Funds to help the Stephenson family bury dear Seth

$7,429raised of $10,000 goal
74%

Organizer: Vista hills homeschool ministry Beneficiary: Seth Stephenson

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In Memory of

Seth Stephenson

 

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Romans 12:15

 

We are weeping with one of our own as she weeps over her child, lost to her until she sees him again in glory.

We can only imagine what it must be like to lose a child. Occasionally, I have dreamed about such a thing and wake up in a cold sweat, heart pounding and tears running down my cheeks. This is only the tip of the iceberg to what the Stephenson family must be feeling as they deal with the tragic loss of their 16 year old son, Seth. My heart goes out to Muffy; and I and all who know and love her family mourn with her as she grieves.

Over the past three days, EMT and other “first responders” had been searching for Seth and his friend, Noah Hooper, in and around the Quemado Lake in New Mexico. The Stephenson family had gone together, as they do every year, to volunteer at a Camp for the deaf on the lake. Sunday the two boys disappeared. They were good swimmers and had been ‘island hopping’ on the far side of the lake.

Wednesday morning, divers pulled two bodies from the west end of the lake. It was confirmed that these were Seth and Noah.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

 

The Stephenson family has 7 other children who all loved their sweet, gentle, big brother, Seth. He was Muffy’s ‘#1’ when dad was away. They are a single income family and home educate their children with Muffy as their teacher, resource librarian, lab partner, program director and homemaker. In addition, several years ago they had buried another child – a still born baby. This family has had their share of tragedy.

Vista Hills Home School Ministries is privileged to have Muffy and her family as part of our encouragers. Now we are coming together to support their family through this ordeal. We need to raise money to help them bury Seth and perhaps cover any other peripheral expenses. Even in my dreams, the death of a child paralyzes. I am sure that is what Muffy and Mark are feeling. Their world as they know it has ended. If there is any way that we can help them through this, we want to do it.

If you feel led, please donate any amount to the Stephenson’s fund. It takes a lot to have a funeral. We would like Seth to have a good one – one that will help the family have closure and be able to grieve. In addition, please continue to pray for this family. It will be a long healing process. Thank you. -- Sheila

Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

 

Confess your faults one to another, andpray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16


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07/17/2013
by Vista hills homeschool ministry

 True Lights in the Darkness
 
Deb and I lit our lamps and started out; determined to be lights in the dark places of Mark’s and Muffy’s grief.  However, when we arrived, we found ourselves surrounded by beautiful, shining lamps; the brightest of which were Mark’s and Muffy’s.  As the weekend progressed, we shared our oil with others and they with us and, somehow, we all went away with lamps full and burning brighter than ever before.
 
We drove thru the picturesque mountains outside of Reserve, NM marveling in the peace and beauty that surrounded us.  The camp entrance was welcoming and the sign said “God is Always Good”.
We had arrived just in time for the evening service in the small chapel that comprised part of the first set of buildings.  We could hear the singing of hymns coming from the open doorway and were invited to come and participate.  Welcomed warmly by Mark, Muffy and along with all of the smiling faces around us, we found a seat in the pew next to the Stephensons.  Deb said it was a great comfort to her that Shari and Paul Salzman and their girls were already there, sitting directly behind us. 
Pastor Matt Wooten gave a very moving and well communicated sermon about how Seth had not given up trying to do his best for the Lord and we should not allow Satan to tempt us to give up just because Seth was gone.  We should not give up because we have a purpose, a ministry and a hope to finish.  Already our lamps were being filled.
The service ended and we were surrounded by those welcoming us to the camp and ready and willing to give us any help they could getting settled.  Muffy showed us to our cabin and made sure that we had clean sheets.  We were able to give her the gifts the moms from Vista Hills Home School Ministries had purchased for her children and the book we had made for the family.  She shed a few tears and shared with us how God had comforted her through the search and discovery of the boy’s bodies.
 She told us how she had been so at peace on Wednesday morning; knowing in her heart that Seth was with the Lord and hoping for the Hooper’s sake that Noah would be found alive.  He wasn’t and she became the comforter to Nadine.  The Hoopers had gone home the week before and she was in prayer for them constantly having seen that their faith was being sorely tried.
We unpacked with Muffy’s help and she took us back to the campground and gave us a short tour before she headed off to make some more last minute arrangements for the services the next day.  Meanwhile, we met her brothers and sister and their families and were introduced to her many friends that had come to surround their family with love.
After we had eaten what we brought in the privacy of our small cabin, we headed to the campfire behind the gym.  The rest of the evening we spent in sweet fellowship with Muffy’s brother and a few of her friends.  We talked and reminisced around the glowing embers, not really seeing each other’s faces but hearing the nuances in each other’s voices.  Nathan came and sat in the darkness just outside the light from the fire; quietly contemplating and listening to us talk. 
The next morning we were invited for breakfast.  Deb hadn’t slept very well so I started walking the quarter mile to the camp from our cabin to participate in the breakfast “rush”.  On my way down the road, Muffy’s dad picked me up in his bus and chatted happily about how proud he was of his children as we made our way into the campground.
Breakfast was a cheerful affair.  After praying on the porch outside the dining hall, we filed in and got our trays.  We were served our eggs and bacon by a trio of teens singing hymns to the line of people filing past.  Coffee was available to all over 16 years old (I qualified) and mugs were hanging on the wall waiting to be used.
I was joined at my table by Muffy’s oldest and dearest friends who laughed and talked about their friendship and their kids.   They shared with me about their families and their challenges with their children and how the Stephensons had blessed them throughout their association.  Everywhere I looked, there were smiling faces, big hugs, lots of sign language (this is a deaf camp) and bustling activity.  The ministry of the camp was going on and carrying all of us along on its rushing waves.
Toward noon the mood became somewhat subdued as more and more arrived wearing red and black.  We were told that we could go and view Seth’s body in preparation for the service at 2 p.m.  We joined the quiet (but not hopeless) throng.  Seth’s body did not look like his but rather like a plastic imitation.  The picture hung above the pine wood casket was a beautiful smiling face with shining mischievous eyes.  It was that picture that I came away remembering as I hugged a smiling Muffy with tears running down her cheeks.
Instead of sitting in the chapel, I went and sat in the vestibule with some of the others.  Bethany sat next to me along with a few of her friends who were crying.  She just sat quietly; her eyes wet with unshed tears and her arm around her friend.  Every now and then during the afternoon, a Stephenson child came within hugging range and I hugged.  I don’t know who benefited the most – me or them.
Deb, Cardina and I brought Muffy a roast beef sandwich at about 1 p.m.after she told us she was hungry.  She ate in the chapel and we went out sat on the “board walk” watching the arrival of even more people.  Mark was in the midst of it all – giving orders, directing things here, seeing to an issue there. 
Just before the service began, Muffy and her family were all out on the board walk together and Mark came and whispered to Muffy that Seth’s horse, Duchess, was giving the handler a bit of a problem.  Even the horse knew that something unusual was happening and was uneasy.
As we took our seats in the chapel for the service, Mark’s voice boomed over the assembly, “Move toward the wall, please.  Make room for those still coming in.”  By the time we were singing the opening hymn, there were very few seats left and quite a few were standing in the back and in the doorways looking on.
Pastor Craig Lang, master of ceremonies, gave instructions and said the opening prayer.  Two teen girls, Janna and Jeta Jones, sang a sweet song that blessed all of us.  We sang “It Is Well With My Soul” as a congregation and then listened with baited breath as Muffy and her friend, Ashley, sang a beautiful song about not understanding God’s plan but trusting Him anyway.  At the last chord, we saw tears sparkling in Muffy’s eyes and in many of the eyes around us.  About that time, it began to pour rain outside.
Pastor Wooten gave a short but moving sermon about Hope.  We have a Hope in a Person, Hope in Place and Hope in a Promise.  We don’t need to grieve as those who have no Hope – but we grieve a short time for our loss knowing that our Hope is in Christ and in seeing Seth again someday in Glory.
There were many who shared testimonies about how Seth had blessed their lives.  How he had been a bright spot in the camp with his smile and had, just this past year, grown into a very responsible, hardworking horseman.   Stories were told about how he had gone into the attic in the Dining Hall and fallen through the ceiling, how he had been a friend to a new counselor and brightened his stay, how he had surrendered to preach and preached a sermon just the Sunday before on “Are You Ready to Die?”.  We were reminded about how even the most mundane things in our lives can be used by God to touch others.
Seth’s pine wood casket was loaded onto a cart pulled by two mules; and his horse with an empty saddle was tied to the back.  It started along the road past the cabins and on up to the cemetery plot as we followed in our automobiles.  The green hills and gray sky overlooked our progress as we rolled slowly in a long silver line.
We all parked in the grass under some tall pine trees and walked to the grave site. Cardina and I turned and looked back at the sea of red and black moving across the grass and through the trees toward the mound of dirt underneath the tallest pine.  Duchess was whinnying and stomping off to the side as Pastor Dean Lang said a few moving words.
At the direction of Mark, several men took ropes and lowered the casket into the ground.  As it settled onto the bottom, Mark jumped down into the hole and pulled the ropes out and lowered the black plastic covering over the casket.  As his brothers in the Lord pulled him out of the grave, I shed the first tears I had shed all weekend.
As I walked back to my car, it began to sprinkle again and I could hear the shovels scooping the dirt into the grave.  I think Mark and Muffy stood and watched until the hole was filled in.
Back at the Dining Hall, we waited for everyone to arrive so that we could pray over the potluck lunch.  The Ministry had contributed Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Potato Salad and cookies to the spread which was all laid out generously on tables in the dining room.  Again, we were served by teens singing hymns and smiling over the group going through the line.
We were the last to leave the hall after the meal; we were so caught up in conversations with the glowing and godly people we had met.  Muffy’s mom, even though confined to a motorized wheel chair due to paralysis from the neck down, had such a sweet spirit and enthusiastic smile.  Her husband took her everywhere with him and joked about how he had learned to put his wife in her place (by wheeling the chair wherever he wanted it).  He told us about his ministry to bring Bibles to any who did not have one and how his wife came with him to every church he attended.
We met some of the search and rescue team who had come even though they had never met Seth because she had wanted her children to hear about this special boy who had touched so many lives.  Debbie Lang, Pastor Craig’s wife, had spent the evening ministering to them and encouraging them.
Meanwhile, Muffy and her brother and Nathan sat and made faces into a cell phone camera and giggled together.  I knew there was more grieving to be done, but it was good to see that Muffy was living her faith in the Hope of Christ.
That evening Deb and I sat in our little cabin and debriefed.  All that had happened at the camp had really ministered to us even though we had come to minister to the Stephensons.  We also felt like God had put us right in the right place because we had been able to minister to some others that God had put into our path.  We had come for a funeral but felt like we had been to a celebration.
That night we all slept well in the cool night air with the ceiling fan blowing a fresh breeze over our peaceful bodies.  When the moist morning came, we were ready for the trip home.
Breakfast served by the singing trio started off our day and an encouraging conversation with the Stephensons buoyed our spirits even more.  The Holy Spirit was blanketing that camp with such love and such peace that we could almost taste Him in our mouths.  We had caught a glimpse of Mark’s heart like we had never before.  What a man ready to do God’s work!  We had come to encourage and had received encouragement; we had come to minister and had received ministry; we had come to comfort and had been comforted; we had come to bring light and found ours receiving light.
To Apache Creek Deaf & Youth Camp: You are truly a light in the darkness and music in the silence.  Thank you for your ministry and the hope that you communicate to all (no matter why) who come.
To the Stephensons:  You exuded such Hope in the midst of sorrow and such grace in the midst of grief.  Thank you for your inspiration and your example.
-          Sheila

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07/10/2013
by Vista hills homeschool ministry
This status update was posted by Muffy on the Apache Creek Ranch's FB Wall.  :  

"A week ago today my life loving son saddled his last horse and headed to church.He was dressed to the nines in a charcoal suit, black shirt and purple tie. After services he hurried to the barn to lead 2 horse rides which would be his last task here on Earth. As we traveled to the lake a bit later I was able to minister to him by serving him a cold drink of water as he was hot and thirsty. After he drank deeply he thanked me and I ruffled his silky hair and told him how proud I was of how hard he was working and of the godly young man he was becoming. While all this was happening there was excitement and rejoicing going on in Heaven. The angels were setting another place at the table and our Lord was singing, ready to welcome him home. I am sure the streets were ringing with laughter and cheer. Are you ready for your appointment with God? Seth was. We will weep for a time and our sorrow is great but only for ourselves , Seth is dancing down the streets of Heaven with his little brother. Have a blessed Lord's day. Blessings, Muffy."


 

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07/10/2013
by Vista hills homeschool ministry
 
Dear Friends of the Stephenson Family,
 
We will be putting together a journal of all the prayers, good wishes, poems, song lyrics and psalms or other verses that people send – so that when things slow down, they can ponder them and be ministered by them – and so they have them to keep.  If you would like to send something to be added to the book (printed on pretty paper and pasted in the book) please send them via the contact on this site and we will add your cards, thoughts and prayers to the book.  
 
Muffy expressed concern for Noah Hooper’s family, which turned our attention to them.  They need love and support during this time as well.  We are brainstorming and praying about ways to help them at this time.  If anyone knows needs they may have please let us know.  However, we would like to also make them a book.   So if you can, please send wishes and encouraging messages to the Hoopers as well.
 
Please mark clearly on what you send to tell us which Family the message is for.
 
Thank you all! 
Deb

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07/07/2013
by Vista hills homeschool ministry
 

Dear Friends of the Stephenson Family,
 
Yesterday was a very strange day as we watched the amount grow from minute to minute and we found ourselves getting so excited every time we received a new message – and then we would be plunged from that into guilt and deep grief as we remembered why... It's hard to describe.  We are overwhelmed by the love and compassion that has flooded in for the Stephensons.  We are sitting here with our mouths hanging open as we watch the blessings pour.  May God truly bless you all for your kindness and compassion. 
 
You may be asking why the “goal” has changed.  So I felt we needed to clarify our purpose.  When we heard the devastating news, we were desperate to be there for our friend – but when we found out that going to her was not an option – we started trying to figure out how we could help from here.  The entire group is grieving with them and we just needed to DO something.
 
The Stephensons are still down at the camp and getting to talk to them directly is very difficult.  I was able to talk to Mark long enough the other day to get permission to do this for them.  When we started, we did not know the specific amount that they would need, but we felt we needed to get the site up and running or time would pass and we wouldn’t have anything to give them.  So, when we set up the fund, we set a random goal, knowing we could increase it as time went on if we needed to.  But I will tell you honestly, that we thought the original amount of $5,000.00 was a “really high” and “unachievable” goal. 
 
Our desire is to do whateverthey might need, and to take whatever pressures off of them that we can, so they can deal with their loss.  So in the midst of our shock and grief, we started with the most obvious thing, “They will have to pay for a funeral” ok, so let's try to help them with that.    
 
However, as we sat here, finally having a chance to “think” on what they might need, general finances seemed obvious nextstep. They struggle as ANY family of that size would struggle. We don’t want them to even have to THINK about “How am I going to pay the electric bill.” or “Five kids have outgrown their shoes – which one do I buy them for this month..?”  because its likely to be a while before Muffy will be able to deal with getting out of bed – let alone anything else.  There are many things she will have to deal with – life goes on and her kids need to be taken care of – but we can take this one worry off their plate.
 
So, we have increased the amount for four reasons: 1. Because it was only an estimate of what many people told us a funeral might cost in the first place and we still don’t really know how much will be needed.  2. Because we know that the Stephensons don’t live like kings on the best of days – choosing instead to live very simply in order to raise their kids and serve others – and we don’t want anything as unimportant as money to add one bit of extra stress to this heartbreaking situation. 3. Because there may be hidden expenses, that we can’t possibly guess. and 4. Mark is having to be away from work for a long time.
 
Deb Roennebeck 

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