Tragedy in Paducah
    Curtis Capman

    Tragedy struck close to home for Steven Curtis Chapman in December, when a single gunman opened fire on a prayer group meeting at Chapman's high school alma mater in Paducah, Kentucky, killing three girls and wounding five others. 

    A 1981 graduate of Heath High School, Chapman returned to Paducah immediately after the shootings to attend a prayer service. 

    "I just wanted to be there, as a friend and a brother, to offer whatever encouragement I could" Chapman said. "I would have been among those kids 17 years ago when I attended Heath High School, so in that way, I share their grief. And, as a father myself, I mourn for those who have suffered this unimaginable loss."

    Chapman was asked by the parents to sing at the combined funeral service led by each girl's own pastor. The funeral, which was broadcast live on CNN with the parents" permission, was a testimony of not only the girls" lives, but of an entire community of believers. 

    Since music played an important role in the girls lives, the parents saw it fitting that it play an important role in their funerals. Along with taped performances of NewSong's "Arise, My Love" and LeAnn Rime's "Amazing Grace," Chapman offered tender performances of his own "Not Home Yet" and Michael W. Smith's "Friends."

    "Having heard testimony after testimony about the hearts of these young ladies, it was clear that their desire was to see others come into the kingdom" said Chapman. "When I sang, "Not Home Yet," I sensed a peace about that being the right song for that moment. Kayce, Jessica and Nicole had acknowledged that they knew they weren"t home yet. And, now they are."
    Describing it as a deeply emotional day, Chapman became encouraged by the great hope in the midst of all the grief. "I know that God can and will make good out of what is intended for evil. This is promised in the scriptures,"said Chapman. "I pray that people will remember: the same lips that were silenced by these killings were lips in prayer earlier that morning, and their friends continued in prayer and forgiveness even after. Today, a poster hangs in front of the school declaring, "We forgive you because He forgave us." That should be the legacy of this tragic event."

    Reprinted by permission, The Gospel Music Association