was no God. I would cling to any and every fragment of what I thought was ‘evidence’ against Him. I espoused evolution; I cited the hypocritical nature of pious religious types who would say one thing and do another … And, like any good predator, I would pick on the weakest of the group … my Christian wife.”
Scott said that he had done “some terrible things and lived an unholy life”. But he could see afterwards that God had His hand on him. He said:
“When the guilt and lies in my life all finally caught up with me, I looked up from the depths I had sunken to and I found love. I saw it first in the eyes of my wife who, despite having every reason not to, took me by the hand and led me back to Jesus. I was made to feel welcome at [our] church and, even though I thought otherwise, the walls did not crumble when I stepped through the door.”
He said to our congregation: “God used you to show me that He still loved me; all of you.” He pledged to use his life “to bring others to God.”
One of the areas Scott previously struggled with was the subject of evolution, which as his testimony showed, was his way of denying a God to whom he knew, deep down, he was accountable. When he became a Christian, he came across Creation magazine and began to avidly read it, along with other books and articles that CMI produces. He was eager to share with family and friends the information he was learning. He even wore t-shirts with the creation message printed on them.
After his conversion, Scott recorded his favourite Bible verses in a small journal. The first one he entered was 1 Peter 3:15, a ‘staple’ in CMI messages and literature: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” This verse was Scott’s guide as to how he shared his faith.
Playing his guitar and singing, as well as writing poems and songs as opportunities to share his faith were things in which Scott took delight. He loved working with young people, and began to lead our youth group in July 2011.
While Scott was riding his motorcycle home from work on the night of 10 August 2011, he hit a cow that had strayed onto the road, and he died instantly. He left behind his young wife, Tanneil, and 5-year-old son, Dean.
Knowing of Scott’s passion for His Creator and Saviour, we (together with his family) decided to insert a CMI tract in the program given to everyone attending the funeral service, as well as a note inviting anyone to take a free back copy of Creation magazine from a table at the church entrance. Some 300 tracts and nearly 80 Creation magazines (complete with its regular ‘Good News’ Gospel section) went home with over 300 people, perhaps the majority of them non-Christians, that day.
We are sure that Scott would have been thrilled to know that so many people received the sort of information that had meant so much to him in his short walk with the Lord before being called to his eternal home. Although losing him has been so hard for all of us, we know that his testimony and the influence of the Creation materials will continue to reach others for the Lord. May God bless all those who have a part in Creation Ministries.
The following was received from the authors in December 2013.
On 6 November 2013, we were privileged to be invited by Scott’s employers to participate in a memorial for him at his workplace. He was a coal-train driver.
We were asked to bring a message and pray at the service. A large memorial stone was erected outside the undercover lunchroom area that coal-train drivers and other employees use for their breaks.
Next to the memorial stone they had placed a wooden “reflection seat” where workers could sit during times of sadness or problems they were experiencing. A poem written by Scott about his love for the Lord was put on the memorial stone. (Another memorial stone for a fellow worker who had died a few years before was also located in the same area).
Scott’s son Dean, now aged 7, was given an engraved gold watch in recognition of his dad’s years of service. There were tributes by management, fellow train drivers, Scott’s widow, his mother and then a short message about the “Driving Power” of God in our life as well as prayer. A barbeque lunch was served to about 50 staff, employees, members of Scott’s family, and church friends.
We were invited outside to the rail yard to the unveiling of a coal-train engine dedicated to Scott. They had chosen engine number “3737” (as this was one of the coal trains Scott had driven as well as 37 being his age when he died.)
The side of the engine looked like it had been re-painted (or at least nicely cleaned) and under the driver’s window was beautifully painted in large letters inside a “scroll”—“Scott Stephenson.” (Large enough letters that it could be read as the engine drives down the tracks.)
His little boy was allowed to climb inside, sit at the controls and put his head out the window while photos were taken. (They even let him blow the horn—giving a fright to all of us standing outside!). His son was also given his dad’s work helmet which had hung above his locker since his death.
We were amazed at the genuine respect for Scott’s life and testimony that was evidenced by these gestures from his workplace. Scott’s “spirituality” was referred to by those who gave short speeches that day. And to think we had also been invited to give a message and pray was such a privilege and blessing.
The change in Scott in the short 18 months he had been a Christian was a testimony to all who knew him.
Thank you for the part that CMI played in Scott’s life. We know that when his questions about creation vs evolution were being answered as he read Creation magazine, etc., that this had a significant impact on him. That, along with the love and forgiveness of his wife and the love of people in our congregation led to his conversion. Thank you to all who have a part in getting the creation message out. It is a vital ministry.
May God bless you and give you His wisdom, strength and blessing in what you are doing for God and for our world. May you have a holy and happy Christmas as you celebrate the birth of His Son.
- The Enderbys form the pastoral team of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Sarina, North Queensland. Return to text.