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Ardis and Clarke Chapman

Activist Couples Are Powerful Teams

This article originally appeared in the January 2010 Newsletter.

Ending hunger and poverty has been a lifelong commitment for Bread for the World member Clarke Chapman. “If some cannot feed themselves and their families,” he says, “no one can deny it’s an urgent need. Helping hungry people has a powerful appeal.”

Clarke grew up in Los Angeles during World War II. It was a time of exclusion for Japanese and Mexican immigrants and others. “I grew up hearing my father, a Methodist minister, preach. His sermons were steeped in social concern for those who struggled,” Clarke remembers.

Clarke’s wife, Ardis, was also raised in a Methodist church, in Michigan, with an atmosphere of community service. “When I hear about a person or a group that cuts down hierarchies and levels the playing field, my antenna still goes up,” she says today.

That confluence of beliefs led Clarke and Ardis to join Bread for the World as two of our earliest members. They were attracted to Bread’s powerful blend of Christian motivation and public response. In 2004, the Chapmans decided to include Bread in their will. After their three children are taken care of, a percentage of their estate will go to Bread and two charities whose missions reflect the couple’s values.

In 2005, the Chapmans joined our Baker’s Dozen monthly giving program. “There is so much to do to fix the world,” Ardis says. “We have found Bread’s approach to be most effective.”

For many years now, Clarke has conducted an Offering of Letters each spring at the couple’s home church, Wesley United Methodist Church in Bethlehem, PA.

Bread regional organizer Larry Hollar reports, “Clarke has been a trusted partner for decades. He’s one I can turn to when I need a special call made to Capitol Hill or some letters to go to Congress. Clarke travels each year to Allentown, PA, to attend the Offering of Letters workshop, where he asks great questions and shares helpful insights born of his years leading the activity at his church.”

Ardis is very active in advocacy efforts both inside and outside Wesley United Methodist. She sees this work as an act of faith, taking a leadership role in initiatives such as “Vote Out Poverty,” “Shower of Stoles,” and other efforts focused on inclusiveness. She also supports Clarke’s direct service to Bread.

“In my experience,” Hollar says, “the strongest activist couples are those who do it together, prayerfully. They work as a team. One may be the stronger activist for Bread—but in these cases, we’re always grateful for the sacrifice the more ‘silent’ partner is making. There are many other things they could be doing together, but one member of the couple is supportively releasing the other to serve.”

People of faith using their energy and compassion to bring about change for hungry people: that’s the heart of Bread for the World, and that’s what Ardis and Clarke Chapman demonstrate so effectively.

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