Freda Stevens, the founder and lead pastor at Amen Always Church, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She completed her Master’s degree at Nova Southeastern University in Management and Administration School Programs and went on to do a ministry degree at a local Bible college.
In 2004, Stevens founded Green Apple Accreditation of Children’s Services, a family-owned and operated educational association. Then in 2017, she founded Prodigal Kids, a private, non-profit agency that provides behavioral health services to children, adolescents and their families.
Stevens and her husband first founded Amen Always in 2003 as a prayer and healing outreach ministry. In 2018, they felt alignment between the calling and timing of God and launched Amen Always as a church in Jacksonville, Florida.
Outside of GAACS and Amen Always, Stevens volunteers in her community by feeding the homeless and adopting a family for Christmas. In her free time, Stevens enjoys playing chess, bike riding, comedy, and spending time with her family and friends.
1. Tell our readers a little bit about what you do.
My husband and I pastor a local church in Jacksonville called Amen Always. We started as a prayer, health and healing outreach ministry. We’ve done several things in the community, such as feeding the homeless and our Christmas program. We have given away hundreds of boxes of food for children. We’ve also done radio and television ministry on both local as well as national networks.
2. Why did you decide to start Amen Always?
It was something that God placed in my heart over 20 years ago. Back when people took handwritten notes, I kept writing “amen always”. Every time my former pastor, the late Bishop Isaiah Williams, would say something in his ministry, instead of writing a note, after a while, I just wrote “amen always”. So I was sitting in church one day, pondering what God wanted me to do with my life and why I kept writing “amen always”. I had been praying on it a lot. Then God started speaking to my heart about Amen Always. So my husband and I opened it, first as an outreach ministry, but we always knew it would be a church.
My husband and I met in a local church. I was working in my church at the time. His family also worked at the church, and one day he came in to see his Dad. That’s how he met me because I was also working in the back.
3. What does a typical day consist of for you?
I’m at the church most days completing tasks that I have to complete as a pastor’s wife. I’m a pastor as well as a pastor’s wife, which are two very different roles. I’m performing whatever duties I need to do for that day. Whether I’m counseling someone or I’m preparing something to give people in the community, or whether I’m preparing a message. I may be doing administrative duties for the church or something for my accrediting agency, Green Apple Accreditation. Aside from that, I’m at home taking care of things around the house, or I’m at a meeting in the community. In addition to our community outreach, we also work with different local churches.
4. How do you motivate others?
Through my church and Prodigal Kids, I work with many people who have substance abuse issues. I also work with many people that have been in a situation where they gave up on God. So I try to inspire people in areas where they might more or less walk away from their faith.
5. Where do you get your inspiration from?
It’s all spiritual to me. It’s a sense of purpose. It’s the sense that it’s all part of God’s plan for me to do it. It’s also a sense of gratitude because I didn’t have to be here to be able to do it. There have been plenty of events that have occurred in my life where I could not have ended up here. Therefore, it’s a way of saying thank you and giving back. I gladly do this, I enjoy doing this, and I would not want to do anything else with my life than what God has me doing right now.
6. Who has been a role model to you, and why?
It would have to be my mom. She had a kidney transplant by God’s grace more than 30 years ago. She overcame poverty and earned her doctorate degree. She’s a breast cancer survivor, and now she’s surviving another form of cancer. My mom is 75 years old now. She has overcome so many challenges in her lifetime.
7. What traits do you possess that make a successful leader?
People have hardships in life, everybody does, but I don’t let any of those things define me. The definition of Freda is not written on a piece of paper, so I don’t allow those things to define me, good or bad. The only success I feel like we have is because of God’s grace. Although I don’t even let that part define me. So I don’t know what it is other than my faith and grace from God himself that makes me successful. I honestly don’t know how to attribute it to anything else.
8. What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
For me, the hardest obstacle to overcome is parenting because since I was a child, I wanted children. I vividly remember playing outside as a kid, I couldn’t have been more than 11, and I told one of my friends that when I’m older I want to have kids and I want to adopt kids, I want to do both. That’s the only part of that conversation that I remember. So from owning a preschool and a private school, from having a mother who is a former teacher, and from taking care of kids at a young age, the biggest challenge for me is not actually having children of my own. Instead, I’ve lost three. I believe we lost the first one in 2009 and then twins in 2016.
From a spiritual standpoint, I have a promise from God, and I’ve always wanted to adopt. At first, getting my husband on board with adopting was tough. It wasn’t easy because we could have adopted years ago. So we started the adoption process years ago, and when we got to the very end, they asked us to foster instead because they had so many children in the foster system, but I knew I couldn’t foster because it would hurt me too much having to give the children back.
It took us years before we decided to go back and start the adoption process again in a different location. We have now been approved; it’s just a waiting process. We’ve been waiting for over a year now, and the wait is gut-wrenching.
9. What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
“Don’t look back.”
11. Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
The only thing that truly defines me is my faith. Without my faith, my life would be very different. I believe I would have ruined my life with alcohol and drugs. I would’ve ruined my life because I would’ve gone down a completely different path. I went through a hard situation. One of my sisters was murdered, and it was really rough because the last day that I saw her, she said she wanted to spend time with me and I wanted to go to church. Then when I got home, she was gone. We’d had plans after church to go out for lunch. Two days later, she was dead..
Several other things happened before that as well, from my parents getting a divorce when we were younger to getting attacked in college, to a bad dating situation, to almost being attacked multiple times. If it wasn’t for my faith, I could have gone down a very different path full of anger.
12. Explain the proudest day of your professional life.
I would say every single day that I’m allowed to do Green Apple Accreditation because it’s such a wonderful company. GAACS accredits child care/early learning programs, private schools, charter schools, enrichment programs like after school programs and camp, substance abuse programs, and behavioral health programs throughout the United States. We have expanded so much since 2004, and we have much further to go. We have a lot more States to get in to. There are many positive things to come. I’m so grateful for that.