Mission to North America’s (MNA) Special Needs Ministries has just released a DVD series, Same Lake Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability. The series is based on Stephanie Hubach’s 2006 book, Same Lake Different Boat. In her book Hubach encourages readers to think biblically about disability. She also suggests practical ways for congregations to better engage all members of their church body in order to more fully reflect Christ.

To bring new insights, applications, and stories, Hubach interviewed more than 50 people, including ministry leaders, persons with disabilities, and their families. Each session opens with interview vignettes, followed by a 30-minute teaching section; each closes with additional interview excerpts which lead into discussion questions. The thirteen-week DVD series is currently being offered in conjunction with a larger Gospel and Disability Educational Gift Pack that includes a Getting Started Guide, and a number of resources on disability, including Same Lake Different Boat. The pack also contains curriculum suggestions for adults and children.

Funding for the DVD series came from the Harris-Harper Family Foundation and MNA, while funding for the Gift Pack distribution came from the PCA’s 2010 Women in the Church Love Gift. As a result, MNA’s Special Needs Ministries can offer the DVD set and Educational Gift Packs for free to interested PCA churches while supplies last. Additional copies of the DVD series, and those for use outside of the PCA, are $35. “We wanted to make these resources accessible,” says Hubach. “We’ve done this as a gift to the church.” So far, Hubach is encouraged: roughly 350 of the 500 free Gift Packs available have been shipped.

The Church and Disability

Hubach believes disability awareness is growing as more children are diagnosed with disorders such as autism, and as the aging population experiences adult-onset disabilities.  While she cites several churches around the country that have thriving Special Needs Ministries, she concedes that most churches have a way to go. “We are very good at crisis care,” says Hubach, “but we struggle with long-term situations. Disability [ministry] is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” But Hubach is quick to add that disability ministry is relational at its heart, not programmatic. “There are lots of big and small churches doing great things,” she says. When church families are forced to confront Alzheimer’s or autism, and the congregation loves those families well, that, says Hubach, is disability ministry.

For Steph Hubach the bottom line is this: “Disability ministry brings us back to the heart of the gospel. Jesus freely gave his very life in order for a relationship with God to be accessible to us. That was his loving, sacrificial response to the disabled condition of our hearts. If we don’t understand that, then we really don’t understand the gospel. Disability causes us to reflect on grace as our core motivation and posture.”

Tom Nicholas, pastor at Ephrata’s Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hubach’s home congregation, re-iterates this message. “Disability ministry is not a nice thing we do,” says Nicholas, “It is the gospel in action.”

Gospel and Disability Educational Gift Packs are available by registering on the MNA Special Needs Ministries website (pcamna.org/specialneeds). Copies of the Same Lake, Different Boat book and DVD Series are available at the CEP Bookstore (www.cepbookstore.com).