For a decade, members of Reformed churches in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois traveled to the Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois, for worship services on Sundays. But the volunteers saw that the residents needed more. One of the prisoners volunteered, “We need systematic theology.”
A model for filling this need existed at the Angola Prison in Louisiana, a state penitentiary with a population of around 6,000 prisoners. The New Orleans Baptist Seminary had opened a satellite campus at Angola in 1995. The men who completed this seminary program began to transform the environment in this maximum-security prison. Since the beginning of the seminary in Angola Prison, violence has gone down by 65%. There are now seven prison chapels, staffed by prisoners, the largest of which seats 800 people.
From this inspiring example, the spring of 2012 witnessed the inauguration of the first campus of Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary within the Danville Correctional Center in Illinois. Rev. Nathan Brummel was called to be the first professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament. At its September 2013 meeting, the board unanimously approved a motion to create a Study Center at the maximum security Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. The Lord blessed the work at the Indiana State Prison and, in order to meet the demands of the new campus, the board called Rev. Ken Anema as the second full-time faculty member, teaching the Old Testament and Hebrew.
The Lord continued to open doors. Requests were made to start study centers at two more sites in Indiana. By the fall of 2015, Divine Hope began offering classes at the Westville Correctional Center in Westville, Indiana, and at the Rockville (Women’s) Correctional Facility in Rockville, Indiana. To support this doubling of campuses, Rev. Paul Ipema accepted the position of Professor of Ministerial Studies.
In 2017 the Lord opened the door for the seminary to begin a study center at the maximum security Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Orland Park, Illinois called the Rev. Brett Mahlen to pastor members of their church who were in prison. Rev. Mahlen, while supported by Covenant OPC and home missions of the OPC, is the fourth full-time faculty member of the seminary.
Divine Hope is a 501c3 non-profit organization governed by a Board of Trustees. We do not receive financial support from any of the students we serve nor from the Departments of Corrections in Indiana and Illinois.