Most of us think of Christmas as a special, exciting, almost magical time of year for children. All the anticipation, Christmas pageants, treats, gifts, and fun naturally come to mind. If your house is like ours, our kids make Christmas morning what it is. My wife Mary Beth and I look forward to our presents, sure... But watching our children receive what they had hoped for--now that's worth getting up (at what is essentially the middle of the night) to see.
But Christmas is anything but joyful for the 100 million orphans in our world. The majority of them have never known the embrace of a loving home, and as a result, their dismal paths often end in theft, prostitution, homelessness, substance abuse, or suicide. As I reflected on that painful truth, I wrote the song "All I Really Want." For the little boy in the song, and so many others like him here in the United States and around the world, Christmas only highlights what they don't have: a forever family.
As you read this, the Chapman house has three Asian girls anxiously waiting to open up gifts this year. They are here because a little girl named Emily Chapman felt God's call before her Mom and Dad did and prayed so fervently that her parents finally sensed God's leading, too.
In recent years, people have commented to us about the incredible gift we've given to Shaohannah, Stevey, and Maria by making them part of our family. Those are kind words, but the truth is that Mary Beth and I, along with our other children Emily, Caleb, and Will, are the ones who have been given the gift and experienced the miracle.
We didn't always understand this gift. At first, we thought we were called to be simply supporters to others who would adopt. We thought we were too busy; Mary Beth was unsure she could love an adopted child as much as she loved her biological children; and our family and friends had dozens of other doubts. All of those concerns melted away in a hotel hallway in China when we were handed Shaoey. Mary Beth and I knew instantly she was our daughter, that though she had come to our family differently than our first three children, Shaohannah was our little girl. It was a miracle, the miracle of adoption.
Mary Beth and I have vowed to not keep quiet about this miracle and the plight of orphans. Why am I so fiery? It's because I believe adoption is my story. our story. I was homeless, hopeless, and nameless. Then God came to me and took me in, and adopted me as His son. Caring for orphans in the same way God cares for us is a privilege; it is an invitation to join God right at the center of His heart as the Father to the fatherless. It wasn't until we adopted Shaohannah that we truly grasped this realization. We saw the face of Jesus.
In 2002, as a result of the ever-increasing questions about our personal adoptions--and learning about the financial barriers experienced by so many people longing to adopt--we founded Shaohannah's Hope. From the beginning, we have desired to assist families through adoption grants, and to engage Christian communities in caring for orphans. It has been our hope to see Christians respond to the call to care for orphans.
We hold fast to James 1:27, "Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles..." We understand that adoption is not for everyone, but that everyone plays a role in caring for orphans. For some, it's visiting an orphanage, giving financially, or simply praying.
We have witnessed hundreds of people respond to the call. Children have held fundraisers, walk-a-thons, and lemonade sales; athletes have ignited their communities by raising money during competitions; newlyweds have refused gifts in hopes that guests would give to Shaohannah's Hope. More than 600 families have experienced the joy of bringing a child into their home forever as a result of an adoption grant from Shaohannah's Hope. But the need is still great.
For years we have prayed that eyes would see, that hands would stretch forth, and that a simple belief would be owned in the hearts of people around the world--the belief that the need to care for orphans is undeniable.
As a family, we are increasingly coming to the conclusion that in order to go, to do, to act, we're going to look unconventional. We've entered into the baby world again by adopting into our home our precious but very "high energy" daughters from China. We're using our God-given platform to make orphan-related causes known, and acting on solving them. We struggle. God, help us to really hear and obey.