Letter from Handlon Campus

Hello everyone, my name is Kristopher Bryan Stidham. I’m in my fourth year of Calvin University’s CPI program earning my BA in Faith and Community Leadership. I’m a 44-year-old senior who has made some extremely poor choices in life and, as a result, I have been incarcerated since my nineteenth birthday. While taking that into consideration, I will assume you can imagine the feelings of surprise that engulfed me when I opened The Calvin University Spark Magazine (winter 2022 edition) to page 20 and found a photo of me shaking the hand of Calvin’s 12th President, Dr. Wiebe Boer, here at the Handlon Campus. My photo was only published one other time, in the Allegan County newspaper 22 years ago, which highlighted the worst mistake I’ve ever made and represented the horrible person I was. Therefore, it is fitting that this photo published in the Spark highlights my greatest accomplishments and represents the changed person I am today.

The change came as the result of an opportunity I never expected. I am so thankful and blessed to have this opportunity that I wanted to write and share with you what receiving a second chance means to me. For me, the concept of a second chance can be summed up in one word: “HOPE.” In prison, hope is hard to find, and when you do catch a glimmer of hope, it’s easily smothered by the shadows of suffering and negativity, or it’s pushed out of reach by every conceivable obstacle that an institutional world has to offer.

A second chance means I am able to hope for a future, whether I am in prison or not, simply because I am able to see myself as more than just a prison number. I am able to see myself as a valuable member of a community with skills to make productive and meaningful contributions. Hope for a future gives me the opportunity to identify the purpose of my life. Hope for a future places value on my life and the lives of others and enables me to recognize my humanity and then extend that humanity to others. Hope for a future tells me that I am not a monster, that I am a child of God, and as such I can find forgiveness and redemption. Hope for a future enables me not only to believe in God and second chances, but also to believe in the idea that one day society may forgive me and see the value of my humanity as well. After all, the hope for a future is something we all need in this fallen world where we are in desperate need of a second chance. 

Thank you so very much to the Calvin community for the love, support, and second chance (HOPE) that you have brought not only into my life but the lives of so many men here at the Handlon Campus. I am thankful to have found my place among all of you wonderful people. You have blessed my life in so many ways, and I wanted to say, thank you.