In 1985, several students at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, had a brainstorming session. The students had something in common…they were all MKs (missionary kids). They saw a need and wanted to have a part in helping MKs adjust to college life, and to living in the United States in general. They realized that few understood that transitional time in an MK’s life better than another MK.
With the understanding support of faculty member Dale Sloat and his wife Bonnie (former missionaries to Brazil), Nate Peterson and the other four MKs established an organization called Mu Kappa (taken from the Greek letters for M and K). Nate became the first president of Mu Kappa. A constitution was written, officers were elected and a program for the coming year was outlined. One of their first projects was to go to the Admissions Office of the school and secure the names of all the MKs who had applied for enrollment. They wrote a letter to each one, stating that if they came to Taylor, they would find a group of MKs already there who were committed to helping them through those transitional years.
Although Taylor was not the first college to have an MK group on campus, there was a unique characteristic of the first Mu Kappa chapter in that it was student-generated. In function, it was an example of MKs reaching out to one another. The program did succeed and swiftly, so much so that Taylor University received numerous inquiries from other colleges about establishing Mu Kappa chapters on their campuses. The Taylor students did not have the capability to expand the organization beyond its campus, so Jim & Ruth Lauer visited the Taylor campus and met with the Mu Kappa members, officers, and sponsors. The Lauers were currently working with Wycliffe Bible Translators to help that organization’s MKs adjust to college. The group explored the potential dynamics of a nationwide network of Mu Kappa chapters. After much prayer and further meetings, it was decided that Jim and Ruth Lauer would take the program beyond Taylor University. They used the 1987 Urbana Missions Conference as a networking springboard to begin this ministry and Mu Kappa International was born. As directors of Mu Kappa, the Lauers facilitated the ministry to college-age MKs in transition through local campus chapters.
In 1990, the Lauers and Mu Kappa moved under the umbrella of Barnabas International, a non-denominational agency committed to encouraging those in missions. Ten years later in May 2000, the Lauers turned over the leadership of Mu Kappa to Perry Bradford who became the new Director. Perry began his ministry to MKs back in 1980 as an MK teacher with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Perry and his wife Sandi have worked alongside the Lauers since 1994, when they returned from 10 years of ministry to MKs in Papua New Guinea. In 2012, Perry turned over the leadership of Mu Kappa to Donna Messenger who came to Barnabas in 2008 from fifteen years with another mission agency (serving in Ukraine for much of that time) and ten years in college administration (Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, MI).
The goals of Mu Kappa International remain much the same as they did in the early days at Taylor: offering fellowship, encouragement and support to first-year college student MKs who have just left their parents on the mission field and are trying to assimilate into American culture. Mu Kappa strives to provide cultural, practical, social, emotional and spiritual direction. Today, through Mu Kappa Student Leadership Summits, various Mu Kappa chapters are joining together to brainstorm ways to have a significant impact on their campuses for the world. MKs naturally reach out to international students (some of those are also MKs!), but Mu Kappa chapters are now including various students with a heart for missions who want to learn about overseas life from ones who have lived there.