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 men's soccer team: Matt Vuylsteke, George Bukenya, and Creaghan Diekema.
Firstly I want to say thank you to Jordan Holm for inviting and giving me this incredible opportunity. I wouldn't have thought I would ever take part on a mission trip. Now I've experienced it and I'm so very thankful to have had the chance to. Being able to see God's work in action across the world was remarkable and beautiful. Kenya presented so many wonderful gifts, opportunities to learn and grow from and was a greatly humbling experience.
When I look back and reflect on the Kenya trip, the most touching and fulfilling moments were the times spent with the boys. It was beautiful to see the smiles and joy on their faces when we all spent time together. Everyday we were with different ages of boys and were involved in so many experiences together alongside them. From playing & goofing around on the soccer pitch to sitting in the field learning Swahili to talking about God and school with them highlight some impactful and loving moments. The group & boys grew closer and expressed so much love for one another throughout the week.
Their spirit and true happiness was something so bright and genuine that you just don't see from everyone back at home in North America. It's something to learn from the boys. To be thankful for life on earth and all the beautiful things the almighty Lord has given us.
Kenya opened my eyes up even more to religion, faith and God. My eyes witnessed many wonderful things in our time there and it's allowed me to become more aware of my faith. Lessons and teachings became clear in daily actions and reminders made them self-present. To see how powerful group prayer and praise was with the boys took me aback. They sang and praised with intent and showed how true they were to their faith and God. To live, act and go about in a manner to serve the others and the Lord through love.
Lastly, I want to share what was shared with us down in Kenya. This saying and teaching moment from Ruth, the director of Streets of Hope has sat with me. The meaning went deep and makes the time we spent there so meaningful and gratifying.
She talked with us about our time down in Kenya with the boys and expressed to us how it is a blessing for all of us to come together and rejoice in each other's company. She goes on to say "Life isn't about what you have, it's about touching the lives of others".
I came to realize of all the times in which people have made an impact in my life and this really hit home. Our time in Kenya I know impacted and touched the lives of the boys and us. That is what is so special and beautiful all at the same time. To know that these memories/moments shared amongst all involved will last a lifetime and will impact and shape another human being's life in the now and future is unbelievable.
Being able to go to Kenya with Belmont allowed growth within my heart. I was able to connect with a wonderful group of people and learn from them and the Kenyan individuals. Being that I had been to east Africa before adjusting to the culture was nothing new, but the relationships I formed are what made my experience special. Being in a foreign country will force people to build bonds.
A lesson I took away from the trip is the innocence we all have. I noticed that with the busy schedules we all have, if we strip that away we all are more than we show off. We tend to get lost in the daily activities that we forget to enjoy the little things. The Kenyan boys reminded me of that. The joy they had in having a ball, whether it was flat or pumped they enjoyed having the opportunity to play with it. They also did not have phones but knew that there was more to life than technology. They knew how to relate to each other via conversation and personal interaction. They reminded me of that. We have to learn to put our phones away and change the means in which we communicate. More personal interaction.
The group I traveled with also taught me many lessons. The lesson they taught me was that one can make friends anywhere. I had seen everybody multiple times around campus, but never reached out. When we all were preparing for the trip we all were becoming somewhat close, but when we left that relationship escalated. We all became close and got to know each other sooner than we would've thought. As Jordan told us, "We should all remain friends because we all experienced things that nobody else can relate to." I am glad I went on the trip with team. They helped me grow emotionally. If I was to do it over again I would not change anything about the trip. I enjoyed them all and hope many others get the same experience I was able to have.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The trip to Kenya, for me, was an incredible experience and I'm so glad I was given the opportunity to go. It was my first time out of the country and it was such an eye-opening experience to be able to live halfway across the world, even if it was for only a little over a week. Growing up I had obviously seen and heard a lot about the poverty in many African countries, but to go and actually see it first-hand put it in a much different perspective than what my expectations were going in. The joy and faith of both the adults and children I met in Kenya was overwhelming. The majority of the people I interacted with in Kenya, despite having so much less, were rich in their spiritual lives. This was especially exemplified through their prayers- they were constantly giving thanks for what they had and praying for those that were less fortunate than them. Our group talked about this a bit during our devotional times. In the Western world, we fill our lives with so much extra stuff that we lose sight of the things that truly matter. This trip revealed to me just how much I overcomplicate my own life, and that my focus and priorities should change.
A highlight of the trip for me was definitely spending time at Muriki (or however you spell it). Although communication was a challenge at times, being able to connect with the kids there was a humbling experience. After visiting the dumping site my appreciation for this was even greater. Being able to see what these kids had come out of- some of them still being around pre-k age, was honestly really hard to think about. It made me realize just how privileged I am to have the opportunities I've had in life. This was even further reinforced after talking with the high school boys. For many of them, their dream was to be able to come to the United States and study. Their excitement to learn made me feel really guilty about all the times I've complained about going to class.
Overall, I think this trip helped me to grow a lot. I didn't know many of the people going on the trip very well, and it showed me just how quickly a group can become close while experiencing something like this. Western culture emphasizes comparison so much. Money drives everything and people are most concerned about seeming better than one another. Being able to experience a culture where this wasn't the focus was really good for me. Meeting people whose dream is to be where I am also helped me to see just how much I have to be thankful for. I think it's also important to note that I believe the people I met and the things I saw in Kenya will stick with me for a very long time. While I'm back in the US, the people I left behind continue to live their lives in the same conditions. I definitely want to continue to support Streets of Hope and maintain that connection.