FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–Maria Sue, the 5-year-old daughter of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman, died May 21 after she was struck by an SUV driven by her teenage brother in the family’s driveway south of Nashville, Tenn.
The Tennessean newspaper reported that the brother was driving down the gravel driveway of the rural home around 5:30 p.m. while several children were playing in the area. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.
Maria, the youngest of three daughters that the Chapmans adopted from China, was taken by medical helicopter to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, where she died of her injuries.
Authorities did not release the name of the brother, though Chapman has two sons, Caleb and Will Franklin, who have toured in recent years with him and are part of their own Christian band called The Following. The highway patrol representative said the incident looked like a tragic accident and no charges were expected.
The Tennessean said the accident was witnessed by two other children, and the entire family of six, including oldest daughter Emily and mother Mary Beth, was home at the time.
“Your prayers are needed for all in the Chapman family. This is a family who has so generously loved and given to so many,” Jim Houser, manager of a Chapman-oriented blog, wrote. “Just hours before, this close-knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman’s completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago.”
The blog, with a page now devoted to Maria’s memory, includes a video of the girl and her father washing dishes and singing a song in the family’s kitchen two months before her death. The memory page can be viewed at chapmanchannel.typepad.com/inmemoryofmaria.
“The Chapman family is so grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and support at this difficult time,” a brief statement posted at stevencurtischapman.com said before linking to the blog.
More than five years ago, the Chapmans founded Shaohannah’s Hope, a ministry to help families reduce the financial barrier to adoption. It’s named after their first adopted daughter from China, Shaohannah, and it has provided grants to more than 1,700 families adopting children from around the world.
Instead of flowers, the Chapmans have requested that gifts in memory of Maria be given to Shaohannah’s Hope.
“I don’t know of anybody who loves his children more than he does and is so committed to the adoption concept, and to lose one, no matter what the circumstances, is heartbreaking beyond all comprehension,” John Styll, president of the Gospel Music Association, told The Tennessean regarding Chapman. “He talks about his kids all the time. That’s his life. His kids are more important to him than music, that’s for sure.”
The newspaper said the tragedy was announced during Wednesday night services at Harpeth Hills Church of Christ in Brentwood, where the family attends and where Maria had recently graduated from the church’s preschool. The blog reported that about 250 friends gathered there for an impromptu prayer time for the Chapman family later that night.
In 1999, Chapman released a song titled “With Hope” for the families involved in the tragic shooting at a high school in his hometown of Paducah, Ky., where three students were killed and five were injured while praying before classes. Chapman said at the time that though believers grieve, they do not grieve as those who have no hope. The lyrics include the line “never have I questioned more the wisdom of God’s plan,” but end with a confidence that “everything God promised us is true.”
Compiled by Erin Roach, staff writer for Baptist Press.