The crowd at the airport waited expectantly, holding gift bags and pink balloons. Finally, the anticipated flight number from Los Angeles flashed on the arrival screen. Within moments, a couple in their mid-thirties walked toward the cheering group. Two teenagers stretched wide the banner that read, “Welcome Home, Jenny Sue.” Everyone crowded around the young couple, wiping tears and hugging, while a wide-eyed Chinese nine-month-old clung to her new mother’s neck and peeked at all the strange, round-eyed faces.
A few minutes later, holding a stuffed panda by the foot, Jenny giggled while being cuddled by her new grandmother. Little did she know how greatly her life had changed. Jenny had traveled halfway around the world to join a family who had prayed for a child for years. Love and faith had fueled her parents’ dream. And a number of people had helped make it happen.
Scenes like the one above have been repeated thousands of times as families adopt children from other lands. The waiting list for infants available to be adopted in the United States is often long. Because of numerous restrictions on the age of the parents, family size, and income level, many have turned to international adoption. Unfortunately, international adoption can be quite expensive with agency fees plus travel costs. Many whose hearts ache for a child are deterred only by a lack of funds.
Shaohannah’s Hope, a non-profit ministry, helps Christian families by providing financial assistance for adoption. The ministry receives approximately 125 applications per month and has helped more than 2000 families with grants. An average grant is from $3,000 to $4,000 and is awarded based on need. Children from more than 30 countries, including the U.S., have been adopted with help from Shaohannah’s Hope.
Hope Changes All
Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth founded Shaohannah’s Hope after adopting their first Chinese daughter named Shaohannah (pronounced “show-hannah”). The Chapman name is familiar to many. A singer-songwriter in Christian music, Steven has millions of fans, is a five-time GRAMMY winner who has sold over 10 million albums and won more than 50 Dove Awards. Yet the center of his life is–and has always been–his family.
In 2000 the Chapman family consisted of three birth children: two boys and a girl. Daughter Emily, as a teen, read a book on international adoption which impressed her deeply. She began a crusade to convince her parents to adopt. Mary Beth admits that she had doubts, “I thought I might be the evil stepmother-type who would treat [adopted] children differently.” But she was willing to research it. Two years later, the Chapmans received a fax from China about their little girl. (Although many countries allow international adoptions, China is the source for many adopted girls. Mainland China’s laws allow no family more than one child. Because their culture values boys more than girls, Chinese couples sometimes abandon their baby girls in order to try again for a boy.)
Soon the Chapmans were on their way to China to pick up Shaohannah. Like so many adoptive parents before them, they found that origin or race didn’t matter. When they opened their family to adopt a child, God immediately filled them with love for her. “The minute they handed her to me,” Mary Beth said, “at that moment everything changed.”
The Chapmans fell in love not only with Shaohannah but with the concept of adoption–of adding unwanted (by others) children to their “forever family.” They created Shaohannah’s Hope so that more people could experience the same joy they had. Steven says, “Our eyes and hearts have been opened….at moments I’m overwhelmed [when] I think we could have missed what God wanted us to do.”
Practicing what they preached, the Chapmans went on to adopt two more Chinese girls, three years younger than Showie. Stevey Joy and Maria were only seven months apart in age. “We refer to our biological children as ‘natural’ children, while we refer to our adopted children as ‘supernatural,’” Mary Beth said. “Three were born from my tummy and three were born from our hearts. The girls think that is SO cool.”
With three nearly grown children, three adopted daughters, a stellar career, and a compassionate ministry, the Chapmans’ lives seemed idyllic. But in May 2008 Maria, their youngest daughter from China, was killed in a tragic driveway accident at the Chapman’s home in Tennessee. She was 5. That day the family was celebrating one son’s high school graduation and Emily’s engagement. Suddenly they were where no family wants to be—planning a funeral. The news was broadcast around the world. Two thousand people attended Maria’s funeral, trying to comfort the family who have helped so many. The Chapmans asked that memorials be directed to Maria’s Miracle Fund of Shaohannah’s Hope so that more orphans could be adopted.
Shaohannah’s Hope responds to a world overflowing with needs. The ministry quotes statistics such as: more than 143 million children have lost one or both parents. At least 16.2 million children worldwide have lost both parents. More than 1.5 million children live in public care in Central and Eastern Europe. At any given point, there are more than 500,000 children in the U.S. Foster Care system.
Funds donated to Shaohannah’s Hope do more than just provide grants. The ministry concentrates on three areas: adoption assistance, adoption awareness, and orphan care. One facet of the ministry encourages churches to form their own adoption funds for their members. The ministry even offers a kick-off matching grant program to participating churches.
The ministry’s Mackenzie Fund pays for surgeries for orphans with cleft lips and palates. Such children are often considered unadoptable. Some are abandoned, even though these conditions are surgically correctable, at a cost of $500 to more than $2,000. The initial surgeries paid for by the Mackenzie Fund took place in China through a connection with Love Without Boundaries, a medical missions organization. A 3-year-old and an 11-month-old boy, both from Guangdong, received corrective palate surgery to improve their health and speech. Such surgeries not only improve the quality of life for children; they also increase their chances of being adopted into a forever family.
A Message from the Chapmans
Recognizing that adoption is a perfect picture of what God has done for each of us in making us His children through Christ, Shaohannah’s Hope has been established to care for orphans by engaging the church and helping Christian families reduce the financial barriers to adoption.
Psalm 68:5-6 tells us that as the Father to the fatherless, God delights in setting the lonely in families. It has been our experience that the scriptural mandate of caring for orphans, such as the one found in James 1:27, is really a wonderful invitation to experience God in a profound way by being a part of His sovereign plan for His precious children.
Shaohannah’s Hope exists to enable children living without the love and hope of an earthly family to be adopted into “covenant homes.” These families can provide not only the love and support needed for this life, but also provide a child with the knowledge of God’s plan for his or her eternal life with a forever family called The Body of Christ.
(This article by Vicki Huffman first appeared in Power for Living in 2009. To learn more about adoption and how you could help in this ministry, visit the website: www.shaohannahshope.org or www.showhope.org.)