Convinced by his brother, James Lovaas jumped out of a plane.

“I remember sitting in the front spot of a Cessna 182 when they opened the door,” says Lovaas. “I looked out and realized we were 3,000 feet in the air and some guy I didn’t even know was telling me to jump.”

This was just the beginning of Lovaas’ skydiving career. Since that first jump in 2004, he’s jumped more than 800 times in 18 different places across the country from Indiana to California. When Lovaas is not diving from heights reaching the thousands, you can find him here at Bethel working in the office of nontraditional programs.

A graduate from Vennard College with a bachelor’s in psychology, Lovaas later received his Master of Business Administration from Liberty University. After working as a trainer and general manager for Dish Network, Lovaas landed the job as Bethel’s assistant program manager for the business degrees in the nontraditional program. While his work life may appear typical, we already know at least one of his hobbies is anything but.

He’s definitely an extreme sports enthusiast, enjoying many perilous activities like scuba diving, ice diving and even swimming with sharks, but his specialty is skydiving.

“It always looked exciting, and I believed I really wanted to experience life! Being on a competitive team raises the excitement,” says Lovaas.

As a member of CSC (Chicagoland Skydiving Center) Inferno’s skydiving team, he competes in challenges where his team must complete as many formations as possible within 35 seconds of leaving the plane. (Watch a really cool video where his team does just that.) This fall, CSC Inferno will be competing in the U.S National Championships.

Skydiving is about so much more than the competition to Lovaas. Through his experience with extreme sports, Lovaas has learned many lessons that are applicable to his own life.

“I’ve become more focused on doing things right,” says Lovaas.  “I have a lot of fun skydiving, but I only have fun because I follow the guidelines that make it safe and fun. I can really enjoy life, but only if it’s lived within the parameters set by my relationship with God.”

Skydiving presents Lovaas with the opportunity to step back from his day-to-day routine and truly appreciate the life he was given by God.

“I spend a great deal of time sitting on planes and looking at the beauty of God’s creation,” says Lovaas. “I experience the brief moments of flight, and I’m amazed at all that God has created around us.”

Lovaas is constantly pushing himself to new and unfamiliar heights, and he encourages others to do the same. Just like his brother encouraged him many years ago to dive in to skydiving, he encourages others who are interested to do the same.

“Do it. Don’t put it on a bucket list for someday. Do it now. Visit a local skydiving center. Talk to the people. Review their safety record — and then jump!”