NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Earlier this summer, 11 Belmont student-athletes and administrators traveled to Africa for a 10 day mission trip to Nakuru, Kenya.
During their stay in Africa, they worked with a local ministry, Streets of Hope. Streets of Hope provides former street boys with a home, food, education, Christ-centered spiritual guidance, medical care and hope.
For the next several weeks, BelmontBruins.com will be posting personal reflections from the student-athletes and administrators who took part in the trip.
Our next reflections come from three members of the women's soccer team: Niki Clements, Emily Whitcomb, and Mackenzie Firek.
My time in Nakuru, Kenya was truly an unforgettable experience that I will carry for the rest of my life. The people we encountered throughout the week were full of love, integrity, and joy. The boys at Streets of Hope inspired me to trust more in God and to be more thankful for everything I am given. It was incredible to interact with these kids who know exactly what it is like to have nothing, yet they are so content with every opportunity they have. They express a magnitude of appreciation for the leaders at Streets of Hope and utilize every lesson they are taught there. This ministry creates a family for these boys and it is easy to see how much each and every one of them care about those around them. It was rewarding to be able to make them smile, and so easily brought a smile to my face just watching them interact. We spent time at the three satellites, Mwariki, Section 58, and Streams of Hope High School which allowed us to see how the boys are carried through the system. Through this, they are turned into respectful men with a true love for God and for each other. They were willing to learn and willing to teach as they grew closer to us during the week.
During one of our first nights at Section 58 we went inside after playing soccer to have devotion with the boys before they ate dinner. I was taken back when they began leading worship and singing comfortably on their own with no other adults in the room. They show the light of God through their actions and passion for Him. The boys never complained and found satisfaction in the smallest things whether it was playing soccer for five hours or running relay races. My biggest take away from this trip was learning to define love. The boys and workers of Streets of Hope expressed so much love for each other and for us as they welcomed us there. We had the opportunity to meet with some of the men who graduated from the program at Streets of Hope that still come around to check on the boys. They reinforced the ability of Streets of Hope to impact the community and turn lives around. This showed the lasting effect these boys have on each other as they become a family through their time there. I am extremely thankful for the group I got to travel to Kenya with, because the trip would not have been the same without them. The lessons I learned on this trip will never be forgotten and I plan to pass them on.
1 Peter 1:8-9 -- You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy
Before arriving to Nakuru, I really had no idea what to expect. Jordan (Holm) did a good job preparing our minds and our hearts for this experience, but even with our weekly meeting prior to the trip, I still never felt fully prepared for it. Just like most people, I was definitely nervous about traveling across the world to stay in a third world country for 10 days. Despite my doubts, I was over-whelmed with excitement to take on a challenging and long journey with 8 other amazing student-athletes and 2 great leaders.
From the moment we landed in Nairobi where we first met Ruth, the director of Streets of Hope, I could already tell that Kenya was going to leave a permanent mark on my heart. Everywhere we went we were constantly greeted with smiles as wide as the earth along with a handshake. People always say that a smile can really impact someone and I never truly understood or believed that until I met the boys at Streets of Hope. The unique thing about the boys is that there was never a time throughout the entire 10 days where their smile dimmed, they only got brighter- even after playing soccer for 7 hours straight.
The biggest impact that I got from this experience was meeting one of the boys from Streets of Hope, Fenius. I met him the first day we went to Mauriki and he is the strongest and most loving little boy I have ever met. We would stand there for over an hour and just throw a football back and forth as we asked each other questions- I loved every minute of that. We would make handshakes and do them with each other over and over again. After hanging out for 2 days and when it was time to say goodbye, Fenius gave me a book titled, "Come Back Hercules" and as he handed it to me he asked me to come back one day to see him. It was such an emotional departure, one that I will never forget. Fenius left such an impact on me, I wanted to somehow be a part of his life. After a lot of thought, my family and I decided that we wanted to become his sponsor. The duties of a sponsor include a monthly payment that covers the cost of providing a safe, loving home to Fenius, nutritious food, medical care, clothing and schooling. Before arriving to Kenya, I knew about the sponsoring opportunity because Jordan has been a sponsor for many years now but I never imagined that I would become one myself at the end of this trip. I am so thankful that I will be able to follow Fenius as he grows up through Streets of Hope and becomes a respected young man.
The biggest thing that I learned from this trip is how to love full heartedly. Before these boys even learned our names, they were showing us more love than I could have ever imagined. They taught me that a simple wave or smile to a stranger can go a long way. I realized the importance of caring and loving people, even if they aren't in your immediate group of friends.
Kenya was the most amazing experience and I am so thankful for the opportunity and for the things that I learned on this trip. I also want to give a HUGE shout out to the group I went with. I cannot imagine a better group of people that I would want to go on this journey with-they are truly the best and helped make this experience very memorable.
This summer I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Nakuru, Kenya. Previously, my definition of mission trips lead me to believe that the purpose was to bring Christ to the communities and spread the good news of Jesus Christ. However, on day one of this trip my previous principle was disproven. I realized God had been active in Nakuru wayyy before I even arrived (since he did create the world). This trip wasn't about bringing Christ to Nakuru, but about discovering the love of God not only for the people of Nakuru, but also for me. To talk about all Nakuru would take me longer then the Harry Potter Series, so I have condensed my experience to 3 main lessons about faith, thanksgiving, and love.
The boys of Nakuru taught me a lot about my own relationship with God. One of our days in Nakuru was spent painting a classroom in the high school. While we were getting ready to paint I was talking with a group of boys. They kept asking me questions all about America. Then, one of the young boys asked me what my dream was. When I returned the question back to them, one boy said his dream was to come and study in America. He followed by stating he knew God would help him get there. The certainty of his trust in God caught my attention. Did I trust in God to help me accomplish my dreams? The truth was more often than not I fell victim to thinking I could do everything. I thought that my success in achieving my dreams depended a great amount on me, and God was there to help when I called for him. The boy taught me this is so far from true. God desires a relationship with us, Proverbs 3:5-6 accurately describes what the high school boy was teaching me:
"Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight"
The boys in Kenya find their hope in the Lord to its fullest meaning. As life in America begins again, summer internships start, and then preseason, then classes and so on: I try to walk through life while standing on God for a foundation.
Everyone in Kenya kept thanking us for coming. They would tell us just how thankful they were that we took the time to travel to their remote village and choose to spend time with them. Everyone in the ministry had the most thankful hearts. In addition, going to Africa opens your eyes to see life on the other side of the world. There is so many daily luxuries in America that we take for granted, like hot water. The first thing I wanted to do when I was back in America was taken a hot shower. Another example is having food on the table. I grew up saying a prayer before dinner to thank God for the food we were about to eat. Unlike the boys who grew up on the streets in Kenya, I had never had to wonder where my next meal came from. Although, I was thankful I had never known a life without dinner. In Kenya, everyone is so thankful for the basics of life: food, water, and shelter. Going to Kenya made me realize that everything I have from the food on my table to being able to cloth myself was through God's grace. Before this trip it was so easy to go through the motions of being thankful. I grew up in the south, raised on thank you, yes ma'am, and no sir. Saying thank you was muscle memory. After experiencing Nakuru I realize how lucky I am to live where I do, and thank you become a more mindful practice.
The first boys we meet lived in the Mwariki home of the ministry. Our van pulled up and the boys were quiet and kept their distance. They could not quite figure out what to think about us. Then we pulled out a soccer ball and you could see their faces light up. We split into teams and played soccer for hours. When our bus pulled out to leave it was a much different scenario then when we arrived. Kids where climbing in the bus trying to come back with us. Everyone was hugging and saying goodbye to their new friends. One little boy grabbed my hand and asked when we would be back to play. The reason it was so hard to leave that day was because of love. The only thing that had changed from when our van pulled up to when our van was leaving was the love that was shared. The only thing that is permanent in life is the people you impact, and the best way to have the biggest impact on people is through love. Kenya taught me just how big of an impact our Father's love can have on everyone. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 the bible talks about spiritual gift in every person. It ends by saying we should desire the highest gift and "I will should you a still more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:30). This verse leads into chapter 13 titled "The Way of Love". The more excellent way is LOVE! 1 Corinthians 13 leaves us with this truth:
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love"
My time in Kenya has brought more meaning to this verse. After seeing the mountains that love moved in Kenya it inspired me to bring that same mountain-moving love home. I fully believe the greatest way is that of love. The best way to impact someone is to show them Christ-like love.
All in all, I could not be more thankful for all the people who had an impact on this trip: from those who sponsored me to go, the people who came with me, and the people in Kenya who I will never forget. I am forever thankful these people have been a part of my life. I am grateful for this opportunity and all the lessons I learn. 1 Corinthians 13 puts it best: "the greatest of these is love"!!