Global Engagement Series: Kekai Kaaumoana-Cummings' Experience in Italy

Kekai Kaʻaumoana-Cummings ’25 is a junior kinesiology major from Hawaii. Like hundreds of Azusa Pacific University students, Kaʻaumoana-Cummings chose to spend part of his summer serving on a Global Engagement trip. He and five teammates traveled to Rome for two weeks to share the Gospel.

Out of all the Global Engagement trips, why did you choose Italy?

I wanted to serve in Rome because it’s very important in Jesus’ story and the history of the church. There are many non-believers there and I wanted to share God’s love with them.

What were your favorite parts of visiting Italy?

I loved learning more about Roman history. There were these huge old churches that were jaw dropping. Pictures don’t do justice to the buildings with their stunning designs and art. I really enjoyed the Italian food too, the best pasta and gelato I’ve ever had.

I loved seeing the cultural differences. The biggest one is pacing. Italian time and American time aren’t the same. In America, we’re so busy and everything is so fast paced. When you’re that busy, how do you stop and feel God? In Italy, I learned the importance of being patient and quiet to spend time with God.

What were some big highlights from the trip?

We would split up and go out in teams of three and talk to the people the Lord directed us to, following His lead. My team and I were out on a prayer walk one day when we came upon a man from the Middle East. We talked to him, but my interpreter was struggling to understand his English, so we switched to texting. We were able to do Christ’s work and he was led to God as a result of that conversation. That was amazing.

On one prayer walk, an Italian woman came up to us and introduced us to another deaf person. I was fortunate that I could communicate with him because I knew International Sign Language. It was just me, him, and God. I thought there would be many obstacles for me on the trip, but God kept breaking down all these barriers. I’m so grateful that I was able to share my story and by talking about my faith, to start planting a seed.

What was the dynamic like on your team?

Our team was special. Our leaders were amazing and I have so many fond memories with all of them. We would joke around a lot. They were very supportive of me. We’d eat together and spend a lot of time together during the day. It truly felt like a family. How did you grow personally and spiritually?

Before the trip, I was nervous about how people would look at me, a deaf American traveling around with an interpreter. I feel braver and bolder after the trip, stronger in my faith. I’m prepared to share my testimony with confidence. I feel more in tune with the Holy Spirit.

Would you recommend Global Engagement trips to other students? What advice would you give them?

I’ve already decided to go on another Global Engagement trip next year. I would highly recommend them–take advantage of the time with God and bond with your team. You don’t know what’s outside of your world until you experience it. I experienced the power of God, working on me and developing my confidence. If you go, ask Him to be with you, to show you what you need to see.

At APU, our cornerstones are Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. What does service mean to you?

Service is represented by Christ in you. Many people in the world don’t know Christ, but if they see you serving, that builds a bridge for them to want to get to know Him. Service is a clear representation of your heart. This trip made me want to seek more opportunities to serve.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?

My team treated me with so much love. If a person has a disability, let them on your team. They may be mentally or physically challenged, but they can help you the same way you help them. The self esteem that builds in a disabled person is amazing.

All APU undergraduate students serve 120 hours over the course of four years. There are many opportunities during the school year and during the summer to serve both locally and globally. Learn more about global engagement trips here or by emailing [email protected].

Note: Kaʻaumoana-Cummings is a deaf/hard-of-hearing student. An interpreter was provided for this interview by the Office of Accessibility and Disability Resources.