From attempting suicide to inspiring others: Minister Stephen Leon launches Respond With Class!

Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill -
Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill -

MORE than 30 years ago, Stephen Leon sat atop a hill preparing to commit suicide. But after a spiritual encounter saved his life, he would go on to success and be the inspiration of others.

His inspirational book, Respond With Class! was launched at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on January 27.

Leon is a group sales manager at Hyatt and a minister of the gospel. He worships at Revival Capital Prophetic Ministries, where his wife is the senior pastor. He is also co-founder of the group Men Mentoring Men.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Author Stephen Leon embraces his family at the launch of his book Respond with Class! at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. From left is Destiny, Reign, Rise, Live, and wife, Natasha. - Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill

His book, subtitled Rethinking the Way You Respond to Life's Daily Challenges, includes the blurb: "In a world where adversity is a constant companion, Respond with Class by Stephen Leon unveils the ultimate guide to transform your life through the power of your responses. Divided into seven profound sections, this book is a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and empowerment."

The seven sections are Know Your Identity, Know Your Purpose, Know Your Destiny, Live by Choice, Come to Change, Influence Change in People and Leave a Legacy.

Group sales manager at the Hyatt Regency and author Stephen Leon with Alicia Cabrera, marketing manager,Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) at the the launch of Respond with Class! - Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill

Leon explained the evening was about his mother, Phyllis Leon, who was in the audience.

"Everything is connected to her."

He recalled an experience at about 17 when he saw his mother at work. She was a maid in Westmoorings and he rode to see her on a used bicycle she had bought for him and he had fixed up. Through the windows of the house, he saw his mother on the floor scrubbing the tiles and he thought of the expression, "work like a dog."

He had an epiphany that his mother was working very hard to take care of him and he had to do something to make her proud.

Leon told the gathering he grew up in Cascade, but not on the "rich side." He lived on a hill which cars could not access.

His mother, who turned 92 the previous week and was in her "right mind," began working at 13. He explained that as a maid, her salary was very limited and many things he wanted as a teenager, like Travel Fox brand sneakers, he could not get.

"But she did her best to take care of me. Gave me something to eat, even if it was bread and butter and Kool-Aid."

Phyllis Leon, 92, mother of Hyatt group sales manager and author Stephen Leon, at the launch of Respond With Class! at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain on January 28. The book is dedicated to her. - Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill

His mother worked so hard that she lost a lot of weight.

While he was attending St James Secondary, his mother would give him $5 to go to school: $3 for transport, $1 for a pie and $1 for a juice. He walked home from St James to Cascade (a distance of about 5km) for five years.

He did sixth form at Trinity College, Moka, and recalled if the bus was not available or if he did not get a lift, he would walk from Moka, Maraval to Cascade (a distance of about 5.8km), which would take him up to three hours.

At his home at the top of the hill, he would tote water for his mother and sister for clean drinking water and to bathe. He would also bathe in rainwater stored in an oil drum.

He would carry the water at nighttime because he did not want his friends in the area to see him. He explained that none of those friends knew where he lived, as he kept the location secret, "Because I was embarrassed and I did not want them to see."

Leon turned 50 in November last year and his wife encouraged him to go back to the spot where he almost took his own life.

"Because I became so frustrated with my life. I was mad at my mother. I was mad at the world.

"My mother brought me up in church, but I hated going to church. Because I would go to church and I would hear, 'God loves you,' 'Jesus loves you' and 'God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.'

"But I wasn't seeing that."

On a screen he showed a picture of a culvert in a grassy area near his home. It was at there, at 1 am on August 12, 1992, that he sat and planned to take his life.

"This was not me crying wolf or trying to get attention from anyone. I made the decision, and I was going to kill myself."

He told the audience what he was planning to use to carry out the act. Before he could do anything, some of his friends pulled up in a car, having returned from Club Coconuts. He explained these were friends he envied but never went out with, because he did not want them to realise he was wearing the same clothes all the time.

When the friends asked what he was doing sitting there at that hour, he began crying "like a pipe had burst."

He told them to leave him alone and they did.

But at that critical moment he heard a voice speak to him in his left ear, saying, "I am with you always. I will never leave you."

It was that voice which stopped him, and he felt an "unexplainable peace." He then asked a question: "If you want me here then I want to know why."

And Leon said his purpose was to be an inspiration to others.

He told the gathering while he had been a prolific public speaker and preacher, he wanted to do something to make his mother proud and repay her for all the hard work she did. He had an idea for a book, but fear held him back.

"Who am I to write a book to inspire others?" he asked himself.

Leon said he pushed through to write the book to say thank you to his mother and dedicated it to her. During the event he read from the dedication.

Hyatt group sales manager and author Stephen Leon, third from right, shares a light moment with Hannah Janoura, right, and Richard Young. At left is Edward Brathwaite and Clyde Boxhill in background at the launch of Respond with Class! at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain. - Photo courtesy Clyde Boxhill

"Thank you for teaching me how to 'Respond with Class' before 'respond with class' was a thing. Thank you for your unconditional love and everything you have done unselfishly for me," he read.

Leon said he wanted to specifically thank two people on the evening, "The woman my life began with and the woman my life is going to end with."

He expressed thanks to Natasha Leon, the wife "of (his) youth," the mother of his six children and the "prophet of (his) life." He announced he and his wife would be celebrating their 25th anniversary two days after the book’s launch.

Leon said choosing your mate is one of the most significant choices someone will make, and he believes God has kept him and his wife together.

He also said his wife was a huge reason for the success stories of their children and to this day she would give up her last penny for him or them.

"My strength has always been first in God and next in my wife. I would not be the man I am today without her in my life."

Respond With Class! is currently available on Amazon. Copies can also be obtained from Leon by e-mail at or or by phone at 705-9667 or 325-8087


"From attempting suicide to inspiring others: Minister Stephen Leon launches Respond With Class!"

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