Beauty Will Rise
This article is one component of the cover package on "Songs of Justice, Missions of Mercy."
When Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman returned from China in 2000 with their first adopted daughter, Shaohannah, friends greeted them at the Nashville airport, congratulating them on the precious addition to their family. Several of them said, "We dream of doing what you've done. We just can't afford it."
Mary Beth stopped in her tracks. "Are you telling me that the only thing between you and rescuing one of these orphaned babies is money? If you're serious, start filling out the paperwork. We'll pay for it."
Steven laughs upon retelling the story, remembering his wait a minute, honey reaction. International adoptions cost between $10,000 and $45,000 per child.
At first Mary Beth opposed adding to their family through adoption. The couple already had three teenagers, and as a Grammy-winning musician, Steven was frequently on tour. Given their lifestyle and life stage—both were almost 40—adoption seemed impossible. But the Chapman kids, especially Emily, had left letters on their parents' pillows with comments like, "Please listen for God speaking to you about this." Steven got on board first, and Mary Beth eventually came around.
Since Mary Beth's airport offer, her brother and Steven's brother have each adopted two children from China. Other close friends have followed suit.
The Chapmans started exploring further adoption support efforts by asking Bethany Christian Services, the adoption agency they had worked with, if it had funding set aside to help people with the hefty costs. Bethany didn't. The couple researched starting their own program to help underwrite adoptions, and two years later, they founded Shaohannah's Hope.
Since 2003, the ministry—now called Show Hope—has assisted more than 2,000 families, with grants totaling over $6 million and an average grant of $3,000. They rarely fund an adoption entirely. "We don't want to take the place of seeing God provide," said Mary Beth. "We just give them enough to get the roller coaster going." Families have adopted from China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Russia, and the U.S.
The Chapmans have donated a substantial sum to Show Hope, said Charley Redmond, director of operations and development. In addition, Mary Beth serves as president, Steven is vice president, and two of their children, Emily and Caleb, are on staff. (Show Hope is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.)
Among Show Hope's grant recipients are Dan and Jori Susanka of Shakopee, Minnesota. Combined with a grant from Target (Jori's employer) and funds from a home equity loan, the Susankas adopted Emmy Ruth Yeye from China in 2005. Jori, a longtime Chapman fan, said, "It's amazing that Steven and Mary Beth put their money where their mouths are, and not only talk about adoption but also live it."
Despite growing from a $250,000 budget in 2003 to nearly $2 million this year, Show Hope can help only a fraction of those who ask for assistance. Of about 150 monthly applications for grants, only 20 to 30 applicants receive money.
From Tragedy to Legacy
The Chapmans themselves adopted two more Chinese girls, Stevey Joy in 2003 and Maria Sue in 2004. In May 2008, 5-year-old Maria was killed when her brother accidentally struck her with an suv in the family driveway.
"Maria is very missed," said Mary Beth. "[But] we can definitely see God's work through [the tragedy]. People's lives have been touched and changed because of her short life."