A SERVICE of Thanksgiving for the life of Lisburn man Stephen George Chapman was held last week as his family, friends and colleagues paid tribute to someone who touched the lives of many.
The father of two passed away on Sunday, December 13 after his canoe capsized at Carnroe Lock on the Lower Bann River. Stephen had been leading a small party of canoeists, including his son Duncan, on an organised outing when he got into difficulties after crossing the weir.
The service, led by Rev Alan Johnston, was held at Hazelbank Presbyterian Church on Wednesday (December 16), with some 500 people paying their respects.
Stephen's mother-in-law, Margaret, said Stephen, whom she described as lovely, strong and reliable, was everything a husband should be. She added many people relied on his trusted judgement and that he was a wonderful father who gave his all to his family.
She said: "He was our tower of strength. He was Lesley's light, bright shining, day and night. His faith in Gods goodness shone through."
Stephen's brother-in-law, David Shepherd, Principal of Belfast Bible College, also spoke at the service. He said: "Whether it was talking trees or replacing light bulbs - energy-saving light-bulbs of course - Stephen was always ready to lend a helping hand...one year he even gave his car away. "Stephen noticed the little things that other people forgot...(As a father) Stephen was one of those kinds of dads that we other dads aspire to be. He found the time for Orla and Duncan and treasured it."
Stephen's children - Orla and Duncan - both paid tribute to their father at the service, with Orla reading Stephen's favourite poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by WB Yeats. The service later ended with a photographic slideshow, prepared by Duncan.
Accompanied by music from Larry Norman, the pictures portrayed Duncan canoeing with his dad and depicted Stephen's love of the outdoors.
Pursuing his enjoyment of canoeing and kayaking, Stephen became involved with the Causeway Coast Kayak Association (CCKA), training as a leader with them and also acting as their treasurer.
Fellow kayaking enthusiast and friend, Robin Ruddock, said Stephen was an invaluable member of the organisation - a family of which the Chapman's will always be part of.
Dividing his time between various causes, Stephen was also a great supporter of Tearfund and was an active member, with his wife, of the Tearfund Northern Campaigns Group. The group comprises a number of like-minded people from the north coast who highlight environmental issues like climate change.
A committee member of the Mission Africa charity, Stephen's desire to help others also took him to Nigeria, where he helped deliver funds for ongoing work there. This compassion was subsequently celebrated with an uplifting hymn during the service, reflecting the Nigerian peoples mantra that God is Good, all the time.
Stephen possessed a strong Christian faith said Rev Johnston, who added: "There was nothing about Stephen's life that wasn't admirable."
Referring to Psalm 34 throughout the thanksgiving service, Rev Johnston read: "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Donations, if desired, can be made to Ekpene Obom (cheques payable to Mission Africa), c/o Miss Charlene Wade, 3, Upper Abbey Street, Coleraine. BT52 1BE