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Crystal Cathedral

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Guest Interviews

Ken Cooper

Edited By NA

2061 08/02/09

Many years ago, Ken Cooper (KC) lived a seemingly normal life with a wife and two children while working as a publicity director for a Christian college. No one knew that Ken was living a double life as a felon. Ken robbed his first bank in the late sixties and by the late seventies, he had robbed numerous banks. After being shot and captured, Ken served his time in prison and it was there that he found redemption. Today, Ken ministers to prisoners around the country in this orange jumpsuit that says "Prisoner of Hope" on it. He has chronicled his journey in his memoir, "Held Hostage: A serial bank robber's road to redemption." Today Sheila Schuller Coleman (SSC) interviews Ken, and Dr. Schuller (RHS) joins them.

SSC: Now it's my honor to interview an amazing guest; his name is Ken Cooper. Ken lived a very normal life, in fact he might have been the man next door with a wife and children, and working as the publicity director for a Christian college. And what nobody knew was he was living this whole secret life as a serial bank robber. He would actually carry a gun, take women as hostages and would rob these banks and nobody knew. They thought he was a Christian man, they thought he was a Christian father and husband. But then he was caught and I'm going to let Ken continue to tell the story. His book is, "Held Hostage: A Serial Bank Robber's Road To Redemption." It's an amazing book. Please welcome with me, Ken Cooper. So Ken I've given them the set up so they know you are a bank robber now, which is..

KC: I'm so embarrassed.

SSC: ..unbelievable, and it sounds like this very glamorous life but as you've said crime does not pay because on that one fateful day, your last attempt to rob a bank, tell them what happened.

KC: I was leaving Carolwood Exchange Bank in North Tampa. It was the last of all the banks that I had robbed and as usual I had taken a hostage; I regret that. Even when I hear myself say it, it just hurts and I think of the victims and I think of all the people I've hurt and crime definitely doesn't pay, not for anyone. I couldn't even spend the money.

SSC: Right, that's what you said.

KC: You know if you have a lot of cash there's no way to spend it. It was really insanity. It was an addiction that drove me so that when this really deep craving for the adrenaline rush, the superman mode, when that would overtake me then I would go out and I would plan very carefully, make sure I knew everything that I needed to know in order to pull it off, but still very often take a toy gun. Because the greater the risk, the greater the absurdity, the greater the stage and the greater the rush and so it was crazy, but thank God, He rescued me.

SSC: But that last time, that last bank attempt, you were nearly killed.

KC: Yes the bullet came from the gun of a trained shooter. I saw that he was a trained person by the way he was standing and holding the gun but I was so deceived by Satan by that time that I thought I was invincible. So I had my nine millimeter in one hand and the bag of money in the other and as I was leaving I thought he would just kind of melt and I would rush on past him to the getaway car. But he shot me through the outer glass and the bullet just missed my heart. Later on I had it extracted; I had a friendly reminder for several years.

SSC: Yes I'm sure you did. And then you ended up in jail.

KC: Yes.

SSC: And there you were, at that point a non-Christian.

KC: Yes.

SSC: But that's where you received Jesus, and you got to know Jesus. It was, as I put it, in the depths of hell is where you met Jesus. How ironic is that? God says that in the scripture, "Nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ." So tell us how you met Jesus.

KC: Not only that, but it was on what some people call the devil's day. It was October 31..st

SSC: Oh wow, right.

KC: ..when the Lord Jesus Christ came into my heart, as I asked Him to wash me in His blood. I had actually made fun of the blood of Christ when I was thirteen years of age and saw my father cry out at a mourner's bench at a little church. He had been asking God to wash him in Jesus' blood. The blood sacrifice made no sense to me, but finally, obviously I was humbled and I cried out and a peace came over me that I can't describe but was very real.

SSC: Now here you are a real Christian.

KC: Yes.

SSC: But you are in the lion's den, as they called it, and it was in horrific, horrific circumstances. And then you thought when they transferred you to the Rock, from jail to prison, you thought oh my goodness maybe now it will get better but it was even worse at the Rock.

KC: Yes. I don't know if you can, as you're seeing me, if you can understand the terror that I had put people through, that same terror I was now facing. And I stood at the gate to this place called the Rock at Raeford Florida, a place where fifty men were murdered that year. One convict would murder another. Continual brutality of all sorts, I won't describe it.

SSC: Right.

KC: It's beyond description. The depth and the darkness to which people can go.

SSC: I'm reading this book and it's like reading a novel, it was just gripping. I would like to pick up and read this page for everybody:

"A smile inched across my lips as I peered down at the shoebox in my right hand. It was smaller than my father's lunch bucket. That shoe box contained all my possessions after forty-six years of living. I stared at the contents: my bible, a daily devotional book by Robert Schuller.." by Robert Schuller? I had no idea that dad was in here. It was just so heart warming to read that and my eyes filled with tears to think that our ministry would have reached out to you there. We just planted those seeds, we just sowed those seeds and God made sure that it made its way to you. "A few scraps of paper, a pencil without an eraser and that was it." And the fact of all those things you would choose dad's book.

KC: This was my best friend in prison.

SSC: That's what you write.

KC: I was standing at the gate and I had this book in my hands and the evil eyes that were looking down at me from that horrible place, the flesh merchants as they were called, they would buy and sell a man in the forty steps it would take to get from the gate to the cell block. And I hate to say it, but I was bought by somebody in my walk. Reliving that is just..

SCC: It's hard, it's hard..

KC: ..incredible.

SSC: But you were saying that there was a point where you were almost going crazy because of the depression and you had nobody to talk to so you turned this book over, because dad's picture, you could see it once upon a time, wasn't it on the back? And according to the story, you said you talked to him. You talked to him, and you called him Schuller and he became your friend there in prison.

KC: May I talk to Dr. Schuller?

SSC: Please, I would love it.

KC: Dr. Schuller, I dreamed of this moment that I would meet you, that I would be able to somehow express my great love for you and my appreciation for you. I just really can't do it but now this is Schuller. See this is Schuller here and you're Dr. Schuller.

RHS: What happened to this book?

KC: Well..

RHS: Oh!

KC: ..he did some hard time in prison, I think is part of what happened. But Schuller was right there with me and on May the 17th of the year when I was brand new at the Rock and I was in this horrible depression where for a week I didn't eat, I didn't take a shower and I smelled like the people that repulsed me. It was then that I picked up this book for the first time and I said ‘Schuller you've never been in any trouble in your life, you don't know anything about lock up. What can you say for me?'

So I put it back down and then the depression got worse and I picked it back up and I said, ‘okay Schuller, I'll give you another chance.' So I opened it up to May the 17th and I laughed when I saw what it was. I don't know, now this is many years ago you wrote this book. But on May the 17th it says: "God's Prosperity" and I said wow of all things! But then it says, "Light is sown for the Godly and joy for the good" and you said why don't you form your own "Why Not Club?"

RHS: Yes.

KC: So I did. I appointed myself president of my own why not club and when I read the scripture it said "return to the stronghold you prisoners of hope and I will return to you double."

SSC: Wow.

KC: And I claimed it. And I said thank you, Schuller, I'm a prisoner of hope. And that's why I wear this orange outfit. If I may, I'd like to give you a book and I'd like to read this dedication to you. "To Dr. Schuller, in this book you will meet my best friend, Schuller, who was there for me in prison when I needed a possibility thinker. You will relate to his daily power thoughts. You wrote them, you should relate."

RHS: This is your book?

KC: Yes sir.

RHS: Thank you.

KC: Thank you, sir, I'm so honored.

SSC: I just want to say with Ken at my side, I want to thank all of you, those who have supported our ministry through your donations and your prayers, because this is what has happened to seeds that have been sown. And it wouldn't be possible without you. We are partnering to save lives for Jesus Christ.

KC: In prison.

SSC: In prison, and today, you know, this story doesn't end there because Ken was miraculously released before his life sentence of 99 years. He was miraculously released and he now has his own ministry. Please tell us about your ministry, Ken.

KC: Yes, it's called Ken Cooper Prison Ministries. My wife June and I, she's really the strength of my life other than the Lord Jesus Christ. I met her while I was in prison. Her son was there innocently. June and I both had the same vision and we called it Adam: Adopt-A-Man. And now through the years, through these twenty something years now, through ministries that we have formed, more than two thousand men have been adopted coming out of prison and only one out of ten returns to prison.

SSC: That's an amazing, amazing statistic.

KC: So to God be the glory and praise.

SSC: To God be the glory, yes.

KC: Thank you.

SSC: Thank you, Ken. My brother in Christ.

KC: Thank you. Thank you so much.

SSC: God bless you in your ministry.

KC: God bless you.

© Copyright Hour of Power 2009. This interview was conducted by Sheila Schuller Coleman from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and aired on the Hour of Power August 2, 2009.

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