Happy #FreedomFriday, readers!
As you may be aware, we’ve spent the last month introducing our team of Freedom Fighters. Each member of our LMDJ team has been answering the same five questions so you can get to know us. So far we’ve introduced Paul Robinson, Ramelia Williams, Benjamin Vazquez, and Dominique DuBois Gilliard. Today it is our pleasure to introduce you to the one our team refers to as #bestinternever. As far as interns go, we won the jackpot with Lydia Vander Stelt. Here’s a bit more about Lydia:
A bit about Lydia’s life outside of LMDJ:
I am incredibly passionate about the work I do – so much so, in fact, that I sometimes forget there’s more to me than that! I love to go for runs, watercolor, play piano, and sing. I find peace in the kitchen cooking food and find joy when I can cook for others. I also love to travel and have enjoyed time in Nicaragua, South Africa, and Guatemala. I am currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry through North Park Theological Seminary’s School of Restorative Arts program at Stateville Correctional Center outside of Chicago. It is through this program that my passions for Jesus, justice, theology, faith, anti-racism, growth, and so much more all intersect – and I am so grateful for that community.
A bit about Lydia’s job within LMDJ:
I came on board with LMDJ just as I was transitioning from my undergrad program to graduate program. I spent summer of 2019 researching prison reentry practices in higher education institutions and had an opportunity to apply some of my research approaches to looking at reentry practices within the church through LMDJ. COVID hit and the original plan for my time with LMDJ shifted, but I believe the result of a self-guided “Criminal Justice and the Church” course has been timely and Spirit-led. After listening to those impacted by mass incarceration (and reading Dominique Gilliard’s book of course), it became clear to me that the Church hasn’t done enough to pursue our mission in Isaiah 61:1. This course highlights voices that are engaged in this work whether they were formerly incarcerated, work in the criminal justice system, and/or are involved in these issues within their church community. It is my hope that this course equips and empowers churches to understand the issues of the criminal justice system and discern ways of engagement beyond the course applicable to their context. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in the course!
One (or two😉) of Lydia’s Freedom-Fighting she/heroes:
Bryan Stevenson of Equal Justice Initiative is one of my biggest heroes. Visiting EJI a few times and reading Just Mercy solidified the calling in my life to equally pursue freedom for my sisters and brothers who are incarcerated. Right up there is Angela Davis – I am always learning more about myself and this world through her writings, conversations, and lectures. But above Bryan Stevenson and Angela Davis are my Freedom Fighting classmates at Stateville. They inspire me every single day to do my absolute best, to seek the humanity of everyone I encounter, and to love deeply as Jesus did here on this earth.
One (or two😉) social media account(s) Lydia thinks everyone should follow:
@ChasingJustice and @sandravanopstal. I love, listen, and learn better because of the voices, thoughts, ideas, and questions these two accounts amplify.