By Sarah Goff
Union news office
JACKSON — Vishal Gaurav Karmacharya traveled farther than most freshmen to Union University: about 8,000 miles from Kathmandu, Nepal, to Jackson.
Vishal and his father, Bishwa, and mother, Ramila, arrived on campus Aug. 14 to move Vishal into his campus apartment. Bishwa and Ramila stayed in Tennessee for a few days before flying back to Kathmandu and their youngest son, leaving Vishal at Union for his freshman year as a mechanical engineering major.
So, what led an 18-year-old to travel halfway around the world for college? The answer goes back to 2010 in Spring Hill. Jay Strother and his wife, Tanya, were in the process of adopting their son from Nepal. Jay is the lead campus pastor at The Church at Station Hill, a regional campus for Brentwood Baptist Church.
A young man in Jay’s church was making a documentary about a group of trekkers from the Nashville area hiking to the Everest base camp. The group used Shepherd Trekking company and discovered the owner, Bishwa, was a Christian.
Through that connection, the two families built a relationship. The Strothers stayed in the Karmacharyas’ home while in Kathmandu to adopt their son, and they’ve continued to stay in touch over the years.
Bishwa was born into a Hindu priest family, but when he was 15 he gave his life to Christ. He started his career as a youth minister, but after he attended a leadership training in Singapore in the early 2000s, he became passionate about developing indigenous leaders. Bishwa founded a nonprofit organization called Transformation Nepal, which helps communities through humanitarian projects including health, education, agriculture and vocational training.
“Through Transformation Nepal, we find out what’s the need in society, and we’ll try our best to address their unmet need,” Bishwa said.
When the time came for Vishal to choose a college, Bishwa said they wanted a good education for their son. The Karmacharyas visited several Christian colleges in the U.S.
“We found a lot of good colleges, but we felt led to Union University,” Ramila said.
The reason they chose Union University, Bishwa said, was primarily because of its environment and beliefs. The Strothers’ oldest daughter, Eliza, is also a freshman at Union, so Bishwa and Ramila felt comforted that Vishal would have the friendship and support from nearby family friends.
Like most freshmen, Vishal said he is looking forward to meeting new people and making friends, but also learning about new cultures. After graduation, he plans to go back home to Nepal and use his mechanical engineering degree to help in his family’s nonprofit, specifically their ceramic water filter factory.
“We have a lot of problems with water pollution,” Vishal said. “Approximately 25,000 kids below the age of 5 die every year because of waterborne diseases. And so, with these ceramic water filters, I want to help with that — getting sanitary water.”
Like any parents, Bishwa and Ramila have mixed emotions about sending their son to college. They’re glad he can study at Union, but it’s hard to be separated from him.
“But if I see the big picture, I feel really happy, I feel very privileged,” Ramila said. “I thank God for this opportunity for him.”
Vishal said he feels like he’s at the starting line, about to begin a race, and he’s just waiting for the official to count down, “On your mark, get set, go!”
“You can’t back down anymore,” Vishal said. “Either you do it and come out glorious, or there’s no place to back down, is there?” B&R