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A 91-year sentence brings prisoner to God (part II)

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 lenroy_thumbUpon arriving back at the Staunton prison, Chapman was immediately taken to the warden’s office. “I know you believe in God,” said the warden. “Well, this is going to test your faith.  We’ll see you in 60 days.” Without further explanation, Chapman was placed in solitary confinement for two months.

 

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(Lenroy Chapman (above) stands in the former prison's yard, a place he's all too familiar with.)

 

Concluding part one, we introduced you to Lenroy Chapman, a former inmate whose life has been changed by prison ministries. Within the last year, Potomac Conference Prison Ministries has refocused its efforts to better connect pastors and lay members to the 2020 vision. The desire is to develop 12 new prison ministry teams to be active in intensive re-entry and highly populated inmate areas as well as develops 24 new teams in the Spanish community.


In part 1 of Lenroy Chapman’s story, we learned how a life of crime earned him a 91-year sentence in Virginia’s state penitentiary. Ten years later and one week before he was to be paroled, Chapman attended his grandmother’s funeral. On his way back to the prison, he sensed something wasn’t right.  In the conclusion of Chapman’s story we’ll discover how God was able to turn a life of crime into a life of passion for those who still need to hear the Good News.
 


Lenroy Chapman couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.  “After the funeral, the deputy came to take me back to the prison,” Chapman recalls. “However, instead of riding up front like I had done on the way to the funeral, the deputy picked me up in a van, locking me up in the back.  When I asked him what was going on, all he said was ‘I can’t tell you.’”

 

Upon arriving back at the Staunton prison, Chapman was immediately taken to the warden’s office. “I know you believe in God,” said the warden. “Well, this is going to test your faith.  We’ll see you in 60 days.” Without further explanation, Chapman was placed in solitary confinement for two months.

 

Unbeknownst to Chapman, the prisoners held a riot when they learned what had happened to him.  Atheists and the Buddhists rioted for this Christian; the prison went into lockdown for three days.

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(Chapman spent 22 years in this part of the prison (Staunton, Va.), buildling 36.)
 

The loneliness of solitude started to takes its toll on Lenroy, but realized God was still with him.  “Four ladies, Sister McIntyre and three Staunton Seventh-day Adventist Church (Staunton, Va.) members, were given permission to visit me.  We cried and sang hymns together.  In my lowest hour, God sent these wonderful women to lift my spirits and give me hope.  I realized that God never leaves us – even when we feel that our hope is gone.”

 

After serving 22 years of a 91-year sentence, Lenroy Chapman was a free man.  Freedom, however, came with a price.  “Everything was different,” he said. “I was happy and scared at the same time. Several friends took me to out to eat to celebrate my release. I looked over at a man who was talking to himself; I wondered out loud what he was doing.  My dinner companions informed me that he was talking on his cell phone, and I asked, ‘What’s a cell phone?’”

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In spite of all that had changed in the world, Lenroy was able to get his life back together. He began attending the Stafford SDA Church in 2004 and transferred his membership to the Woodbridge SDA Church in 2007.   His journey has taken him in many directions, but now he feels a call to walk down a road he’s all too familiar with—the road to prison.

 

“I actually started my ministry in prison,” said Chapman. “I started giving Bible studies to my fellow inmates. I eventually created a program called Second Chance, directed at juvenile delinquents who were sent to prison.  In addition, I spent time in the commissary with the sick people, some who were ready to give up on life. I even had guards who would ask me to pray with them.”

 

With the help of Hector Cruz, the Director of Potomac Prison Ministry, Chapman is continuing his ministry.

 

“As a former inmate, I can relate to the feelings these inmates are experiencing.  I know their fear, their loneliness, their pain.  I also know the Peace that can only come from knowing Jesus and I will share that Peace with every soul I possibly can.  I would invite anyone who is able to join me in this crusade to save souls – it’s what Jesus has called us to do – to save all those who still need to be set free,” said Chapman.


By Dan Jensen

Photos by Aaron Cheney

 

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written by Mark Pelham, March 06, 2013
I think this is a very inspiring story, one that can uplift the hopes of not only people in prison, but people on the other side of the walls as well.

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