He's the humble owner of 44 Dove awards and four Grammys, an artist who's sold more than 7 million records and a songwriter who's tallied more single hits than a champion boxer, but Steven Curtis Chapman is a fan, too. He's a fan of good causes, causes like Angel Tree, an outreach of Prison Fellowship Ministries that delivers Christmas gifts to the children of imprisoned parents. He's a fan of Bethany Christian Services, an adoption ministry that finds homes each year for nearly 500 orphans from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe; he's such a fan that he performed at one of the ministry's fundraising banquets.

 

Today, Steven Curtis Chapman is more than a fan -- he's a client.

It started three years ago, when his then-12-year-old daughter, Emily, began praying for a little sister. An adopted little sister. That's when God started working on the hearts of the entire Chapman family.

 

"We were involved, at a distance," Steven says. "But God quickly moved us from behind the scenes to frontline duty."

 

Steven and his family of five -- his wife, Mary Beth, Emily, 15, Caleb, 12, and Will Franklin, 11 -- claim they caught a bug that was very contagious. The Chapmans studied Psalm 68:6 that reads: "God sets the lonely in families."

 

"That's what God does, and it's His favorite thing to do," Steven says, "to take the lonely, the homeless, and put them in families."

In March 2000, they adopted Emily's new little sister, Shaohannah (pronounced show-hannah), from an orphanage in China.

 

"She is miraculous," Steven says. "This is really the Gospel, and we're experiencing it now. We're living it."

 

Growing Pains

 

International adoption is a long journey for those who want to make it, especially when the new addition comes from more than 7000 miles away. According to Roger Bouwma, director of Bethany Christian Services, most countries require at least one parent to make the trip.

 

"There are many dynamics a family needs to recognize when considering adoption," he says. "Not every couple is emotionally able to adopt, and some, when educated in the process, end up opting out."

 

BCS offers a home-study course that provides answers to many of the questions couples have. If a couple chooses to make the commitment to adopt, they must first complete a great deal of paperwork, such as income tax forms and reference letters. An American social worker meets with the couple to discuss all the dynamics involved in adoption. A report packet is then sent to the country of the family's choice, and the expectant parents wait for news of a child.

 

The entire Chapman family participated in the adoption process, and though the process seemed daunting, the Chapmans grew more and more expectant as the day approached.

 

"The kids were so excited about it and there was never a question in their mind," Steven recalls. "We had a few friends that were immediately encouraging, but that wasn't the overwhelming sense going into it."

 

"Every family considering adoption needs to ask the same question: 'Are we able to parent a child not born to us?' " Bouwma says.

 

"Some parents are not 100 percent sure of that, but they proceed on faith. A number of times friends and relatives are more unsure than the adopting family."

 

Steven admits this was true. "Our first announcement to Mary Beth's parents was difficult. They are sweet folks, and they would never say, 'You guys are stupid,' but that's what they were thinking. You could see it in their eyes!"

 

Mary Beth, especially, wanted her mother's support for the adoption. The Chapmans had been talking about it for some time, and one Christmas Steven and Mary Beth gave her parents a special Chinese gift.

 

"This was the official 'it's happenin'," Steven says. "But my wife's parents still didn't understand."

 

The Chapmans continued to follow their conviction at the same time praying that their extended family would share in this conviction.

 

It was while watching a Sunday afternoon football game that things changed for Mary Beth's parents. The halftime special featured star NFL quarterback Dan Marino and his family. Even though the Marinos had four biological children, Dan and his wife described traveling to China to adopt a fifth child.

 

"My in-laws are big football fans," Steven says with a smile. "That's one more way we got to see God work miraculously, because we saw Mary Beth's parents begin to embrace the idea of having an adopted grandchild."

 

Join us for Part Two tomorrow.

 

Chris Jeub is a senior online editor at Focus on the Family.

 

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