When Kevin Byerley came to Huntington University as a freshman, he didn’t realize that the world and its cultures would become his training ground.
A native of Fort Wayne, Ind., Kevin skipped down to Huntington for its small, Christian atmosphere. He soon discovered that Huntington was a gateway to countless opportunities to learn and to serve.
With a love of the outdoors and a desire to serve others, Kevin became a recreation management major. Throughout his four years, he took advantage of many off-campus learning opportunities. He went on the annual Urban Plunge trip to Chicago three times, and one year he voluntarily spent a weekend experiencing homeless life on the streets of the Windy City. Kevin also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Indiana, Mississippi and Florida, and he ventured to Honduras and Jamaica on short-term mission trips. He spent time studying outdoor recreation with the Division of Natural Resources in Wabash, Ind., as well as completed an internship in Colorado.
“Because of the many opportunities Huntington University offered me, I was able to get ‘out of my box’ and experience many things that allowed me to grow in my faith,” said Kevin. “Because of those experiences, I have been able to love others in the world more easily and freely. I believe that there is no greater preparation that a school can ever give a student than to teach and provide opportunities which will challenge and stretch them to love as Christ loved.”
Each time Kevin ventured off to a “foreign” area, he came back to Huntington richly blessed by the experiences. “I’m not sure I could begin to explain what a difference each of those experiences made in my life. I can tell you that the opportunities made me realize that God is not just in Indiana or is only for America. I realized that this world is full of human beings I need to love. From each trip I took away more than I ever tried to give. I realized that I am weak and that I had to depend on the Lord for everything. Through these trips, I began to understand how little I was and how big God is.”
Kevin’s on-campus experiences were also life-changing. He appreciated the one-on-one opportunities to talk with professors, and he gained many close friendships on the small, friendly campus.
“The professors constantly walked the walk and talked the talk. They cared about me for who Christ saw me as and not as I was,” recalls Kevin. “The experience was transformational. Huntington University provided a safe place for dangerous growth. I gleaned from the members of the campus community how to be like Jesus. Without the influences of people at Huntington University, my spiritual growth would have forever stayed unchallenged and ‘status quo.’”
Without that vital spiritual and educational growth, Kevin would not be where he is today – doing what he considers “the best job in the world,” he said previsously. As a member of the field staff for an organization called Colorado Uplift and an active ministry participant with Urban Youth Ministries, Kevin passes along the positive influences he received at Huntington to high school and elementary-aged children.
“Not only do I get to teach inner city minority students about character and leadership, but I also get to know their families and develop life-long relationships,” said Kevin.
He mentors the students through career and college planning while joining them in recreational activities, such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing, attending pro sporting events, paintballing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking and more. But most importantly, he develops close relationships with the students, which allows him to introduce Christ to their lives.
“I’ve noticed that to some of these children I have filled a needed role in their lives. I have served roles as teacher, counselor, pastor, parent, nurse and – most important – friend,” said Kevin. “When I try to love them as Christ would, I watch walls crumble.”
Kevin lives his life allowing God to lead, and God has led Kevin to many places beyond his imagination. Before landing his current “best job in the world,” Kevin served as a teacher in the Dominican Republic, covering courses in biology, physical education and Bible. He also served as a whitewater rafting and mountaineering guide in Colorado and fought forest fires across the American west.
Seen as an adventurer by most people, Kevin encourages college students to open their minds, expand their horizons and take advantage of every experience outside their comfort zone, all while learning to depend on the Lord. It’s the best lesson he learned at Huntington.
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