Briercrest CDE program reaching students around the world

Julie Cole | Nov 13, 2012
Vegas Dargatz and her husband Jim at Camp La Joya, in Arequipa, Peru. Vegas Dargatz and her husband Jim at Camp La Joya, in Arequipa, Peru.Vegas Dargatz and her husband Jim at Camp La Joya, in Arequipa, Peru.

The typical classroom setting doesn’t always work – especially for people who are working in remote locations. Vegas Dargatz knows that firsthand.

Briercrest’s Continuing and Distance Education (CDE) program makes it possible for students like Dargatz to work toward a BA in Christian studies from her home in Arequipa, Peru.

“It is difficult to pursue further education when serving in full-time ministry,” Josh Stigall, Briercrest CDE director said. “We are proud to offer courses in flexible and accessible formats that facilitate continued education.”

Dargatz is grateful for the opportunity to continue her studies from home.

“I have also found it helpful in causing me to stretch and grow in my Christian walk,” she wrote.

Dargatz, and her husband Jim, who are both from B.C., are missionaries with SIM (Serving In Ministry). They live and work at Camp La Joya, a camp ministry in Peru dedicated to evangelism, discipleship and leadership training.

“We live at the camp to work alongside the staff here, and do outreach in the valley of Victor,” she explained. “Through the camp, a church has been planted, which is a very exciting part of the ministry for us.”

The couple came to Briercrest in 1988 for Jim to go to school. Although Dargatz also took a few classes her main focus during that season was on their four young children. It was during those years that their vision for camp ministry was born.

“During the summers we served with Canadian Sunday School Mission (CSSM) as camp directors at Gimli Bible Camp in Manitoba,” Dargatz said. “It was there that God revealed to us the effectiveness of camp ministry. We felt led to serve with SIM and came to Peru in 1994 to establish a camping ministry with the Peruvian church. In 1999 the mission bought the property that is now Camp La Joya.”

Dargatz has many responsibilities at the camp.

“My specific roles are project manager for the horse program, teaching Christian formation at a local national school, discipleship with youth, camp counsellors, helping with our summer camp program and retreat, and other ministries,” she said.

The CDE student says that some of her class material and program requirements have been immediately applicable to her life and ministry at Camp La Joya.

“What I learned through the psychology of counselling course was very helpful to me in my role with personnel here in Peru, and in various counselling situations here,” she said. “I have appreciated the requirement of having a mentor and the continuing encouragement to be a mentor.”

CDE students fill out a journal which they turn in three times a year to Jeanette Olney, the coordinator for CDE student services. 

“All our program students are required to journal,” Olney explained. “It’s our way to keep in touch with where the student is at with their course work, how their mentoring relationship is coming along, their church involvement and their walk with God.”

Olney reads the journals and responds to each one. It was through this process that she and Dargatz formed a special bond.

“I’ve developed a rich relationship with Vegas through the program,” she said.  “When she has been back on campus, we’ve had coffee together and it’s been great.”

Stigall looks forward to helping more students like Dargatz as the CDE program expands.

“As we move towards offering more online courses, we hope that the learning experience will be even richer as students interact with one another from across Canada and the world.”