Ever heard of Unalakleet, Alaska?

Neither had 11 Belmont student athletes until the 2021 fall semester. Ryan Neises, the Director of Student-Athlete Formation introduced the first Athletics Missions trip since 2019 as an opportunity to serve the remote village.

Acquaintances-turned-best-friends in the matter of seven days met at the Nashville Airport with bags packed and hearts ready to serve. From plane ride to plane ride, the group landed in Unalakleet, Alaska hopping off a 27-seat plane and walking into a single room airport.

The group soon found out that their bags didn’t make it… but God had other plans. The villagers were quick to jump. They provided toothbrushes, toothpaste, sleeping bags, air-mattresses, jackets, gloves, hats, and boots in the matter of an hour.

Just the first example of God’s provision throughout the trip.

The group helped with various projects:

  • Doris’ house had burnt down four years ago. Together, the team helped tape and mud walls, install insulation, and prepare for further construction.

  • Ninja Nick has been building his house in a more remote area of the village for 10 years. Yes, you read that right, he has been building his house by hand with his friend Isaiah for 10 years. Two men, 10 years.
  • New Covenant Church was preparing for their annual summer camp. The team organized, cleaned, and helped dig out the church van from 5+ feet of ice and snow.
  • Basketball Camp was held every day. Almost every student came to camp and we quickly
    learned that our basketball camp was a big deal for the village and nothing like this had been done before. We learned to love on the kids, played with them and against them!

Through each experience, the team was challenged, pushed, and continued to learn from those in the village. Their generosity and willingness to share with us created a one-of-a-kind experience.

The group had several experiences special to Unalakleet.

  • Attending the senior class baccalaureate for the graduating class of 10. Together, we honored the graduates, sang traditional songs, and had a was our first time meeting and mingling with the villagers to start the week.
  • Tasting of local food. The community was kind enough to share whale, cloudberries, pies, salmon jerky, pickled salmon, reindeer sausage, and several other spreads and dips.
  • Ice Hopping. Nick, an American Ninja Warrior, took us to the beach along Unalakleet and
    taught us how to ice hop. Bet you can’t say you’ve ever done that before!

In all, the group was pulled and stretched, and molded into the perfect team for the trip. Each and every person was touched by the trip and people of Unalakleet in a lasting way.