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How a Potomac Member Found God During a 91-year Prison Sentence
Story by Dan Jensen
As the metal door clanged shut and the solitude of “the hole”—as it was known by the prisoners at the Staunton (Va.) Correctional Center—started to settle in, the warden’s words continued to ring in his ears: “I know you believe in God. Well, this is going to test your faith. We’ll see you in 60 days.”
He never expected his life to turn out like this. Born in 1957 to a hard working family man, Lenroy Chapman, now a member of Potomac Conference’s Woodbridge (Va.) church and an active conference Prison Ministries member, watched his father work hard to care for him, his nine brothers and four sisters. His father was not only a custodian for the National Bank, a job he held for 30 years, he also owned Chapman’s Bicycle Shop in Fredericksburg, Va.
As a teenager in the late 60s and early 70s, Chapman found himself surrounded by drugs. Temptations grew, and with prodding from his younger brother, Curt, the two soon started stealing from homes to help fund their drug habit. When those items failed to fully satisfy their growing addictions, Curt purchased a pistol, which they used to hold up grocery stores in neighboring towns. One thing led to another, and before he could comprehend the level of his crimes, Lenroy and Curt started holding up banks up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
The FBI started watching Curt’s home in 1980, then finally arrested him in Dumphries, Va. Lenroy got away, however, and ran to Bowling Green, Va., where he continued his life of crime. His luck ran out one year later, caught by the police after holding up a bank in Triangle, Va. He can still remember the judge declaring, “I hereby sentence Lenroy Chapman to 91 years of confinement, to be served out in the state of Virginia!”
Life “on the inside,” as Lenroy calls it, was a life filled with fear. “You never knew when someone was going to come up from behind and stab or hurt you,” he explains. “The only peace I found was in my prison cell, locked away from the other prisoners.”
After two or three years, Lenroy knew he couldn’t live the rest of his life with this fear. “I heard there was someone named Pastor Neil from the Triangle Lutheran Church who came to meet with the prisoners,” he recalls. “I felt something tell me to start studying with him. When I did, I finally found peace against the storms. I truly believe finding God saved me from committing suicide.”
In what Lenroy believes was a mistake by the prison system, he was granted parole in late February 1991, just 10 years after his sentencing. He was a week away from release, preparing for life “on the outside,” when his grandmother passed away. Lenroy received a day pass to attend the funeral, but “I knew something wasn’t right,” he said. “I felt it as I left the prison.” He would soon find out just how bad things were about to get.
CLICK HERE to read more of Chapman’s story at the Potomac Conference website.
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