Christian singer Mark Schultz reaches out to orphansNovember 16, 2012 1:56 pm 4 Comments
Musician, who was adopted, launches Remember Me charity to care for women and children
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When Christian singer Mark Schultz held his now 9-month-old son, Ryan, for the first time, he was immediately struck that it was the first time he’d ever met a blood relative.
Schultz was adopted as a 2-week-old, and although he had supportive, loving adoptive parents, he had spent a lifetime wondering where his smile, his musical talent and his sense of humor came from.
“I finally got to the point where it was like, maybe I’m not supposed to know that,” Schultz recalls, sitting outside on his patio as his wife, Kate, puts Ryan down for a nap inside their home.
“Then it was like 2 a.m., and I’m in there feeding him, and he hadn’t smiled or anything yet, and he takes the bottle out of his mouth and looks up at me and he just starts laughing and smiling, and my knees about buckled. I had tears running down my face.”
About that time, Kate walked into the room and asked what had happened. He explained that he had finally met a blood relative, and he was holding him in his arms.
“To see him laugh and smile and to see how he loves music,” the proud father explains, gave him a connection he hadn’t had before.
Schultz, who has sold more than 1.3 million albums and racked up 10 No. 1 songs, chronicles his love for his son on his new album, “All Things Possible.” The collection includes “Haven’t Met You Yet,” which he penned about being a first-time father; “I Will Love You Still,” a lullaby Schultz and his wife, an OB-GYN, wrote for Ryan; and the title track, which is at No. 9 and rising on the Christian airplay charts.
Along with sharing his music, the Colby, Kan., native also shares his personal story — something that has made his concerts a popular destination for adoptive families. Schultz says he can always tell which fans want to talk, because they hang out near the back of the autograph line, and when those kids come through, he always does his best to make them feel special.
“It crushes my heart when I meet these kids that feel abandoned or like they weren’t good enough to keep,” he says.
“I think every life has a question over top of it. ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Am I pretty enough?’ When your question is answered with, ‘You weren’t enough to keep, we’re just going to abandon you,’ when that’s the answer to your life, you just look at everything you see as that. ‘I’d try that, but I’m not good enough.’ That’s a passion of mine to not see that happen.”
The singer credits his adoptive parents, Gary and Ronita Schultz, with giving him the foundation to not only have the confidence to move to Nashville to try his luck as an artist and songwriter as an adult, but also with showering him with love early on so that he never felt less important than their two biological children. His mother explained to him as a child that being adopted meant “you’re special, because we got to go pick you out special. With your brother and your sister, we just got who God gave us.”
Because he was adopted, Schultz says, he worked harder as a child at school and in sports because he wanted to make his parents proud of him. He says he knew he was given an “opportunity” and only wanted to bring his parents “good things,” so he played quarterback in football, started in basketball, ran track and was pitcher on his baseball team in college.
But when he went to Kansas State University, “got decent at writing songs” and decided he wanted to move to Nashville, his family supported him then, too, even though, he says, “nobody in my family can play their way out of a wet paper sack.”
“One of the greatest gifts my family gave to me was that they never said, ‘Hey, it would be great if you were this. We understand what that is,’ ” he says. “My dad was like, ‘We’re going to cheer you on.’ ”
Schultz moved to Nashville in 1994 after graduation and got a job as a waiter at the Stouffer Hotel. He was working the end of the lunch shift when Mark DeVries, the associate pastor for youth and their families at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, came in and challenged Schultz to a hot pepper eating contest.
The singer lost and agreed to accompany DeVries on a ski trip. What he didn’t know at the time was that DeVries’ youth group of 15 seventh-graders was also along for the ride. The singer bonded with the children, and DeVries offered him a permanent job at the church. Schultz stayed with the same group of kids until they graduated from college.
“He said, ‘I’m just going to pay you to write songs,’ ” Schultz recalls. “I said, ‘What do you want me to write about?’ He said, ‘Whatever you want to write about, and in your spare time hang out with the kids.’ Then, I’d go on a mission trip with the kids, and he’d say, ‘Why don’t you write a song about the mission trip,’ so I would, and the kids would sing it on Sunday morning.”
Eight of the singer’s 10 No. 1 songs were songs DeVries suggested he write, and nearly all of Schultz’s songs have been written in the chapel at First Presbyterian.
“I wasn’t concerned about the content, because kids will forget most of what you teach,” DeVries says of hiring Schultz. “But I did know the kids would feel really cherished and really valued in God’s eyes because of what Mark did. I feel like, what a sweet gift that I get to see the ripples of his ministry everywhere I go. He continues to be an incredible blessing to us.”
Charity unites missions
Eight years after he moved to Nashville, Schultz booked a show at Ryman Auditorium. He didn’t have a record deal yet, but seeing Schultz play the venue was a dream of his father’s.
His church family helped him sell tickets by giving away copies of his CD with every ticket sold. When the date for the concert came around, the Ryman was full, and his parents were in the front row of the balcony. Representatives from the record label couldn’t find seats, so they watched from the back. Afterward, they offered him a record deal.
“I know a lot about giving a lot of grace from the family I was adopted from, and then when I found this family in Nashville, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for them,” Schultz says.
Now, the singer wants to give back. Schultz is passionate about working with widows and orphans, and Kate has dedicated herself to women’s health. Together, they have started a charitable organization that targets both.
Named after one of his most popular songs, the Remember Me mission is geared toward raising funds to provide medical treatment and health awareness for women, as well as building structures for orphans both in the United States and overseas. A portion of the proceeds from his “All Things Possible” album, tour and related merchandise sales are being funneled into Remember Me.
“We’re still in the dream process about where we want to go,” he says.
He and Kate also are talking about adoption. Schultz explains they discussed adopting their first child but then “things happened” and Ryan came along.
“I think it would be so cool to adopt a baby and not tell my parents and just show up at my parents’ house,” he says.
“I think that would be a nice way to honor my parents and a nice way to honor my birth mother, to give a little person the opportunities I’ve had. I think that will be a nice gift to give.
“As an adopted kid, I realize my birth mom made a choice for me before I knew what a choice was, and that was to let me live and not have an abortion. I think that’s shaped a lot of my outlook on life. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Reach Cindy Watts at 615-664-2227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Tweet
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