|Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman|
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
December 2, 2010
At A Night With the Chapmans
on Nov. 14 at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, Steven Curtis Chapman and his family came together on stage, just as they have off stage — supporting each other, sharing their talents, lifting up the name of Jesus and initiating support for orphans.
Before a packed sanctuary, the band Caleb opened, featuring Chapman’s sons, Caleb and Will Franklin, as well as Hunter Lamb and Scott Mills. Then Chapman performed current and past hits. After the music, Chapman’s wife, Mary Beth, spoke to the audience in a summary of what she penned in her book, “Choosing to See.”
“I told God that I would never home-school, adopt or speak in public,” Mary Beth joked. However, she has home-schooled her children, Emily, Caleb, Will Franklin, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, the youngest of whom are adopted from China, and joined her husband on this 34-city tour for the first time to speak to audiences about her journey in faith and with her family.
Chapman has been at the top of the charts and the depths of despair. And through it all, his faith in Christ and his family have been constant.
The contemporary Christian musician has sold more than 10 million records, earned Grammy Awards, American Music Awards and 56 Dove Awards, but nothing could prepare Chapman and his family for the death of his youngest daughter, Maria Sue, on May 21, 2008.
The day was casual and almost mundane. Chapman was in the front yard on his cell phone; Mary Beth was in the house working on plans for their eldest daughter Emily’s upcoming wedding. In the backyard, the three younger daughters, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, played on the playground. When Will Franklin came home and drove toward the house, he was neither speeding nor talking on his cell phone.
As he drove around the house to park in the back, he did not know Maria Sue was running toward the car to ask him to lift her onto the monkey bars.
“He was the best big brother,” Chapman said of Will Franklin. “He would do anything for her.” In a tragic accident, Will’s car hit Maria Sue and she did not survive the impact.
As Caleb the band played songs from its new independent album, Caleb the eldest son shared the emotions of dealing with his sister’s death.
“As a lot of you know, May 21, 2008, my little sister went to be with Jesus,” Caleb said. “There’s a moment when tragedy hits and you find yourself a mess.
“Everything done on this canvas is a blur. When we step back on the other side of eternity, we are going to see the full canvas. What the world saw as a huge mess is God’s canvas,” he continued.
Mary Beth said when she looks back at that time, it is difficult to see anything. “It’s like I’m watching myself. Everything I believed up to that moment was true or not.”
But she said that as she lived a parent’s worst nightmare, she felt God’s presence and could feel that people were praying for her family.
In his latest album, “Beauty Will Rise,” Chapman reveals the emotional journey he has been on since 2008. He said his inspirations for songs come from life, and “Beauty Will Rise” is evidence of that fact. In every song he has ever written, he reveals what he is learning about God, he said.
“In all cases it is God revealing Himself.”
An essential element of the tour for the Chapmans is not just sharing their sorrow. It is the continued mission to help orphans. A Night With the Chapmans is sponsored by Show Hope, a nonprofit organization created by the Chapmans that offers resources and adoption grants. In July 2009, Show Hope opened Maria’s Big House of Hope, a six-story building dedicated to Maria Sue that assists in caring for special needs orphans. Located in the province of Luoyang, China, the program serves children under the age of 5.
One of those children is Oliver, an adopted son of Jason and Kelly Blackburn. Oliver underwent lip surgery last summer at Maria’s Big House of Hope. Jason, minister of children and media at Hillcrest Baptist Church, New Albany, Miss., traveled with his wife to Shades Mountain Baptist for the event.
“I never expected our lives to intersect with [the Chapmans],” Kelly said. “I never expected Maria’s life to impact ours.”
The Blackburns plan to travel to China in December to bring Oliver, their third adopted child from China, home.
Jason said he is grateful for the Chapmans, Maria’s Big House of Hope and the vulnerability of the Chapman family. “I wish more people understood the need of adoption. The church is the answer and God can work through the church.”
The Chapman family will continue their mission for orphans and sharing their experiences. Chapman shared his advice to Christian songwriters, and it seems to be his advice for life. “God puts us in very unique places. So bloom wherever God plants you.”