By K.J. WEBB
SPREADING THE WORD: Captain Ken Chapman preaching in downtown Tulsa recently at the corner of Second Street and Cheyenne Avenue, where the Salvation Army started in Tulsa in 1906.
GTR Newspapers photo
Since relocating in June 2016 to Tulsa from his command in Jackson, Mississippi, Salvation Army Area Commander and Captain Ken Chapman has formed a strong opinion about the people in the community. He says, “People here are incredibly friendly with an incredible work ethic. It’s very impressive and refreshing.”
Chapman also points out the deep generosity of the metro Tulsa community. “The resources in Tulsa are tremendous, the community is very philanthropic, and the foundations and organizations are very well-run. People are quite attuned to helping each other here in this community,” he says. “We are dealing with human crises every day, and it’s amazing to me how many people here are helping their fellow neighbors in need. It astounds me what people give to us and it speaks so highly of this community that people care so much to give.”
When asked about the differences between the Tulsa Area Command and his previous command in Jackson, Chapman says, “It’s a larger operation with a bigger staff and more responsibilities. I welcome it, and it is a blessing to serve here in Tulsa.”
When asked if there are misconceptions about The Salvation Army, Chapman says, “We are a Christian faith-based organization and make no apologies about that. Over the years I have discovered that there are some that mistakenly think that we discriminate. We do not. We love inclusively, and we serve others without discrimination. We will tell you our message, but you are not required to accept it.”
For 20 years, prior to his full-time work in The Salvation Army, Chapman was president and creative director for Creative Events International and won 22 industry awards as a producer. He was the music producer for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and executive producer for the Atlanta and Barcelona Paralympics Ceremonies. Chapman also produced the Easter Egg Roll for the Bush Administration at the White House in 2006 and produced Santa’s Traveling Workshop, a touring show that brought toys and hope to over 300,000 people affected by hurricane Katrina.
Chapman’s knowledge and experience of event planning and production serves him well in his role as Area Commander. For The Salvation Army, Christmas season is incredibly busy, starts months before the holiday season gets underway and requires tremendous logistical planning.
One of the most recognized Christmas traditions is The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Bell ringing during Christmastime. Chapman heightened the Red Kettle recognition six years ago when he was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records for achieving a new world record for bell ringing. Chapman rang the Salvation Army Red Kettle bell for 36 hours, five minutes and five seconds. “I rang that bell continuously that whole time,” he says. “It brought a lot of attention to the cause and we raised more than $80,000.”
Chapman is no stranger to larger-than-life stunts during the Christmas holidays. Two years ago he rang a bell for another 36 hours in 22 degree weather while standing on a billboard. “It was three stories high, next to I-20. I was tethered to the sign,” Chapman recalles. “I had to go through training to do that one.” Chapman describes the challenges involved, saying “It was not only physical, it was mental. I was so fatigued. Your mind plays tricks on you when you get that cold and tired. I had to pray my way through it near the end. I’m glad to have that one off my bucket list.”
Chapman is continuing his tradition of larger than life stunts and plans to walk 66 miles on Route 66 in 66 hours to raise $66,000. “Route 66 is an icon of Oklahoma and integral to the cultural identity here. I want to do something relevant that would have meaning for the community so I selected Route 66.” Chapman begins his 66-mile journey on Dec. 6, sleeping in a cardboard box by the side of the road and completing the walk on Dec. 9 with a ceremony outside the Center at 6 p.m.
The Christmas stunts are exciting (and challenging), but Chapman emphasizes the focus is always on serving others. “We are dedicated to meeting human needs in Jesus’ name without discrimination, not only during Christmas but throughout the year,” he says.
Chapman offers the “Power of Twelve” program as an example. “Starting in January, we will start the ‘Power of Twelve.’ If an individual will commit to giving $12 a month it would feed a hungry person at our Center of Hope Homeless Shelter three nutritious meals every day for a month. When you multiply that by tens of thousands of individuals giving $12 a month, it makes a tremendously powerful and significant impact on those in our community who need food, shelter and help.” (Many people do not realize that The Salvation Army operates The Center of Hope, the largest homeless shelter in eastern Oklahoma. Last year the Center of Hope served over 330,000 warm nutritious meals to the hungry and homeless.)
Chapman says, “Not only does it take commitment to giving and serving, it takes all of us working hand-in-hand to give a voice to voiceless and direction to those who have lost their way; to give safe haven to the homeless and helpless.”
“My whole life is about what our founder William Booth said in 1910,” Chapman says. “It was Christmastime and The Salvation Army was operating in 80 countries. Booth wanted to send a message by telegraph to all the officers but it was very expensive, so he sent one word, ‘Others’. This is how I want to live my life. I lived the first part of my life for myself. I was a good Salvationist but I was not living for others. But when the Lord anointed me for preaching I knew what I was created to do – what I am doing now. I am working harder than I have ever worked for less money that I have ever made or imagined, but I have found the sweet spot by knowing and doing what God wants from my life. I trust God and know He has my back.”
A fourth generation Salvationist, Chapman was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Music Education at Armstrong/Atlantic University and taught high school band for 10 years where he won over 300 competition awards and was named Teacher of the Year twice during his tenure. He received his Master’s of Music Education and a Master’s in Conducting from Georgia State University.
His wife, Captain Jessie Chapman, Associate Commander of the Tulsa Area Command, is a fifth generation Salvationist, born and raised in the Fort Walton Beach, Florida area. Newspapers will publish a feature article about Captain Jessie Chapman in a future issue.