FamilyLife Today® Podcast

All I Ever Wanted …

with Emily Chapman, Steven Curtis Chapman | November 16, 2006
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On the broadcast today, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Steven Curtis Chapman, and his daughter, Emily, tell Dennis Rainey how Emily, at 12, persuaded Chapman and his wife to adopt a child from China, after reading about the plight of orphans in that country.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • On the broadcast today, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, Steven Curtis Chapman, and his daughter, Emily, tell Dennis Rainey how Emily, at 12, persuaded Chapman and his wife to adopt a child from China, after reading about the plight of orphans in that country.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Steven Curtis Chapman, and his daughter, Emily, talk about how she persuaded their family to adopt a child from China.

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All I Ever Wanted …

With Emily Chapman, Steven Curtis...more
November 16, 2006
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Bob: Emily Chapman was 12 years old when she caught a vision for adoption.  The problem is, 12-year-olds aren't allowed to adopt, but her parents could – and so the initiative began.

Emily: I started the campaign, and I said, "Well, yeah," it started off, "Okay, Mom and Dad, you've always said you supported adoption, and we've always been involved, and we've always supported people adopting or different adoption services or whatever, but why haven't we taken it to the next level?"

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll hear today how the Chapman family, a family of five, where Mom and Dad thought they were through having children ultimately became a family of eight.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  It's been a pretty exciting week, so far, don't you think?

Dennis: It really has, Bob.  We have been championing all week the voice of the orphan.  FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, and Steven Curtis Chapman, who joins us on FamilyLife Today have all joined together to make a statement on behalf of more than 143 million orphans worldwide, and we're joining forces because we feel like it's time for the Christian community to step up and make a huge difference in the lives of these who don't have a family.

Bob: And we're really working to try to provide practical ways for Christians to engage on this subject.  Some families will look at the needs of the orphan, and they'll say, "Well, we could open our home and adopt a child."  Other families would say, "Our church could be involved in helping to sponsor an orphanage in another country."  There are all kinds of ways for people to get involved, but the point is we're all called to share the heart of God on this subject.

Dennis: In fact, at the end of this broadcast, we're going to give our listeners a way they can get involved in this very practically, very strategically, both at the individual level and at the church level.  Bob, the crisis is so large, and I believe God's heart is so huge on this subject, I believe the time is now for the Christian community to step forward and address the issue.

Bob: Well, we've had the chance this week to hear Dr. Dobson and Jim Daly talk about what Focus on the Family is doing.  Along with us as part of this partnership in support of the needs of the orphan worldwide, we heard a message that you and Barbara gave to a local church congregation encouraging that church to embrace the needs of the orphan in their community, and, as you mentioned, we've got Steven Curtis Chapman joining us today but, of course, that's not the big deal.  The big deal is that his daughter Emily is along with us, and I don't know that we really have all that many questions for Steven.  I just want to get right to Emily, who is a student at Baylor University, and I have it on pretty good authority, Emily, that you would not have at least three of your younger siblings, Shaoey, and Stevie, and Maria, if you hadn't been pretty insistent and put your foot down.  Is that right?

Emily: Mmm, yeah.

Steven: Persistent.

Emily: Yes.

Bob: How did the whole idea of wanting a brother or sister or was it wanting to adopt?

Emily: It was wanting to adopt – but a little sister, because I had two brothers.  So it was always a little sister.

Dennis: But where did you get the idea?  I mean, was it something you just, as a little girl …

Emily: … thought up.

Dennis: … a little girl just always dreamed about?

Emily: Actually, no, I went to Haiti on a missions trip in fifth grade, in the spring of fifth grade for spring break, and my mom was on that trip, and another family was on that trip that was in the process of adopting domestically back home in America, and so my trip to Haiti kind of sparked that compassion inside of me that I never knew was there because I'd never been outside of the States.  And the Coley [sp] family was in the process of adopting, and I was, like, "Well, Mom and Dad, they're adopting.  Why can't we?  And you've always said you supported adoption, so why haven't we adopted?"  And that's where it kind of all started.

Dennis: Take us back to when you went to Haiti, though, as a young lady.  That was seven or eight years ago, right?

Emily: Mm-hm.

Dennis: What did you see?  I mean, what did you see, as a 10- or 11-year-old young lady?  I mean, I think sometimes we underestimate what our children can observe.  Do you remember what those images looked like?

Emily: Yeah.  Well, I think what struck me the most is just this complete joy apart from circumstance.  And no matter what these people or how they were living or what their lives looked like, they were still so happy with just the littlest things, and that's what struck me the most.  But just the images – oh, man, I mean, the complete Third World country.  Some people said it's a Fourth World country.  I mean, it's utter, you know, in poverty.  It's just ridiculous.

 And so just the shacks of houses people are living in and no clothes, no shoes, no anything. 

Dennis: Like, what were they wearing?

Emily: If they were lucky, they'd have a t-shirt that was kind of oversized and kind of wearing it like a dress, the kids were, and the parents would have maybe sweatpants on or umbrella shorts or something, and a big t-shirt that had holes in it and it was very dirty, like, their one outfit they had.  And most of them didn't have shoes.  So, I mean, just …

Dennis: So here you were, a preteen from Nashville, Tennessee, going into a Third World country and, all of a sudden, you go "unbelievable."

Emily: Mm-hm.

Dennis: I've taken some of my children to these countries as well, and I think we really do underestimate not only what they can see but what they can feel, and then, Emily, you've illustrated here by virtue of your influence on your mom and dad, your own persuasiveness about the heart of God.  I want you to tell our listeners what you said to your mom and dad and the dialog that began to occur.  Because I'm sure your dad, because he's a man of faith, immediately responded and embraced the idea and said, "Absolutely, let's go to that immediately," right?

Emily: There was a little bit of resistance.  Dad kind of always secretly supported it, I mean, but we all knew that mom was going to be the one that had to take care of another baby, so we all had to wait until mom was on board if we were going to move forward in adopting a baby.  But …

Steven: We didn't need any junior Holy Spirits, even though Emily was doing a good job at being one, you know?

Bob: Well, you described it, though, as coming home and saying, "Hey, Mom and Dad, you've always talked about this, why don't we do it?"  Was it that simple a conversation?  Because I remember your dad telling me the story, and he said, "She was passionate, she was …

Steven: … relentless, would be the word.

Emily: Oh, yeah, it was …

Dennis: Pounding the table?

Emily: Oh, yeah.

Steven: Writing letters.

Emily: I came back home, and I started the campaign, and that's what everybody calls it.  So "the campaign," and I said, well, yeah, it started off, "Okay, Mom and Dad, you've always said you supported adoption, and we've always been involved and we've always supported people adopting or different adoption services or whatever, but why haven't we taken it to the next level?"  And I think that kind of got them thinking a little bit but not anything.  And so I started praying, and …

Bob: Hold one, while you started praying, did that get you thinking and take it to the next level?  Did you and Mary Beth start going, "Well, maybe we ought to consider this?"

Steven: Yeah, I – something left in me, because I was – you know, I had read Scripture, I knew James 1:27, pure and undefiled religion, care for orphans, you know, I've read throughout the Old Testament God calls himself the father to the fatherless.  I knew this was important to the heart of God, and I think in my heart I said, "You know, that would be an amazing thing."  And I had even thought it before I heard Pastor John Piper say, "Adoption is the visible Gospel."  I think, you know, even before I heard that phrase, I had some sense that there was something real profound when you take a child into your home, you're mirroring what God has done for us.  So I knew all that up here in my head.  But when Emily said this, my first thought was, "You know what?  I would do that and be very excited about that, but I know my wife has made it very clear, even when we first got to know the Coley's, who had adopted, you know, she said, "Now, we're going to be their friends, but I want you to know right now, we're not going to do anything crazy like what they're doing."

Dennis: Mama …

Bob: Catch their disease, right?

Dennis: Mama made it real clear to keep your distance from this virus that's going on.  Emily, how did you continue the campaign, then, from a subversive standpoint with your mom?  I mean, was this a plot?

Emily: Well, on my Christmas list was a little sister, but I didn't get that for Christmas, so I went and said, and bought with my Christmas money, a book on how to adopt internationally, and it was about 300 pages thick, which was huge to me, because I was a sixth grader, and so I carried it around.  It was, like, my prized possession.

Steven: Yes, her Bible.

Emily: I left it, like, in my seat in the car, and I read it to school, back from school, to, picked dad up, to whatever, wherever we were going – to the softball game, to the basketball game – everywhere.  "Mom, we could adopt from Guatemala, and it would only take this long," and, nuhnuhnuhnuh.  Mom's, like …

Dennis: You are absolutely amazing.  We used to have to pay our kids to read books that had 25 pages.

Steven: Oh, yeah.

Dennis: You with me?  But I can picture that book.  It's fine print, 300 pages, and you're hammering the book and your mom.

Steven: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Emily: Yeah.

Dennis: And what did she say when you started …

Emily: She would listen, and then she would go, "Oh, that's nice."

Steven: But it's not going to happen.

Emily: It's not going to happen.  And so she would just say that was nice, and I would just keep reading and, about once a week, she would have to sit me down and go, "Okay, you know that this is not going to happen.  This is not the path that God has put our family on, and, you know, maybe this is something that God has put in your heart early, and if you're blessed to have a family in quite a few years, then you can adopt," you know?

Dennis: She turned it back on you, huh?

Emily: Uh-huh, she turned it back to me, and I was, like, "Well, I know I'm going to adopt, but I'm just trying to get a head start and make you guys adopt first, and then" …

Bob: Let me go to the bedroom conversations that would go on while all this was happening, because you had this little leap inside of you, you said, were you were thinking, "Boy, I'd be open to this."

Steven: Yeah.

Bob: Was Mary Beth coming and saying, "We have got to – you need to talk to Emily, we've got to deal with this."

Steven: Oh, yeah, we were having conversations just like Emily said, you know, "How do we not crush this incredible heart of faith in the midst of this, you know, and how do we explain to her without just destroying her?"  Because she was so sure.  And we had already gone through the whole thing because, like, a year earlier she was sure that she had to have a puppy, and when Emily gets on something, she's got her mama in her enough to say, you know, when she wants something, she gets her mind set on something, it's pretty much relentless pursuit.

 And so we got this puppy that she just had to have, and that lasted about six months and, you know …

Emily: I took care of him.

Steven: You did, for about six months, and then …

Emily: And he was a …

Steven: Yeah, it was psycho pup.  And so we pawned him off – I mean, we blessed someone else with him.  But so it was easy at first to go, "You know, this is just Emily on another one of her very strong desires."

Bob: I wanted a puppy last year, I want a baby sister this year.

Steven: And so – but when it began to really – I mean, we began to really realize this is something she is very passionately sure God – I mean– when she's got tears in her eyes, "Mom and Dad, you don't understand.  This isn't like the dog.  I know that it seems like that, but I really believe God's doing something in my heart." 

 And I had made the mistake early on in our marriage of – before I read all my FamilyLife Dennis Rainey books, you know, of trying to be the fourth member of the Trinity and saying, "You know, I really think God is telling us to do this, and if you're just spiritual enough, you'll come along with this."  And so I knew that this was not the approach that would honor God and honor my wife, and so I thought, "Well, God, if this really is something you're in, it will be miraculous because you'll have to change my wife's heart." 

 And she kept saying, "Sweetheart, you've got your goers, and you've got your senders, and some will go and do this, and some will help send them, and we're the senders.  You know, we need to be the support team, and we need that."

Dennis: One additional little dynamic that we haven't talked about here, and I don't want to spend a lot of time on it, but in your own marriage, you and your wife had a few struggles that undoubtedly had to contribute to the fear factor.

Steven: Oh, absolutely.

Dennis: Of adopting.  I mean, it wasn't like, you know, it was Cinderella and the Prince living for happily ever after.  You had your issues.

Steven: Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, Emily could tell stories that I paid her well not to today, so it's like, you know, keep a few of those.

Bob: We'd like to have you back sometime, Emily.

Dennis: Without your dad.

Steven: Yeah, right, oh, boy.  No, we've shared – yeah, our last time together we shared pretty honestly.

Dennis: Was that a factor, though?

Steven: A big factor, yeah.  The fact that – I mean, we already had three children, they were in school, and for Mary Beth, I mean, the first time we sat with our friends, our closest friends to say, you know, Emily's working us over about this, and that was a big factor for me, even, as a husband, just saying, "God, what does it look like to really love my wife and care for my wife?"  With my calling being on the road, we'd obviously been called to, the struggles of just getting three kids through those early years and into school now.  We survived by the grace of God.  Mary Beth, as she shared on the program last time, had struggled with depression, and the impact that that had had on all of us, our family, our marriage, trying to love her through that and say, "God, this wouldn't be" – you know, if you look at it just from a perspective of the intensity of our life already, this would be a big mistake.  I mean, this would not be the thing that would bring any healing or health into our marriage.

Dennis: So here you are in the midst of the campaign, Emily.  When did you see the first crack in the wall in your mom?  I mean, here she is, she's saying, "No way, no way, now way."

Bob: The early precincts were negative as they reported back.

Emily: Right.

Bob: When did you start to see some of the votes starting to turn in your direction?

Emily: Right.  Man, I don't even think until – well, okay, Mom said – this is about a year after I'd been campaigning, and I was writing letters and leaving them on their pillows at night and everything, and so about a year had gone by, and Dad had been asked to sing at an adoption agency banquet, and Mom could not go, for some reason.  I think one of the boys had a sporting event or something that she wanted to be at, and so she sent me in her place, and she goes, "Okay, here's the deal.  You can bring back any literature, any books, any teddy bears, anything you want, you know, for me to read about adoption, and I will read it all, and the deal is, that's the end of it.  You got your shot, I got my shot, and then we'll call it quits, and this thing will be over, this campaigning will be over."  And I said, "Okay, you have yourself a deal."

 So I went with Dad, and I – I mean, we both carried in probably, you know, a heaping handful of videos and – I think that we pre-DVD time, but maybe DVDs and everything else.

Dennis: So you really hammered her with stuff.  You didn't walk in with a little 30-page pamphlet.

Emily: Oh, no.  She said she was going to read every page, so I was, like, well, then, if she's going to read every page, and this is my last valiant effort, then I'm going to bring a lot of – a few pages to read.  And so I sat it all on her bed and I was, like, all right, there you go.  And so she was, like, "Oh, man, okay, I'll start reading."  And she did.  She read every single thing, she watched all the videos, or at least she told me she did.  And that's when she had Dad make a phone call, that's when everything started changing.

Bob: You know, if I remember the story right, because you've told me this before, Dennis, you didn't have anybody at your house who was lobbying you like Emily was lobbying her mom and dad.

Dennis: Well, I didn't have any kids like Emily.  We had …

Bob: You had each other?

Dennis: We had Barbara and the Holy Spirit.  I think He was there definitely doing some guiding and directing and, I'll tell you, it's really interesting – different people have different experiences when it comes to this whole process of deciding whether or not you should adopt but, for us, it was just a quiet confidence that came, over time, and over a number of discussions and conversations that Barbara and I had, and we didn't have a daughter like Emily who was pushing and lobbying, but Barbara was talking about this, and she said, "You know, this has just been a lifelong desire and something I felt like God wanted me to do since I was a child" and, truthfully, Bob, I've shared this on the broadcast – I didn't even like kids all that much when we got married.  It wasn't until I started to look at the Scripture and seeing what a privilege children were.

 And then you start looking at the privilege of adopting, and even with the cost, the financial cost, the emotional cost, and then the cost of raising a child once you've adopted him or her, you know, you really have to be confident that God is at work in you to will and to work out His good pleasure, and that adoption is what He wants for your family.

Bob: And I think what's interesting about both of your circumstances is that you had four children when you adopted, right?

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And, Steve, you already had three children when you and Mary Beth adopted.  It's not like you were infertile couples saying, "We want a family, and we don't have any other options."  You really had a heart to care for a child who had a need for a family.

Dennis: And, Bob, that's really the issue here.  You know, the issue is, would you like to give a child a home who otherwise would never experience a family.  I mean, think about it for a moment.  With 143 million children around the world who don't have families, the privilege of opening your home to one child, two, three, I don't know, I can't speak for God and your family, but all I know is, for us, unquestionably, there was a call by God for us to adopt.  And you know what?  Other people may need to be involved in this subject around orphan care and visiting orphanages and getting an orphan care and adoption ministry started in their local church.

 But the issue is we must do something.  There is a worldwide crisis today, and that's why we have joined arms with Steven Curtis Chapman, with Jim Dobson and Focus on the Family and why all this week we've come, united in spirit, and why we're calling the Christian community to take a step toward the orphan and to act on behalf of the helpless.  This is a God-sized opportunity that demands God-sized faith.

Bob: The vast majority of our listeners are not going to adopt a child.  That's just the reality.  But every one of our listeners should be asking the question what can we do …

Dennis: What's my part?

Bob: … to help with this orphan crisis.  And I want to encourage our listeners to go to a website that we have put together along with Focus on the Family and Shoahannah's Hope and more than four dozen other organizations all committed to doing something to help the plight of the orphan.  The website is, and on that website you'll find not only links to the various organizations that are all involved in trying to address this orphan issue including a link to the Shaohannah's Hope website that Steven and his team have put together, and there are a variety of documents for those who want to help start an orphan ministry in their church, for those who are considering adoption, for their family.  There is a link to a booklet we put together called, "Welcome Home," that walks you through, step by step, the issues that you need to think about and pray about as you consider whether adoption is right for you.

 Again, you'll find that document available for free download on the website,  And then let me also encourage you to go to our website,, and if you click the red button that says "Go," right in the middle of the screen on our home page, that will take you to a site where you can get more information about other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife including a small group Bible study on considering adoption, a biblical perspective on the subject of adoption, so that if either the two of you, as a couple, wanted to go through what the Bible has to say about this issue, or if you wanted to get together with other couples and go through this material, we put it together in a small group format.  It's a part of the Homebuilders series of studies, and it's called "Considering Adoption."

 Again, you'll find it on our website at  When you go there, click the red button in the center of the screen that says "Go," and that will take you right to the page where there is more information about the Bible study, "Considering Adoption."  There's information on a book on launching an orphan's ministry in your church, and there's a link to the Voice of the Orphan website on our website as well.

 Now, if you don't have access to the Internet, just give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, tell us what you're interested in, and someone on our team will make sure we get the right resources headed in your direction.  And, once again, let me just say how much we appreciate those of you who are financial partners with us who help support this ministry with contributions, financial gifts to FamilyLife Today.  You're not only making this radio program possible on this station each day and on stations all across the country, but you're also helping us address this issue of the need of the orphan along with other organizations.

 We are listener-supported, so your donations make up more than 60 percent of our annual revenue as a ministry.  It's critical for all that we're doing, and we appreciate those of you who help support the ministry.  This month we would love to send you a thank you gift acknowledging your donation to FamilyLife Today.  The gift is a hardback book.  It's actually a prayer guide for parents or for grandparents so that husbands and wives can be praying together for specific character qualities to be developed and cultivated in the hearts of our children and our grandchildren.

 We'll send you this book as our thank you gift, again, with a donation of any amount this month to FamilyLife Today.  You can donate online at  When you do that, as you fill out the donation form, you'll see a keycode box.  Just write the word "pray" in there, p-r-a-y, and we'll know to send you a copy of the prayer guide for parents.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and make a donation over the phone – 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and just be sure to mention that you'd like the prayer guide for parents, and we'll be happy to send that out to you as well.  And on behalf of FamilyLife and on behalf of the orphans who we're trying to help, let me say thanks for your support of this ministry.  We appreciate it.

 Now, tomorrow we're going to hear more about how the Chapman family moved from a mom, a dad, and three kids to a mom, a dad, and six children, and the oldest sister, Emily, will be here to fill us in on that.  I hope you can be here as well.

 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'll see you back here tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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