Revelation 21 presents a vision of a new, fully restored heaven and earth. As Christians, we eagerly look forward to the day when that will be realized. This belief led to the creation of the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI), a partnership between Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary. This unique program provides a Christian liberal arts education to inmates at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, and Kuyper College is proud to participate in it.
Current and former Kuyper professors Andrew Zwart and Dr. Judi Meerman serve as educators in the program. “I’ve taught writing classes every year that the program has been in existence,” said Andrew Zwart. The five-year program yields a Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvin University in Faith and Community Leadership, but its ultimate goal is to change the hearts of its students. This focus matches the positioning statement of Kuyper College, Bringing God’s Grace into Today’s Culture. “It fits well with Kuyper’s strengths,” said Zwart.
CPI is driven by the belief that because every person is created in the image of God, all people deserve dignity and respect. This creates an environment where students can step outside their identity as inmates and into an entirely new way of being. “For these guys, being a student brings a real sense of pride. They work to live into that, which means reading, studying and working hard,” said Zwart. “Experiencing hope, dignity and the opportunity for real accomplishment helps bring about transformation in participants’ lives. The work ethic of these guys and their hunger for education is amazing. They will push you, and you’ve got to be on your A-game.”
CPI recently celebrated its first graduation ceremony, and students are already putting their degrees to good use. Zwart said, “Some of the guys are interested in getting involved with hospice care programs in prison. Part of what they want to do with this degree is to serve others. They really care about the idea of giving back.”
The CPI program is already changing prison culture and bringing about restorative justice. Each life transformed brings more of God’s kingdom to Earth.