Steph has served for the past five years as the Special Needs Ministries Director for Mission to North America (MNA), an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Prior to assuming her current position, Steph and her husband Fred led the Special Needs Ministry at Ephrata Reformed Church in Ephrata, PA. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of McDaniel College, has an M.A. in Economics from Virginia Tech University, and currently serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Covent Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Steph and Fred have two sons, Fred (22), a recent graduate of Wheaton College, and Tim (20), a graduate of Ephrata High School who has Down’s Syndrome.
Steph has recently released a DVD series based upon her widely read book, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability. In the DVD series, she expands upon the topics addressed in the book with new insights, applications and stories not included in the original publication, accompanied by interviews with ministry leaders, persons with disabilities and family members.
Throughout this week, she’ll share some of her thoughts and experiences that have influenced the development of her current ministry, as well as her purposes in creating her book and DVD series.
C4EC: What were you hoping to communicate through the title, Same Lake, Different Boat?
SH: When we approach someone who is dealing with circumstances different than our own—for example, a disability—I think we have a tendency to head toward one of two extremes. On the one hand, we may adhere to the American melting pot idea—that “we’re all in the same boat”—and by focusing exclusively on what we have in common, we fail to acknowledge the genuine differences between our life experiences. Or, we may follow the postmodern concept that real understanding of others is not truly possible, and we exaggerate the differences as if “we’re indifferent lakes entirely.” But as Christians, we need to practice identification that is like God’s example to us: one that’s not based solely on what we have in common, or exclusively on how we’re different, but identification that’s intentional. That’s the idea behind Same Lake, Different Boat. This approach recognizes that as human beings, we’re essentially the same but experientially different. So identifying with each other is a choice—a choice that can have tremendous blessings.
C4EC: Did you write the book to encourage Christians to make the choice to enter into the lives of individuals and families touched by disability?
SH: Yes. In 1992, our youngest son, Timmy, was born with Down syndrome. Prior to that, my husband Fred and I had been closely involved with friends who had not just one but two sons born with disabling conditions. But, our eyes were opened to a whole new dimension of life when our own son was born with a disability. Suddenly, we were personally immersed in “disability world”—including all of the caseworkers, specialists, therapists, and hospitalizations that go along with that. As I became increasingly involved in various parent groups and disability advocacy organizations, I saw firsthand the depth and breadth of the challenges facing families affected by disability: spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally, psychologically and financially. In amazement, I realized that a significant number of them were “going it alone”—in many cases unsupported by family or friends, and the vast majority were un-churched.
I began to ask myself, “Where in the world is the Church?” Having experienced firsthand the blessings of a supportive church when Timmy was born, I knew that the Church has just what families touched by disability need—the restorative power of the gospel for their lives in word and deed. As we grew in wonder of and appreciation for Timmy as a person, I also realized that families with a disabled family member have just what the Church needs—the precious image of God packaged in incredibly diverse ways that can benefit the entire body of Christ. But in order to experience this blessing, the Church has to choose to enter into the lives of individuals and families touched by disability with intentionality.
Steph’s newly released DVD series, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability can be ordered here for the discounted price of $35.00. Her book that shares the same title as her DVD series is also available here at a discounted price of $7.50.