MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
From growing up in a small-town Southern Baptist community in Alabama, to mentoring an entire squadron of destroyer ships, Navy Lt. Stephen Chapman’s life is led by faith.
Chapman grew up in a Christian family involved in their local church in Trussville, Ala. Chapman was almost 8 years old when he decided to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ.
“Faith to me is everything,” Chapman said. “Faith is the number one priority, to have a relationship with my heavenly father, it influences everything that I do, the man that I am every single day.”
Chapman said his faith was tested at the age of 18, when he was given the position of 7th and 8th grade boys Sunday School leader in his home church.
The leadership role was the beginning of his 18 year-long ministry in the church, and an opportunity for Chapman to work with what he is most enthusiastic about — people.
“My passion is always people, to let people know and understand that there is a God who created them, a God who loved them, a God who has a tremendous plan for their life, if they can discover it,” Chapman said.
Chapman felt God calling him to the ministry; he served at five churches in Georgia and Alabama over nearly two decades.
During that time, Chapman married his wife, April, in 1996. They knew each other in high school and years later, decided to start dating. Their marriage has been a rollercoaster, Chapman said. They have fought through the usual pressure and demands being involved with the church consists of, two children and medical issues April was dealing with a few years ago.
“In the midst of all that, we clung to each other and our faith, and eventually God allowed us to figure out what was happening — simple surgery,” Chapman said of his wife’s medical recovery. “We dreamed we would be sitting on the front porch together when we are 90 years old sipping sweet tea together, really sugary sweet tea, holding hands, watching the cool colors of the seasons change. Because we had that dream, we are going to make it through life together no matter what comes our way. That’s my dream.”
A time came when Chapman felt God was calling him to something different. He was looking for different options. He had a Bachelor of Science in marketing and finance from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans.
A friend approached him and introduced the idea of chaplains in the military. Chapman and his wife prayed and decided the Navy was the next chapter of their lives.
He received an endorsement from the North American Mission Board and was commissioned in the Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy in January 2010.
Chapman reported to his first duty station at the Surface Force Ministry Center at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., August 2010. There, he was the chaplain for Destroyer Squadron 1, where he served as the only chaplain for five Navy destroyers and three frigates.
He served three deployments with the unit to the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific.
“The military has given me a new opportunity to share my faith,” Chapman said. “I could say I’m on the front lines now of a different front line — no longer the front line of the local church but the front line of the military.”
Chapman served his sailors, teaching faith and encouraging them to spend time embracing their spiritual needs.
“Every person has a spiritual, physical, emotional side to their life and it’s important no matter who you are to take care of those three elements of your life so you can keep your world balanced and live as a healthy person,” Chapman said.
Chapman was recently assigned as the Headquarters Battalion chaplain aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
“It’s a wonderful new mission field that God has planted me in,” Chapman said. “If this is what God called you to, he’s going to make it fun for you. He’s also going to make it exciting and challenging. He’s going to make it more than you could ever really imagine. You don’t have to separate the two. If that’s what he’s called you to for the rest of your life, to be in the ministry, look at the tools and gifts he’s given you. Give it all you have for the rest of your life.”
From a boy whose heart was devoted to God at a young age, 18 years in church ministry, to a military chaplain, Chapman’s life has been led by his desire to seek hard after his Heavenly Father in any mission field into which he is led.
“Eighteen years in the ministry we look at like the first chapter of our lives God gave us,” Chapman said. “If the Navy will let me stick around for the next 20 or so years of my life, that will be the middle chapter that God has for us. We will see what the last chapter will be when I say goodbye to my military career.”