One could say that Pastor Stephanie Mathis is a full-hearted woman - full of love for God.
A Bishopville native and Dalzell resident, Mathis is pastor of Triumph Ministries at 3632 Broad St. Extension. The non-denominational church is relatively …
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A Bishopville native and Dalzell resident, Mathis is pastor of Triumph Ministries at 3632 Broad St. Extension. The non-denominational church is relatively small with 40 to 50 people each Sunday, but don't judge a church by its size - Mathis is making an impact.
She's a bi-vocational pastor, meaning she works another job as an occupation to supplement whatever income she earns from the church. During the week, the 42-year-old is a hairdresser at F&D Beauty Salon at 556 S. Pike W.
Mathis said she founded Triumph Ministries almost three years ago - in March 2015 - after completing her degree in Christian counseling.
As a messenger of God, she said, she has spoken at weekly revival services in all parts of the state, but, in the last year, "God has expanded her territory" to include other states in the Southeast.
Her messages are mostly on faith and the basics of a new life in Jesus Christ, she said.
"I let people know that it's a different way of life - not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of their mind," Mathis said.
In late October and early November, she was invited overseas to speak and do missions in Johannesburg, South Africa. She said it was her first missions trip and a life-changing experience, which has impacted her work back home in a good way.
She led revival services in churches for two days and also did missions work with native children for two days.
Mathis ministered in the Soweto township of the city of Johannesburg. Soweto has a population of about 1.3 million and has many tremendously poor areas, she said.
She said she was amazed that people with so little were still grateful. Homes lacked electricity and running water, people wore hand-me-down clothes that didn't fit properly, and food rations were small, but the people didn't complain, according to Mathis.
And she was struck by how receptive the people were to hearing God's word.
"It taught me how there is so much that we take for granted here," Mathis said. "It taught me that we should be grateful for what we do have."
On her trip, she said she vowed to make a deposit in the people and show the compassion of Christ. She took about 150 toys with her to distribute to children in a suitcase that weighed 48 pounds. Most of the toys were small and bought at Walmart, DollarTree or Dollar General, she said.
She was warmed by the children's response in the township.
"Just seeing the bright smile on some of the kids' faces - it was like they had Christmas in October and November," Mathis said. "Even with a dollar toy, while some of our children are so unappreciative, some of the kids there were just so amazed."
She brought the lessons learned back home to Sumter and her church. She wants people to understand better the spirit of freely giving to others and meeting their needs, she said.
Her congregation has taken notice, but many have also always spoken highly of Mathis.
"She is a true woman of God," church member Melvin White said. "She truly labors for the Lord, and she teaches us and our children to do the same."
Fellow member Beverly Richbow said she has always known Mathis to be compassionate and a person after God's own heart.
"She cares for everyone," Richbow said. "If she could, she would help everyone she meets."
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