Westmont Magazine First the Medical Field, then the Mission Field
Born and raised in the Midwest, Matt Blickendorf, WCSA president, had his heart set on attending UCLA. But a missions trip to Nicaragua with his Indianapolis church changed those plans.
“I felt a strong call to medical missions down there,” Matt says. He returned home, rethinking what he wanted in a college. “My dad gave me some great advice: ‘Think what type of person you want to be and base your decision on what college will most help you become that person.’ Westmont just jumped off the page.”
Matt, a double major in biology and anthropology, led a homeless ministry his first year at Westmont. He served as a resident assistant in Van Kampen for two years before becoming student body president this year despite knowing little about student government. He has focused on two goals, better accountability for the expenditure of student fees and adding a multicultural representative in student government.
A sizeable part of this year’s budget from student fees went to reinvent the first-year retreat. About 100 students in the class of 2011 participated in the event designed to extending the ethos of Orientation when new students get to know each other regardless of their residence hall.
Matt has been accepted to medical school and hopes to practice medicine one day in the developing world. He’s spent three months there the past two summers and often reflects on his first trip to the country. He arrived at night and traveled in a school bus, sitting alone and feeling out of place. “I felt like the Lord said, ‘Matt, welcome home,’ and I was like, ‘What!?’” He recalls arguing with the Lord for about a half hour thinking he’d never been there before, didn’t know the language, didn’t know the people and had never been out of the United States.
When Matt returned home he felt out of place in high school and sensed a strong pull to return to Nicaragua. “My parents sat me down and said, ‘There’s something going on in your life and we don’t know what it is, but we can definitely feel that the Lord is moving and working,’” Matt says. He began taking extra courses at a local college to graduate a semester early. Within 48 hours of taking his last exam, he boarded a plane for a four-month missions trip to Nicaragua.
“It was the best four months of my life,” he says. “I have family down there now. I’m already looking for ways I can be involved in the medical side of these people’s lives.”
Matt says Westmont will always hold a special place in his heart and vows to stay involved with the college forever. “I came here because Westmont takes three things really seriously,” he says, “faith, academics and community. I love this place.”