By Glen Doss, Major
Police were close on his tail as Daniel Chapman dashed into the trailer park. Talking rapidly on his cell phone, he peered out into the night. The ringleader—who had previously coerced him at gunpoint—urged him to go for it. “I’m out front; it’s all clear!” he said.
Sure enough, as Daniel bolted from his hiding place, he spotted the fellow waving him to his car. But, suddenly, out of the corner of one eye, he glimpsed a police officer and stopped dead in his tracks.
“I was scared,” he said. “And I was searching for an escape from my way of life. Looking back, I realize that—except for when I accepted Christ—the day I was arrested was the best one of my life.”
At age 20, Daniel was sick and tired of using drugs, burglarizing stores and stealing automobiles—a way of life he hated and yet seemed destined for.
Daniel’s alcoholic father had beat him, his two older brothers and their mother, which was the reason she left him and rescued her sons when Daniel was 4. In Santa Clarita, Calif., he became attached to his stepfather. “Our relationship was awesome!” he said. But when he was 13, the marriage ended in divorce.
As Daniel later watched his mother and brothers turn to drugs, he increasingly isolated himself in his room. When his mother introduced him to methamphetamines, Daniel thought the activity would bring them closer together, but instead she fought with them more.
When Daniel was 17, his mother was evicted from her home for failing to pay the rent. She turned to her drug dealer for help.
“She told me I could not move in because I was underage,” Daniel said. “As I watched her go into the house I started bawling, because I didn’t know what to do.”
A short time later, Daniel’s brother Ricky was released from jail. The two hung out together, sleeping in the city park. They collected and sold recyclables for food and drugs until a stranger conned them into burglarizing stores and stealing cars. His brother was jailed again, and Daniel badly wanted out of the arrangement but was afraid of the ringleader.
“When I was arrested, I confessed to all charges,” Daniel said. His dorm representative in the Kern County jail suggested he read the Bible, and Daniel was captivated by the book. He said on Oct. 16, 2008, “I laid the Bible in front of me in my cell and prayed, ‘God, if you’re real, I need confirmation. Please show me a new way of life.’ Then I opened my Bible randomly to Psalm 46 and read: For God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. And I read on: Be still and know that I am God. At that moment I asked God into my life. A calmness came over me, a great feeling of peace. I got goose bumps.”
Soon afterward Daniel heard fellow inmates share how The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Program helped people change their lives. When LeeVale Butler, the Riverside County Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) intake coordinator, came to address the inmates, Daniel pummeled him with questions. In April 2009, Daniel checked into the ARC.
Seeking to be a part of something greater, Daniel became an adherent of the Murrieta Corps. Upon completing the ARC program in October 2009, he applied for the San Bernardino Corps’ Pathways to Prosperity program and eventually enrolled in San Bernardino Valley College, studying aeronautics.
Daniel is now in the last semester of the program leading to an Airframe and Powerplant license. He was enrolled as a Salvation Army soldier at the San Bernardino Corps in November 2011 and takes an active role in youth ministry, leading the Adventure Corps program.
“I try to be a positive role model for the kids from broken homes,” he said. “I tell them they don’t have to go down the path I took.
“As God was changing me at the ARC, it struck me that if I can change, others also can,” Daniel said. “ Today my mother is clean and sober and also active in Christian ministry.”
He said he resented his dad—who died while Daniel was in jail—for how he treated his family. But, Daniel’s brother told him, their dad loved them, was sorry for everything that he ever did, and truly changed his life. Daniel said he has closure today.
“When my brother told me that, it was all I needed to hear,” he said. “I surrendered all the resentments I was holding toward my dad.”