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The Miracle of Adoption

  • Chris Jeub Senior Online Editor, Focus on the Family
  • 2003 28 Oct
The Miracle of Adoption
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." Receiving Their Gift Despite an estimated one million orphans in the country, Chinese law requires at least one parent to travel to China to bring back the child. Steven and Mary Beth decided early on to go together, and the entire family went with them. "I wanted my kids to experience it, to see the orphanage, to see where she came from," Steven says. "I want them to be able to tell her later, 'I was there, I saw where you slept for the first seven months of your life.' " This trip was unlike any concert tour the family had ever taken. The five Chapmans arrived late at night in the foggy city of Changsha. Some downtime in the airport gave them the jitters, but the Chapmans pulled together. "Now guys, we don't know what's getting ready to happen to us as a family," Steven recalls warning the kids. "She may be sick, could be very sick. She may not respond to us, she may receive us, she may not want anything to do with us." "I may panic," Mary Beth admits saying. "I don't know what's going to happen. I've never been down this road before." The Chapmans tried their best to prepare for the worst. Mary Beth expressed doubts in her ability to mother an adopted child with the same affection as her three biological children. Steven says it felt like he was calling the church together and saying, "Whatever happens, we love each other, and we're going to be in this together." The kids? They were simply thrilled. The news that their new family member was at the hotel came to them as they exited the plane. They got to the hotel, went up to their room and waited for her arrival. "Mary Beth was pacing the floor and the kids were all sitting on the edge of the bed," Steve recalls. "It was the birthing process right there, man! Except this time, my wife's not on the table, she's pacing the floor with me!" "She's here!" was yelled down the hallway and the Chapmans moved out to see her. Shaohannah couldn't do any tricks or show the Chapmans how worthwhile she was of their affection and love. She simply rested in their arms and, at that moment, entered into their hearts and became a part of the Chapman family. "I did a study on the Greek word for adoption, Huiothesia," Steven recalls. "It means being in a very helpless position and placed into the arms of another, in a passive way, being placed into the arms of the receiver of that gift, or of that child. That is exactly what happened that day in the hotel." Lost in What Will Be In the Hunan Province there are an estimated 70 orphanages, though only about 20 permit adoptions. When BCS started working with the Chinese government about 10 years ago, one of the delegates surprised Bouwma by saying there were no orphans in China. "I had just returned from an orphanage with over 400 orphans," Bouwma says. "What the delegate meant was that every child had a family: the government." Bouwma explains that when a family takes in an adopted child, a transformation happens that is truly a blessing for all involved. "Families are often told how lucky their new adopted child is, especially when they come from a communist or war-torn country," he says. "Countless number of times the parents say, 'No, no, no. We are the ones who have been blessed.' " The day after they received their new daughter, the Chapmans traveled to Shaohannah's orphanage more than 100 miles away from the city of Changsha. They drove down a two-lane road that became a one-lane road that became a dirt road, ending up at the entrance to the Changsha Welfare Center. The "welfare centers," as they are called in communist China, often consist of dozens of abandoned elderly mixed with unwanted children. In such a setting, the Chapman family was quite a spectacle. Few Americans travel to the far-flung orphanages themselves. "We got to visit the place where Shaoey slept, see the little bed that she slept in and meet the caregivers," Steve says. "We couldn't communicate at all in their language, but hopefully our tears, our smiles, our hugs told them that we appreciated them for caring for Shaoey's first seven months of life. Steven wrote the song "When Love Takes You In" about this moment, one of just two songs, he says, that had driven him to tears. His family shared together the inspiring image of one drop of rain falling into the ocean and becoming a part of that ocean ¯ never again to be a lonely drop of rain. "'In a moment what has been is lost in what will be,'" Steven says, quoting the song's lyrics. "Now there's a hope, a future, for both Shaoey and the rest of the Chapman family. For Emily, this is the fruition of years of prayer and dreaming of this and Will and Caleb love this little girl." The older Chapman kids stand at her bedroom door some mornings and wait for Shaohannah to wake up. "God knew that this was our story," Steven says. "This was not a Plan B. God knew that Mary Beth and I would be the parents of this little girl named Shaohannah, and that the kids would have a little sister. "When we realized that we had a daughter that wasn't in our home, and she was in China, we had to go get her. We are now declaring the wonderful miracle of adoption. God knows how many might hear that and consider adoption for their family." Chris Jeub is a senior online editor at Focus on the Family. Copyright (c)2002, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured