As Steven Curtis Chapman's heart for China grew more and more through his family's two adoptions of Shaohannah and Stevey Joy, he continued to visit China to minister there through music. After leading worship at Beijing International Christian Fellowship on Easter Sunday in April of 2004, he left through the back door and ran into some missionaries who let him hold one of their Chinese babies. When Steven asked if she was theirs, they said no, but they were trying to find a home for her. He asked, "What is her name?" They said, "Maria". Immediately, a song Steven wrote years ago, called, "Who's Gonna Love Maria," started playing in his head. Steven couldn't believe the coincidence of her name, and was shaken to the core. When thinking about this, he broke down crying and called his wife, explaining the strong connection he made with this little girl named Maria. When Steven posed the thought to Mary Beth that they were to adopt her, she jokingly responded by saying, “Well, she better play an instrument because she is then going on the road with you.”
Steven couldn't get Maria of his mind, but he certainly had not planned to adopt another child. Because Maria was a special needs child and was already placed with an agency in a special needs program, Steven thought maybe they were just supposed to help her find a home. But when he returned to the states, Mary Beth already had the paperwork out and said, "I think we're supposed to go and get Maria."
The pieces fell into place, and a couple months after Steven met Maria in Beijing, he once again returned to China to pick up Maria Sue Chapman. She had a heart condition which classified her as "special needs", but the Chapmans have a different idea of why she was special: she was theirs. Before they completed the adoption, she was re-diagnosed as being healthy, and her healthy heart began to constantly overflow into the hearts of those around her. As the youngest of the family, she was certainly a handful, but Steven and Mary Beth knew that their family would never have been complete without her.
For four years, the Chapmans grew together, through laughter and tears, joy and pain. They have together seen Steven's career reach a record 50 Dove Awards, 5 Grammys, 10 million records sold, and 15 studio projects. In addition, they have seen the ministry they founded, Shaohannah's Hope, help over 1,600 waiting orphans find their forever families, raise awareness and champion adoption and orphan care in spheres throughout the secular and Christian arenas, and begin projects such as the home in Luoyang, China, that will care for special needs children.
Throughout it all, Maria has been the beloved youngest daughter in the Chapman clan. Quick to greet you with a big smile, and the first to throw up the "rock fingers" for a little bit of sass. She was also one of the two inspirations behind Steven's hit, "Cinderella". Boisterous and full of life, she loved flowers, ladybugs, birds, anything with wings, coloring, washing dishes, playing make-believe, the color pink, being "butt-naked", water, and her family. Her life was a picture of God's beauty; her adoption was a picture of God's love; her joy was a picture of God's fullness; and her love was a picture of God's grace. Her family certainly, certainly loved her, and through the love of her family, she became beloved by the entire world.
On May 21, 2008, an unspeakable tragedy struck the Chapman household, as Maria Sue Chapman was rushed to the hospital after having been hit by a car accidentally in the family's driveway. She passed away that day, and saw her eternal adoption at last finalized, as her Heavenly Father took her home to be with Him.
Through many tears, through much weeping, searching, praying, hoping and waiting, the Chapmans have begun the process of remembering their blessed Maria. Through story, song, and day-to-day life, the Chapmans remember Maria. They will go on remembering Maria, for God's glory is wrapped up in her story, and through the simple act of remembering Maria, we can bring glory to God and hope to a world in desperate need of Him.