All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

This mom didn’t tell you. She showed you!

It happened in a matter of seconds, but I never forgot it. 

It was a summer evening on a country road in northern lower Michigan. A man who owned his own semi-tractor had parked the big rig in the driveway of their home. He and his little boy were standing there, admiring its size and beauty I suppose. From the street you could see the man walk up to the truck, give the tire a kick, then spit. Moments later, the little boy walked up, gave the tire a kick, then spitted on the ground as well. 

It was a reminder to me as a parent that, like it or not, we lead by example. 

In the many kind and loving condolences that we are receiving in the wake of Marcia’s passing, those people behind bars really get the picture. Typical of the many comments we receive from incarcerated men and women is this quote to Matt: “I trust, that the good in you, you learned from your mom to do the kind of work you do." 

As our kids were growing up, they didn’t hear any instructions about being kind to others. They saw their mother, as a hospice nurse, get up in the middle of the night to be at the bedside of a dying patient. They didn’t see her sitting in the church pew with arms folded, grumbling and complaining about what the church could and should be doing. They saw her, in an official position as an elder, calling on women with problems that just couldn’t be discussed with a man. They didn’t hear pious comments about how Jesus loves people of all colors. They saw her welcome an itinerant black preacher into our home for a Sunday dinner. They saw her defy the guards and walk up to a shackled black prisoner and give him a hug.” 

It’s no surprise that all four of our offspring are in the people business. Her simple counsel was, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” 

And so, parents, take a lesson from Marcia: Be careful what tire you kick. Be careful where you spit. Somebody’s watching! 

RIP, Sweetie! Te Amo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Marcia Tjapkes, 1937 – 2022

To say that she was the “wind beneath my wings” would be an understatement. Almost an insult. 

While I was the young wannabe “pillar of the community” running a local radio station, traveling around the world with musicians, and serving on a variety of boards, committees and commissions, someone had to keep the home fires burning. Our four wonderful kids and our nine delightful grandchildren are a testament to Marcia’s incredible parenting skills. 

Once the kids started growing up and the radio stations were history, Marcia Tjapkes sprouted her own wings. A registered nurse with innate medical skills, she went on to become one of the early certified hospice nurses in our county. She was a natural for that position, and for years provided compassion and assistance to men and women, along with their loved ones, in the final chapters of their lives. 

After that she obtained another certification and became the first Parish Nurse in her church. Having earlier served as the church’s first female elder, she was well aware of the many ways a Parish Nurse could be of invaluable assistance. 

While the late Maurice Carter gets the credit for the idea, and while I get the credit for its founding, I think it’s safe to say that there wouldn’t be a HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS had it not been for Marcia’s perceptive medical skills. She arguably saved Maurice’s life while he was still in prison. 

Maurice was unaware that he was in the final stages of Hepatitis C...prison doctors never bothered to inform him that he had the disease. Then, one day he had a serious medical emergency in his cell, and his bunkie called our house. Marcia accepted the collect call, and immediately recognized the symptoms. Healthcare had already given Maurice some aspirin and returned him to his cell. Marcia insisted that his roommate get emergency assistance stat. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance, and his life was saved. 

Only God knows how many lives she touched in her own quiet way. Family and friends are well aware of how she touched our lives. 

The last years of her life became difficult and complicated, as she lost both physical and mental capabilities. 

That all ended late Saturday night when the message of Easter was no longer just a beautiful Bible became a reality! 

What a life! What a woman! What a wife! What a mother! 

RIP, Sweetie. Te Amo! I’ll see you soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

On Easter and forgiveness, or lack thereof

Our pastor recently completed a sermon series for Lent on the topic of forgiveness. I’m so happy that I could hear those inspiring messages on Sunday, because in my world, I don’t hear much about forgiveness on weekdays. 

When we ask for forgiveness as we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we piously promise God that we, too, will “forgive those who trespass against us.” But when the prayer is over, and real-life situations develop, we seem to forget all about that vow. 

-Families and loved ones of crime victims refuse to forgive the perpetrator, arguing that the victim doesn’t get a second chance. Why should that person who committed the crime have such an opportunity? 

-Readers and viewers of crime stories in the news express their anger and disgust. “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key,” or, “I’d be the first one to throw the switch” on the electric chair. 

-Prosecutors and judges, while ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to resentence those prisoners who received life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, resist at every turn. Regardless of how undeveloped the brain was at the time of the crime, regardless of how lengthy stays in prison have changed lives, acts and thoughts of forgiveness are elusive. Revenge and retribution reign. 

In this business, we hear stories of no forgiveness every day. 

Somehow, we didn’t pay much attention to some important Easter week stories. 

We weren’t listening when Jesus asked the Father to forgive a bunch of brutal, cruel soldiers who whipped him, teased him and spat on him: “...for they know not what they do.” 

We didn’t really pay any attention to Jesus’ last-minute pardon of a hardened criminal on the cross next to him: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Yet, we’re not ashamed or embarrassed to freely accept the forgiveness we received when death was defeated some 2,000 years ago. 


I pray that the message of Easter, 2022, finally makes an impact.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

There ARE some good prisoner stories! Here's one.

There was something different about Tayrone. 

We see promising futures for many Michigan prisoners whom we serve, hoping for a second chance. But HFP CEO Matt Tjapkes saw a brighter spark in this new client of ours. 

Tayrone had been involved in an armed robbery at the age of 19. He knew he did wrong, and entered a plea of guilty. A judge gave him 8-20 years. But, a life of crime was not in the cards for Tayrone. No sirree. Once outta there, he was going to get a proper education and make something of himself. 

Matt caught that desire in his interaction with the man. Tayrone had set his sights on the University of Michigan. Yep, when he caught a parole, that’s where he wanted to be (Tayrone and a whole lot of other kids. Not everyone just gets accepted at a major university, especially the U of M!). 

It was a gamble, one that Matt felt was worth it. He contacted a former HFP board member who, in an earlier life, had been an instructor at the U of M Medical School. Matt simply put the two together, with a request to our guy that, if he, too, saw a strong possibility of success, perhaps he could help. 

And that’s exactly what happened. 

As those two men communicated, our retired prof caught that same promise for the future. His first step was to speak with a Parole Board rep, who agreed that if this young man managed to get accepted at the University of Michigan, a parole was almost assured. 

Strings were pulled and, miracle of miracles, Tayrone was accepted! The Parole Board, in turn, granted him a parole after serving his minimum. Now it was the parolee’s turn to prove himself. 

To the consternation of his supporters, Tayrone not only jumped in with both feet, taking on a full load at the U of M, but he got a job as well. There were bills to pay. Could he possibly survive? 

He did, and with flying colors! He graduated from the University of Michigan, launched a new career and went on his way. We never did hear back from him. But, that happens. After all, of those ten lepers Jesus healed, only one came back to say “thank you.” 

It’s a good story. Perfect for Holy Week. We’re proud to tell it!