Dispatches from Handlon Campus

Hello everyone,

It’s me (Kris with a K) here at the Handlon Campus. I had a wonderful experience this evening and I was hoping to share it with all of you. As you might know, the Handlon Campus is home to the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI) program, a fully accredited Bachelor Degree program designed to facilitate positive, productive cultural change within the prison system. This vocation is not an easy undertaking by any means. The prison system, as all Calvin students understand, is created by men in a fallen world, and consequently the system has its challenges and obstacles which the CPI staff work hard to overcome. Hence, I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all of them for their day-to-day hard work, love, support and commitment.

On behalf of all of the CPI students, I would like to give a special thank you to the Handlon Tabernacle Choir director, Professor Epp, who facilitated an event this evening which most of the men here will not soon forget. To our amazement, Professor Epp was able to bring in the Calvin Gospel Choir, and they brought the house down with their undeniable talent and infectious, positive energy. I have been incarcerated for over 20 years, and I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun — we danced, we sang, we worshiped Jesus and our lives were enriched by fellowship with our fellow students from the main campus. There was no doubt that the Holy Spirit blessed all of us with His presence throughout that event.

Before the event ended, we were able to spend a few minutes chatting with our new friends from the Gospel Choir. I asked a few of them, “How did you feel coming into the facility for your first time?” They told me that they were excited and happy to be here with us. My heart was filled with joy to hear these university students say they were not plagued with anxiety, fear or apprehension, considering they were coming into a prison. In addition, we spoke about being Calvin students and shared some of our experiences concerning the difficulties of the rigorous coursework. It was fun: I laughed, they smiled, we shook hands, and most of all I was able to remember my humanity while recognizing theirs.

Thank you, Calvin community, for the gift of knowing what it feels like to be treated as a human once again and not just another number.

Kristopher B. Stidham