by Terry DeBoer | The Grand Rapids Press Thursday May 22, 2008, 4:53 PM
West Michigan Christian music fans are expressing their sympathy for Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman after the death of his 5-year-old daughter in an accident Wednesday in the family's driveway.
"We opened up the phone lines and people called in and wanted to pray right over the air," said Troy West, morning show co-host on contemporary Christian music radio station WJQK-FM (99).
Maria Sue Chapman was struck by a car driven by one of her teenage brothers, according to authorities in Franklin, Tenn., who added they believe no charges will result from what they termed "a tragic accident."
The child died 10 days after her fifth birthday. Chapman's manager, Jim Houser, also noted in a Web site posting the family had been hours away from hosting a high school graduation party for their son Caleb when the accident occurred.
Maria was the youngest of three Chinese girls the family had adopted, two of them through the the Nashville, Tenn., office of Bethany Christian Services. Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, also have three biological children -- two teenage sons and a 21-year-old daughter.
"They are loving and wonderful parents and a great family -- they must be devastated," said Brian De Vos, manager of Michigan operations for Bethany Christian Services. "He's been such an advocate for adoption -- I know their commitment to kids."
DeVos has known the Chapmans for eight years and worked with them on Shaohannah's Hope, a foundation the couple named for one of their adopted daughters and established to help families through the often expensive adoption process.
During Chapman's most recent concert tour -- which included a stop at Sunshine Community Church last September -- the singer raised $340,000 for the foundation. While here, he awarded a grant of about $3,000 to a local family for adoption expenses.
He also has raised funds for construction of an orphanage in China for special-needs children who likely will never be adopted.
Chapman, 45, has sold more than 10 million albums, has had dozens of No. 1 Christian radio hits, and has won more than 50 Dove Awards -- exceeding any other individual artist.
Yet he would much rather talk about his family or his work with adoptions and orphans.
"I have sung a lot of his songs," said local Christian singer Marty Miller, of Belmont, posting comments on an area Christian musicians' Web site. "Please be in prayer for the family."
Chapman's current hit song on Christian radio is "Cinderella," a ballad about precious times spent together by father and daughter. It was inspired by a real family moment.
Video for "Cinderella"
"I was trying to give my little girls a bath and rushing and hurrying through it," Chapman told The Press in an interview last fall. "And I got convicted over how much I rush through moments trying to get to the next one, and God telling me to stop and take the moments as he gives then, and see what he's trying to teach me."
A Web site has been set up for people to learn more about Maria and to leave expressions of sympathy: chapmanchannel.typepad.com/inmemoryofmaria.
Condolences also may be sent to the Chapmans in care of P.O. Box 150156, Nashville, TN 37215. A memorial service will be Saturday morning in Nashville's Christ Presbyterian Church.
Video of Chapman with Maria Sue Chapman