Do you ever wonder what you would tell yourself if you could travel back in time? A few months after I graduated in 1997, I was getting to know Calvin alumni director Mike Van Denend. I was serving on the Calvin Spring Classic 5K race committee, and Mike’s deep knowledge of Calvin and the fact he seemed to know almost everyone on the planet impressed me. I always read Mike’s columns in Spark and admired his passion for Calvin and its alumni.
Would I have believed back in 1997 that one day I would be here writing this column? Who, me?
Yet here I am, grateful and blessed for the opportunity to serve as Calvin’s director of alumni engagement. It’s remarkable to see how God crafted and prepared me for this moment in time.
As I recall my career goals after graduating, writing articles like this was never on the list. Now I find myself using yet another one of the invaluable skills I learned as a Calvin student. I think of my speech class with Debra Buursma, or English 100 with Susan Felch. Those courses weren’t a part of my business major, yet I marvel again at how Calvin prepared me.
One common element of my career is connecting with people. When I worked in banking, I thrived making connections with clients. I joined the planned giving team at Calvin in 2012, and in that role, I formed meaningful relationships with cherished supporters of Calvin.
My enjoyment of connecting with people isn’t limited to my professional career. More often than not, our family is the last to leave events. “Dad’s still talking to someone” is the phrase accompanied by an eye roll that only two teenage daughters can provide.
As I begin this new adventure, I sincerely look forward to connecting with you. We each have a story that makes us unique, just as God intended. Yet we all share a common thread that connects us in ways that ordinary life might not—this place called Calvin University.
I look forward to hearing from you how Calvin impacted your life. Even in these first few months, I’m delightfully surprised to learn of the amazing things our alumni are doing all over the world. Calvin has been affecting lives for generations. I’m honored to now help share and tell your stories so that all of us can see God’s handiwork in action.
HOW DID GOD USE YOUR TIME AT CALVIN TO DRAW YOU CLOSER TO HIM?
QUESTION FOR YOU
Calvin students and alumni like you have great stories, ideas, and memories. In the upcoming issues of Spark, we’ll ask you a question and then print some of the responses. You’re invited to answer a question for the next issue—find the question and instructions below.
Throughout my time at Calvin, I was exposed to people from different backgrounds and walks of life—these were professors, faculty members, and students living and studying side by side with me, all who pushed me to think about my faith in a variety of different ways. Through these friends and mentors, I was able to truly dive into my faith through different perspectives and backgrounds because Calvin encouraged me to think about what I believed, not just to blindly believe. Questions, doubts, and thoughts were encouraged compared to looked down on, and I found a community I was fully welcomed into, no matter where I was in my faith journey. – Hannah Van’t Hof ’20 Grand Rapids, Mich.
Lots of things at Calvin encouraged my faith, but probably the most powerful was the experience of being a resident assistant in Kalsbeek-Huizenga. The community of the dorm staff, the responsibility of leadership, and the mentoring of our resident director, Tom Steenwyk, combined to teach me many lessons of faith and discipleship. – Barb Howerzyl Bulthuis ’92 Longmont, Colo.
Throughout my time at Calvin, I was encouraged in my faith through exploratory learning of Christian doctrine and faith traditions. My professors encouraged diverse opinions in the classroom to facilitate thoughtful discussions on matters ranging from the concept of free will to the written history of John’s gospel. I found myself utilizing this conversational approach in relationships with friends and family where discussions of faith became commonplace and our collective relationships with God were strengthened. God used Calvin to equip me to listen to his voice and pursue empathetic dialogue that affirms others’ humanity. – Emerson Silvernail ’20 Byron Center, Mich.
I came to Calvin College in ’55 as a 17-year-old with a distorted view on God’s calling to ministry. With three close encounters with death as a teenager, I felt that God was calling me to something special in terms of vocation. Such callings were associated with preachers, teachers, and missionaries from my perspective.
In a Bible class entitled “Calvinism X,” Professor John Bratt clearly represented a “rubber meets the road” type of theology by inviting guests from various professions to address the class. In effect, these people identified themselves as ministers of Jesus Christ working as doctors, teachers, contractors, plumbers, farmers, electricians, engineers, and the like. My view of calling changed significantly and the Bible seemed to speak to me more clearly of Jesus who was the source of life transformation and world renewal rather than mere theological rhetoric. He is Lord of all. – Duanne (Bob) Korthuis ’59 Billings, Mont.
I am thankful for my professors whose faith in God and testimony in the classroom to God’s sovereignty helped me come to apprehend and worship a big God. We were challenged to go into the world to serve God, to build the Kingdom, to have a transforming influence. I am thankful for that vision, and much more. – Ron Polinder ‘68 Lynden, Wash.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
We’re curious: Do you have a story about a Calvin professor who went above and beyond? We all know Calvin professors are excellent teachers, going to great lengths for their students. Did one do that for you? Let us know your story in a few sentences by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.