Chapmans Bring New 'Hope' from Sorrow

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Five-time Grammy award winning Christian singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman has endured a journey of hardship and heartbreak, but through it all he has worked to bring hope to orphans in China.

The journey started when Chapman's daughter, Emily, was 12 and returned from a mission trip in Haiti.

"She came home and she began to talk to us about [how] we have room at our table, room in our home... another child could go in that bedroom and you should adopt a child somewhere who doesn't have a family."

Chapman's wife Mary Beth said no, so Emily began to pray and God eventually changed her parents' hearts.

They were drawn to China.

"If God has the hairs of every head numbered as His Word says He does, that's not just a big, massive number to our God," Chapman explained.  "That represents one life at a time that God cares for."

"It's very clear in scripture that God says you know the worship I really want from my people is care for orphans, care for the downtrodden, care for the poor, care for the hungry," he continued. 

The Chapmans adopted a girl they named Shoahanna and later in China  they met Robin and Joyce Hill.

The Hill's took in special needs orphans. The Chapman's partnered with them to raise money for a larger facility, which they went on to name after their daughter-- calling it Shoahanna's Hope Healing Home.

The Chapmans adopted two more Chinese girls-- Stevey Joy, followed by Maria, a special needs child with a heart condition.

"She had and has wonderful laugh," Chapman recalled.  "When Maria smiles, her eyes disappear. She has beautiful little almond eyes, but her eyes were so small that when she smiled, her eyes would totally disappear."

Tragically, just two weeks after her fifth birthday, Maria died when she was struck by a vehicle in the family's driveway.

In the midst of his sorrow, Chapman said he'd never sing or perform again. After much prayer, God transformed his heart. He returned to Christian music four months later performing "Cinderella" --a song inspired by Maria and her sisters.

The Chapmans moved forward to complete what God had started in China.

"In our own grief we thought what could we do that would really honor the life of our daughter-a little girl we know was so full of hope and now fully knows the hope that we have in the presence of our savior," Chapman said.  "So we decided to name the facility here in Luoyang Maria's Big House of Hope.  A house filled with the hope and the healing that comes when people love these little ones in the name of Jesus."

Chapman explained that about two months before Maria died, she asked her mother about an Audio Adrenaline song called "Big House."

"Maria was learning this song and said, 'Is it true that God has a big house with lots of rooms,' and my wife said, 'Yeah, that's true.' Maria said, 'I want to go there, go live in God's big house,'" he said.  "And so within about two, three months of her having that conversation and praying a prayer asking God to let her come and live in his big house when she left this earth... we had plans for a long life but God had plans that were different than that and she went to God's big house and a place that we know she really, really wanted to be."

Fans and friends felt the best way they could honor Maria's life would be to help complete the Chinese orphanage.

Love and support poured in from around the world.  The ribbon was cut and the dream realized when the building was dedicated last July 2.

"I think if it is not possible for her to be here with me... I think she is definitely smiling from Heaven," Chapman said.  "I think she would be really pleased."

Joyce Hill and her husband Robin oversee the facility.

"I think the biggest joy is being given a child who most people would think will not live and we manage to save a life and the child goes on to be adopted," she said.  "The child goes on to be in a brand new family and that's the whole picture that we would want for the child."

The six floor facility includes an operation theatre, a floor for long term chronic care and another for children who are terminal and need Hospice care.

In all, 130 children at a time will receive housing and  treatment at Maria's Big House of Hope. Many will be placed with loving families.

"When we lost our little girl, it was awfully hard to imagine how is this ever going to be good," Chapman said.  "But today I think we were able to say this is one of those beautiful things coming up from the ashes, from the pain, from the grief."

*Originally aired August 4, 2009.

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Gary Lane

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