Mark Schultz is Christian music's master storyteller. Known for weaving real life scenes from friends and fans into commercially appealing, four-minute pop songs, the Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter is famous for his heart-wrenching balladry. Though his knack for writing tearjerkers has brought him success, Schultz is beginning to think there might be more to music than just capacity crowds and No. 1 hits.

Prompted by a personal encounter with Mexico's orphans, Schultz, who was adopted, cycled cross-country a couple years ago to raise awareness and money for orphan care for The James Fund, a non-profit orphan advocacy organization. And with his fifth studio recording, Come Alive (Word), Schultz combs the story vault to serve up a fresh batch of prose inspired by his wife Kate's experiences as a doctor and the people he met pedaling across America.

Come Alive is being called your "most personal disc to date." That's a pretty common tag line these days!

Mark Schultz: [Laughs] All my records are personal because I'm the songwriter. It was the people I met on my bike ride across the country coupled with my wife's stories—she's an OBGYN going through her residency—that [inspired] this record. I usually write about real life, so I would say it's just as personal as all my other records.

Tell me more about what inspired that bike ride.

Schultz: I was adopted when I was two weeks old. I tell people it was the hardest two weeks of my life with the paperwork and everything. [laughs]

Family Christian Stores called me and said, "We know you're adopted, and we think we might have an opportunity for you." They took my wife and me to the orphanages in Mexico they help sponsor. I met and fell in love with the kids and thought, We can get these kids in a better situation. So I became a spokesman for The James Fund, which started from the Bible verse [James 1:27] that says, "True religion is taking care of widows and orphans."

A missionary in Mexico said, "You have the opportunity to be more than just a Christian artist whose face is on a poster that says, 'I support The James Fund.' Please don't be that guy." I thought, I'm gonna ride my bike across the country and do 14 shows. All the money that comes in from those shows is going to go to these kids. So I pedaled my way to 14 shows and we raised a quarter of a million dollars.

What does The James Fund actually do?

Schultz: Let me give you an example. When we went to Mexico, a sweet, well-educated, Mexican named Rudolpho gave us a tour of orphanages. He was probably 24 years old. He had grown up in an orphanage, and a group in Mexico called Back2Back came to Rudolpho and said, "You're a smart kid. We want to give you an opportunity to go to high school and college." So through the help of The James Fund, Back2Back was able to give Rudolpho a scholarship to go to high school and to college.?

Today, Rudolpho speaks five different languages and has a master's degree. We're standing there and this little girl jumps in his arms and says, "When I grow up I want to be just like you." Rudolpho said, "As long as I'm here you're going to go a lot further than I did."

So The James Fund equips organizations like Back2Back to take a kid from the orphanages, who will likely end up as a drug addict, selling drugs, or a prostitute, gives them an education, and gets them a solid job. They become the heroes of that orphanage, they go back and the kids say, "This guy's made something of his life." That's the only way you're going to influence the situation, one generation helping pull the next generation out of poverty.