Samford grad shares lessons learned during COVID

In a recent podcast episode of “Amplify: Conversations about Life and Faith,” produced by TAB Media, host Maggie Evans talked with Community Consultant Stephen DeFrancesco about university life, employment expectations and how both were affected by COVID-19.

Evans began by giving some background about DeFrancesco, specifically relating to his current occupation and what God has been teaching him. 

By his own admission, DeFrancesco has had a sheltered life, going to private school and a Baptist college. Now because of the way things have changed so much due to the virus, he finds himself working with affordable housing. He said life has not gone as he thought it would after college and as a result, he’s learning about expectations and God’s leading.

“I’m leasing apartments, but I work in affordable housing,” explained DeFrancesco, who works for Walton Communities as a consultant. “We work with people who have Section 8 vouchers and might be low income. It’s a very fulfilling job, and I’ve learned so much and broadened my worldview for sure.”

Humbling experiences

DeFrancesco went to Samford University in Birmingham and majored in journalism and mass communication with a marketing minor. He said his dream was to be involved in music ministry, and he even got some experience in concert management.

“I was really passionate about that, then March happened and COVID hit and everything changed,” he said. “Everything came to a screeching halt.” 

DeFrancesco admitted he had a lot of pride and wanted to work for a big-name company. 

“The Lord had to humble me in a lot of ways and I had to realize that that’s not a healthy way to live,” he said. “You don’t have to have the biggest job title in order to be successful.”

After moving back home to Atlanta, a friend of DeFrancesco’s told him about a job at Walton Communities.   

“The Lord opened the door and I took it and it’s been a great experience,” he said, “even though it wasn’t what I had planned.”

One reason the job situation has been difficult is that DeFrancesco, who described himself as a Type-A personality, felt pressure to succeed. 

“The job process coming out of college was very humbling for me,” he explained. “It forced me to trust in the Lord. I ended up applying for 33 jobs before I got the job at Walton.”

Even though for a while DeFrancesco said he felt lost and not sure of his future, he believes God used that time for a purpose.

“When you’re in an abyss and you don’t see a clear path — I just knew I should trust the Lord; but it didn’t feel like it was going to work. It’s easy to say you’ll trust in the Lord but it’s really hard and it looks different every day,” DeFrancesco admitted. “As you grow up, I think you’re forced to realize that the Lord is with you in each one of those seasons — the seasons when you feel confident and the seasons when you have no idea what is going on and you wish you did.”

Perspective change

In looking back at his self-described sheltered life, DeFrancesco said he realized how God has been changing his perspective.

“When I got into this job I was faced with the brokenness of the world, especially in affordable housing. Some of the stories you hear are heartbreaking,” he said. “Above anything, that is what I’m most thankful for about this job — that I have broadened my worldview of really how people live and … the kind of situations they’re in, and realizing how blessed and fortunate I am for having the family that I do, and have grown up in the situations I did and the house that I did.”

Evans agreed with DeFrancesco’s outlook change, talking about the importance of aggressively challenging personal perspective.

DeFrancesco responded: “I realized how inwardly prideful I was and the Lord had to strip me of a lot of that. I don’t think I would be where I am today if He hadn’t put me through those times when I didn’t know what I was doing.”

One important truth DeFrancesco said he learned is that when he goes to work, he gets to choose who he’s going to be. 

“Regardless of what you’re doing, you always wonder what’s next,” he said. “In that there’s great hope for the future and great excitement. How do I want to use the abilities that I have to glorify the Lord in this season that I’m in? In the seemingly mundane of life, you can still glorify God. That has been the biggest perspective change.

“Pursuing life without God and in your own energy, at the end of the day, it’s just not worth it and understanding that and going into work just changes everything.” 

To listen to the entire interview visit www.thealabamabaptist.org/podcast.

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