Baker University campus minister headed to Antarctica on 2-month National Guard mission

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. -- The bottom of the world is a long way from home.

One man from Douglas County is traveling to one of the most far-flung parts of the globe, where temperatures can reach -50 degrees.

It's not a sightseeing trip, but Kevin Hopkins can`t wait to see one of the world's most remote places. On Jan. 2, Hopkins, the campus minister at Baker University, will ship out for McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Baker has served in the U.S. National Guard for 20 years, and the military is deploying him to serve as a chaplain for some of the most isolated people on earth, most of whom are there as scientists or members of the U.S. Navy or Air Force.

"The biggest reaction I get is, 'Who'd you make mad?'" Hopkins said as he grinned Thursday.

Pastor Kevin, or "Rev-Kev," as he's known to Baker University students, said he's exciting to make the two-month trip, where at McMurdo Station, he'll be a short 800 miles from the South Pole.

Kevin Hopkins

Hopkins has been on staff at Baker, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, for five years. The private university is home to about 3,000 students.

McMurdo is currently in its mild season, with temperatures looming near 20 degrees above zero. That area of Antarctica is largely glacier ice covered by volcanic lava.

The sun stays above the horizon for weeks without a break. Hopkins pointed to the 24-hour sunlight and the difficulties with sleep it can present as a cause for depression for the people living there.

"One of the reasons I'm going is to be a resource, to be a listening ear for folks who feel completely isolated from the rest of the world. Someone they can talk to," Hopkins told FOX4.

Hopkins said the trek to McMurdo will last for three days, beginning with a trans-Pacific flight from San Francisco into New Zealand. The 53-year-old said he'll spend two days in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he'll receive heavy weather clothing and supplies.

Kedzie Hopkins, one of "Rev-Kev's" six children, said she's jealous of the opportunity her dad is receiving and proud because she knows he's traveling to give of himself to others.

"He genuinely cares about people and works really hard to make connections with them. I think that's something that's going to help him in Antarctica," Kedzie Hopkins said.

Hopkins said his only means of communication with his family will be an old rotary phone and a calling card. That's not important to him. The pastor said the people he's called to talk with will be with him in the cold.

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