Ryan, Kyle, Scott Brown and Jeff
Three Buena Vista University students— Kyle Dupic, Jeff Loving and Ryan Scheetz— traveled to Nepal during BVU’s January interim where they attended an outdoor school of leadership and evangelism located near the Himalayan Mountains.
The school, Peak Performance, is part of 212 Degrees, a non-profit organization based out of Minnesota. BVU Chaplain Ken Meissner, who helped the students organize their trip, says Peak Performance is a place for young adults to increase their faith while stretching their physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural limits.
“My hopes were that each student would gain a stronger self-confidence and open their minds and hearts to people much different than they have been exposed to in the past,” says Meissner. “By stretching beyond their Midwestern mind-set, it was my hope they would capture a broader understanding of the many cultural differences, and see God working in ways that would surprise and enrich their personal journey.”
The BVU students were accompanied by two trip leaders, including Scott Brown, founder of 212 Degrees and Peak Performance and two recent college graduates.
According to Meissner, BVU students have been involved with Peak Performance for three years. In 2009, Andrea Ahrendsen Class of 2009 and Molly Myers, who attended BVU from 2006-09, traveled to Nepal as part of the Peak Performance experience.
This year, students had to raise $4,600 each to finance their trip to Nepal. Their fundraising efforts included reaching out to family, friends and local churches. Through Meissner, the students also received grants from the Henry and Lucile Eggink endowment fund.
Peak Performance’s focus on leadership teaches students what leadership is, how to be a successful leader, and how to determine what type of leader they are. “To become an effective leader, I learned that you have to have a lot of patience for everyone and every situation,” says Jeff, a secondary English education major from Albert City, who believes this perspective will be especially helpful as he enters the field of education.
To promote Christianity, the students built relationships and interacted with the Nepalese people throughout their three-week experience. “Most of our down time was spent in conversation with the local people,” says Jeff. “Some conversations were more profound than others, but through every conversation we had the opportunity to share the love of Christ in a practical way.”
In addition to learning about leadership and evangelism, the group visited a community of individuals suffering from leprosy and a human trafficking relief shelter for women. The students’ understanding of world religion also increased as they became more knowledgeable about religious differences and visited Buddhist and Hindu temples.
Kyle, a native of Emmetsburg who graduated from BVU in December with a math education major, says the experience had a profound impact on his future plans. “I hope to continue to work with people of different cultures as well as take this experience into the workplace where I feel most called right now, a pastoral job in a church,” he says.
The students’ physical limits were also tested when the group took a 10-day trek through the Himalayan Mountains. “I learned a lot about how coming together as a team and providing support for each other is vital,” says Ryan, a junior corporate communications major from Omaha, Neb.
The trip to Nepal provided the BVU students with memories that will last a lifetime. Jeff says he will never forget the time he and the group visited a small village on their last evening in Nepal. “While there, the five of us climbed up what seemed to be an unending number of stairs to a small Buddhist stupa where we watched the sunset over the mountains,” he says. “The experience was breathtaking.”
Ryan recalls the day he met and played cards with a man named David. “We met David while we were at a guest house in the mountains,” he says. “His curiosity to hear about Christianity and Jesus Christ was so inspiring to me.”
The BVU students hope to inspire others based on what they took away from their experience at Peak Performance.
“The experience was rewarding because it allowed me to view life in a different manner, in a different location that I was not used to, and also allowed me to discover myself as well as God in the most obscure places,” adds Jeff.
Meissner, who keeps in touch with Brown, says there are already BVU students who have shown interest in traveling to Nepal during the 2013 January interim. Jeff and Ryan also plan to share their experiences and promote the opportunity across campus to spur additional interest in the program.
“It is my hope that a faith-based journey like this will affect the students’ call in life and add a multitude of understanding and a commitment to a walk of life dedicated to peace and justice for all,” adds Meissner.
“We had so many opportunities to learn and grow while we were in Nepal,” says Ryan. “Learning about evangelism and leadership and being able to put learning into a real-life setting was very empowering.”
Jeff, Kyle and Ryan are all active in BVU student organizations. Kyle and Ryan were both members of the 2011 BVU baseball team that placed in the top-four of the NCAA Division III College World Series last year.
This summer, Ryan will travel to South Sudan as a BVU J. Leslie Rollins Fellow to lend support to a refugee camp where he will take donated laptop computers and Bibles and teach English classes.