Building a Big House of Hope, Part 1
About the Guest
When Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman adopted a second Chinese orphan, they had no idea of the journey on which they were about to embark. In the aftermath of Maria’s tragic death, the Chapmans share how they have found strength and peace as they lean fully upon the loving arms of a gracious Savior.
When Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman adopted a second Chinese orphan, they had no idea of the journey on which they were about to embark.
Bob: For more than two years now, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth have found themselves regularly walking through the valley of the shadow of death following the loss of their daughter Maria.
Steven: What’s kept us alive and breathing is the honesty in the Psalms. To be able to look and say, it’s OK to say, “God, where are you? What is going on?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday September 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman today about life without their daughter Maria.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’ve had a great conversation going on this week with Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. Back—when was it? April? End of April right?
Bob: You and I were together up in Minneapolis for an event that Steven Curtis and Mary Beth were also attending. This is an event, actually this has got some history, because, this was the sixth annual event like this.
Dennis: Right. It’s the Orphan Summit. The first two were held here at FamilyLife. The third one was held at Focus on the Family. The fourth one was held in Fort Lauderdale at Calvary Chapel. The fifth one was in Irving, Texas. We had about, I think about 700-800 people at that one. This one, as you mentioned, was in Minneapolis, and we had over 1300 people.
The cool thing about this, folks—I wish you could go to this. Because, it’s 1300 people who are all passionate about the plight of the orphan. Children who are in foster care, the whole issue of adoption. You’ve got agencies there. You have foundations that are giving away money for adoption there. You’ve have individual laymen and women who are championing the orphan ministry in their local church and making a difference by tying their church into, maybe an orphanage in a foreign country, or perhaps in their state around the foster care issues.
Bob: This is something that the Christian Alliance for the Orphan is hosting. In fact, FamilyLife, our Hope for Orphans outreach, together with Steven Curtis and Mary Beth and the Show Hope foundation that they’ve put together, Focus on the Family. All of us have gotten together to say, “This issue is an important issue, and we’ve got to come together to address it.”
Dennis: We’re going to lock arms and, together give one single voice on behalf of the orphan. Coming up in November, the weekend of November 5-7, Francis and Lisa Chan are going to help host Orphan Sunday.
Bob: Yes. This is a one-hour webcast that the team has put together that churches can use as a part of the worship service, or in a Sunday school class or, as a special event to draw attention to the needs of orphans all around the world. And, to talk together about ways in which the church can be mobilized to be a part of the answer for that.
We should also mention that the 8th Annual Orphan Summit is scheduled for the end of next April, 2011. That’s going to be in Louisville, Kentucky at Southeast Christian Church.
Dennis: I’m looking forward just to going to that church. It has 25,000 members. I’m looking forward to seeing how you put together that large of a facility. But, that church is a true champion on behalf of the orphan. You know folks, you ought to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get more information about these events that are coming up and find out how you and your church can help champion and give voice to those who have none.
Bob: We sat down while we were there at the Orphan Summit in Minneapolis with Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman and asked them for an update on some of what’s happening through the Show Hope foundation. All you had to do was tap lightly on the door, and they busted it down. Because, they’re pretty excited about what God is doing and how God is working through the tragedy they went through as a family a couple of years ago, in the loss of their daughter Maria’s life. How the response of people to that is bringing hope and care to thousands of orphans in China.
Bob: Well, I am told by friends who know—and I haven’t done this yet—but I am told if you fly into—and I’ve never done this—Luo Yong China, from the air as you’re flying in, you can see Maria’s Big House of Hope. Is that right?
Mary Beth: Yes sir. If the smog’s not… If the pollution is kind of low. On a good day… But, yes. It’s just been an interesting partnership with the Chinese government. For some reason with us adopting our daughters. Then with him being invited back to sing. It’s like there’s this little cloud parked over China where we have this bit of favor for the time being. The Chinese government has given us this plot of land to build a special needs orphanage to house and provide medical care for these little ones, because there are so many of them. They are the least of the least, the special needs orphans in China.
So, at first it started out as a vision that we’ll build this place and at the time the working title was Shohannah’s Hope Healing Home. Because Show Hope used to be called Shohannah’s Hope, then no one could say it, and no one could find it. That got confusing. Then when we nicknamed it Show Hope, it was like. “Hey! That’s what we try to do!” So we’ll call it that.
They gave us this piece of land. We build what we thought was a decently sized building. We thought, working with our partners in China…
Fast forward. In 2008 when we lost Maria, there was such an outpouring of God’s people. Just praying for us and lifting us up. From the outpouring of so many people loving us the Maria’s Miracle Fund was created. Through the funding of that we were able to complete the building and it hit me one day, it accidentally got bigger than we thought so we named it “Maria’s Big House of Hope.”
As for being able to spot it from the sky: There’s a part of Maria’s Big House that sticks up a big square. We worked in conjunction with the Chinese government. The name of that part of the government is “The Blue Sky Foundation.” The way I understand the story. They had painted the part that stuck up with blue clouds. Like a Nike symbol, or Reebok, like their signature. Through broken translation they asked Robin, our partner, “Do you like that?” He said, “It looks great, we love it.”
Well, he and his family live in Beijing so he flew down a month later to check on the progress. And, the whole six floor--
Steven: Six story, 60,000 square feet.
Mary Beth: The whole building is bright sky blue with white clouds all over it. So, you can see it from the air when you land on a good day. People know right where it’s at.
Steven: It looks like the set of Toy Story or something.
Mary Beth: It does it looks like Toy Story. I can just picture Maria going, “Hey God, let’s make them paint the whole thing blue.” The last time I was there—this is no joke—the last time I was there, we pulled out in search of paintbrushes. So we pulled in a different direction I had never been. 300 yards down the road on the right, there’s this little building it’s painted bright blue with white clouds. I asked our driver, “What’s that?” They went, “Oh, that’s the tire store. But they love how that’s painted, so they painted theirs that way.”
Steven: So, before long all of China is going to have blue houses with clouds on them.
Mary Beth: It’s unbelievable. We didn’t even mean to do it. That’s Maria’s Big House of Hope.
Dennis: You guys have suffered tragedy that our family identified with a little bit in the loss of our granddaughter Molly who lived seven days. I know our listeners would just like to know: how are you guys doing? My daughter and son-in-law went on to lose another child within 12 months so there were two children buried in the same grave. On that grave is a little plaque that has an inscription that we found in England that said, “We cannot Lord, Thy purpose see. But all is well that’s done by Thee.” That’s a by-faith statement.
Mary Beth: Oh, it is.
Dennis: You don’t make it emotionally. I don’t know that you make it intellectually. It really is a profoundly spiritual statement to believe that God is working purposes. But, just share with our listeners how you’re doing. Steven.
Steven: Well, we are on the journey and somebody recently said, “How are you doing today? One to ten.” And I put, “one to ten.” That was my answer. I said it almost is.
Dennis: You experience it all in one day.
Steven: This fifteen minutes we’re doing really, really well. Then, there are steps forwards, steps backwards. But, at the same time we stand back and say, “Miraculously well” when we do stop and remember what the last two year journey has been. Where we are and where we’ve been. We talk about Will Franklin being a walking miracle just in what we’ve seen God do in his life and his heart. All of our kids are doing incredibly well.
Yet, you say that and you feel—we’re just so fiercely committed to honesty now, because that’s what has ministered to us so much in this time. I don’t even want to say “ministered” it’s too nice a word. It’s what has kept us alive and breathing. The honesty in the Psalms to be able to look and say, it’s OK to say, “God where are you? What is going on? We’re going under.” Then we see God come in and amaze us and—it’s like breathing oxygen back into us literally. We see it in our children, and we see it in each other.
We understand why so many families don’t survive the tragic loss of a child. You look at that at the beginning and go, “How could this ever separate us? Surely this will make us stronger.” But grief and that journey is so dark, and there’s nothing to prepare you for it.
Bob: Let me ask you about what you’ve gone through as a family, how has it affected your relationship with one another? Because, oftentimes in a situation like this, couples can find themselves moving away from one another. What has it been like for you guys?
Mary Beth: Steven and I have always done everything together. I mean, we decided everything together. We’ve entered into everything together. I’ve been part of following his career and keeping the home fires burning. Then, something like this comes along. He may be having a relatively decent day, and I’m over here just dying. Yet, a mother grieves differently than father, husband grieves differently than wife.
I quickly became mother hen, I forgot about myself because I had trauma on all sides. I had Will Franklin—everybody was home that day. I talked to my friend maybe four or five days after the accident. Beth Moore called me. She just said, “You need to know, the enemy came, and he came for all of you that day. He took one fell swoop.” I just stepped back and looked at it, and I could see that. But at the same time, on the other hand I’m thinking, “I can see that, but where was God?” There’s the anger you feel towards God, but then He’ll meet you in ways you never expected, and there are sweet times.
I became this protector of Will and Caleb and how they were doing. Our other two little girls were there and saw the accident. So immediately you go into survival mode for them, and try to get them the right kind of help. So, that alone separated us for a while. It became this really dark, dark place. Then we would have days where you felt like God was breaking through.
When I speak to women about it though, the first thing I always say is, “I love reading stories. We’ve gotten thousands and thousands of letters. I love reading through them, and I love hearing the stories of how their lives have changed, or how they’re living their life differently. There’s even a handful of letters that we’ve gotten where people came to know Christ through this tragedy. I love to hear that.
But I always say, “I’d rather have Maria. I’d rather have Maria back. I’m a mom, and God gave me those feelings and that heart. I would still rather push the rewind button.” I always say, we’ll never get over it, but we’ll continue to push through it.
Bob: You know, given the circumstances that the Chapman family has been through over the last couple of years, that kind of statement, “Our God is in control,” is a statement you make by faith. Because, you look at circumstances and you go, “I don’t understand this.” If God is not in control, then nothing makes sense.
Dennis: Yes. For somebody who has experienced what Steven Curtis and Mary Beth have, that’s not just some kind of trite religious saying. That really is a reality in their lives that they’ve had to come to grips with. Do they really believe that God does rule sovereignly? I know many days, undoubtedly, as they’ve just talked about, their faith has wavered. They’ve had moments of doubt--maybe even, more than moments—days and weeks of doubt. But, they have emerged coming through this, I think importantly, with a personal faith in Christ, but also, a corporate faith in Christ as a couple.
I think that’s the message, Bob for couples who are listening to Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. If you’re going through something that’s difficult, there are two ways you can go through it. You can either go through it together, or you can go through it alone.
As a couple, I think God wants us to, even as imperfect as we are, merge our hearts to one another and say, “We’re going to stick this out together. We’re going to go the distance. Our faith is going to ultimately be in the God who is in control.”
Bob: You know, Mary Beth has invited all of us into the reality of what this experience has been like for her and for Steven in the book that she has just written, Choosing to SEE. I want to encourage listeners, if you know someone who has been through a loss like this, or just somebody who would benefit from seeing the real picture of a real family, not the airbrushed picture that we often see, but the warts and all pictures that Mary Beth paints for us in the book.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and get more information about the book Choosing to SEE. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Again the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, you can also call to request a copy of the book at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.
Don’t forget what we talked about earlier, the upcoming Orphan Sunday Weekend event that is happening in November. If your church would like to be involved and find out more about how you can connect, or if you’re interested in looking at what you can do to help raise the awareness for the needs of orphans all around the world in your church, go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and you’ll find information there about the Hope for Orphans® ministry of FamilyLife and ways that you can connect around this issue. Again there’s more information about the upcoming Orphan Sunday Weekend event that’s taking place on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
We should mention that the songs that you heard on today’s program come from Steven Curtis Chapman’s most recent CD which is called “Beauty Will Rise.” As Steven said, it’s his collection of personal Psalms written in the midst of despair with an eye toward hope. It’s a powerful CD. In fact we want to make that music CD available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week with a donation of any amount. We’re listener supported so those donations are what help keep us on the air in this city and other cities all across the country.
We appreciate those of you who, from time to time will make a donation, or those of you who are Legacy Partners and help support the ministry each month. Again, if you can make a donation of any amount, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the CD “Beauty Will Rise” by Steven Curtis Chapman.
If you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word “CHAPMAN” in the key-code box and we’ll know to send you the CD. Or, if you make your donation by phone, when you call 1-800 FL TODAY, just mention that you’d like the music CD from Steven Curtis Chapman, and again it’s our way of saying thank you for your financial support. We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry.
Again, we want to invite you back tomorrow when we hear more from Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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