As a follow up to my last post... our worship leader's brother traveled and recorded with Michael W. Smith for many years, and he (the brother) and another musician friend of Michael W. Smith's went to the funeral of little Maria. This is a letter he wrote in regards to the funeral service. Please continue to keep this family in your prayers, especially the son who backed over little Maria.
Thanks for all your prayers for the Chapman family. They certainly have felt the love of God over the past few days from all those who have lifted them up in prayer during this unimaginably difficult time.
Kari and I are flying back to LA as I write after an amazing two days in Nashville. This was life changing. The name of the Lord was exalted in ways that we could never retell. We are in awe at His grace, compassion and mercy. Little Maria's life, although short, has already moved mightily in peoples lives to bring Him glory.
Last night the entire family stood in the church as a long line of friends and acquaintances greeted them, hugged them, cried with them and loved on them. The Chapman family and Steven's ministry has obviously impacted so many. They stood there for more than 4 hours before one of the pastors finally stopped it and had hundreds still remaining in line just sit down and then Steven apologetically, but so graciously addressed the entire group.
At the funeral, both Michael W. Smith and Matt Redman helped lead everyone in worship. Matt led us in a song we often sing that he wrote, "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord." It was amazing to watch the Chapman family sing with loud voices as they hugged one another, "He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say, 'Lord, blessed be your name.'" This song will never be the same to me personally.
We worshipped and sang for 30-minutes. And then the Chapman's celebrated Maria by sharing stories and talking about her for almost an hour and a half, praising God for her life and acknowledging that she was safe in the arms of Jesus. All the while pictures of Maria flashed on two big screens behind the stage - her little white casket at the foot of the stage. She was buried in the "flower girl" dress she was going to wear in Emily's upcoming wedding.
Jeff Moore sang Steven's song "With Hope" which Steven wrote for a family years ago, going through the same type of tragedy. All of Maria's little friends came forward and placed a flower at the foot of the casket while Jeff sang.
The Chapmans are unwaivering in their love for Christ and doing well. Their entire family was a display of faith in practice at the most difficult time of their lives. No one in the family wore shoes, because the veil had been lifted for Maria. They were on "Holy Ground" and God's presence was felt.
Caleb (19) said in his prayer, "while we've always been excited about Heaven, it seems so much more real now...and gets us that much more excited to be there ourselves someday. So we'll live life on Earth as if each day counts until we get there.". He also said that although they are "confused" they've never been so sure about Christ and His saving grace. Caleb likened this to one of those abstract pictures that when you're up close, you can't see what it is, but as you step back, you start to see what the artist wants you to see. He said, "And this is a big picture, so we may have to stand waaayyy back."... but we will see what the Artist has designed and what the picture is.
He has his dad's wisdom - well beyond his years.
Emily Chapman (22) just got engaged and said that after the proposal, Maria was the only one who asked, "What did you say?". Maria asked it multiple times. (Of course Emily said "yes" to her future husband). But Emily addressed the 3000+ crowd and turned Maria's question back to everyone listening in regards to their answer to Christ's proposal to each of us,. "What did you say?". Powerful under these circumstances. The good news of the Gospel was presented four times throughout the ceremony by the family.
Steven was a rock and just gave all the glory to God. The model of a humble, Godly man. I'm so proud to call him a friend. His humility and appreciation for everyone there, which was a testament to his character and his sincere faith and love for his God and His son, Jesus Christ. As he hugged and cried with Kari and I, he just kept reminding us that "Heaven is real."
Steven shared that after the accident, in the hospital, he held Maria's lifeless body and cried out to God. He cried out, asking to somehow see some kind of sign that she was going to be okay...to see that she was going to be safe. When they got home that night, they found the last picture Maria drew on that Wednesday afternoon on her little art table (she loved to draw!). It was a flower and a butterfly and folded in half like a card. When Steven opened the card up, she had written one word on the inside - a word he didn't even know she knew how to spell. It was "See." A simple answer to his cry to 'see' that she was safe.
Please keep praying for them. They are worn out, sad and yet rejoicing in the Lord. Please pray for Will Franklin Chapman. He seems to be the one that is having the hardest time and struggling with the guilt of the accident. It truly was an accident. Will pulled the car into the driveway and because the family was throwing a party that night for Caleb's graduation, he decided to back the car up onto the grass just as Maria ran out behind the car to welcome him home. There was no way for him to know that Maria was behind that car. The Lord was ready to take Maria home. He knew the number of her days. Will stood with Maria's favorite pink blanket draped over his shoulders both days.
All in all God was glorified. Praise Him for His sovereign ways.