I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2
On August 2, 2019, a group of 15 trekkers and 74 Tanzanian staff began the ascent to Uhuru Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro. As the tallest point in Africa, and the largest freestanding mountain in the world, each member of our team had done significant preparation to ensure they’d summit the 19,341-foot tall peak. But the entire journey started by simply signing up, and saying “yes” to an incredible and life-changing journey with Compassion: The Kilimanjaro CauseTrek.
The purpose of the trip was multi layered – to visit their Compassion child, to see the work of Compassion Tanzania, to see the impact of clean water projects in poor villages, and of course, to summit Kilimanjaro. On top of the physical preparation, each team member helped to raise money for a clean water project and pulled together prayer partners and supporters to cheer them on. We all had a common purpose – through meeting the basic needs of clean water, children would know and share the love of Jesus.
The journey began with a joyous day meeting sponsored children. As each child caught sight of their sponsor, they ran over nearly knocking down the jet lagged American visitors. Bright smiles and huge hugs began the day of fun. What was once just a photo on a flat piece of paper had now become a flesh-and-blood relationship. Over the course of many years and many letters, they now stood together for the first time. Watching this happen is the very best part of the trip, and one of my favorite parts of my job.
Day 2 had us driving through the bumpy and pot-holed streets of Arusha. Heavy rains had created craters where the roads used to be. Beautiful singing and welcome signs greeted our team, inviting us into a church-based Compassion center started in 1999. We saw their clean well water system, providing water for children and families of the community. Accompanying sponsored children and staff, we walked through the neighborhood to visit their homes. In this neighborhood we saw some of the more typical signs of poverty–dust, dirt, decay. We dodged donkeys and chickens and the occasional street dog. But there was also something I’d never seen. There was a cemetery built right in the middle of the houses, a reminder to me that poverty brings earthly death so quickly to so many. It was some of the most desperate poverty I’ve seen. We ate chapatis and chicken while encouraging the staff who’ve worked tirelessly since 1999 when the center opened.
As we drove to the base of Kilimanjaro the following day, Psalm 121 came to my mind. We had visited areas of great poverty the previous day, yet the families knew God’s help. Their requests for prayer were centered around their families; they knew that God was and is the maker and helper for their situation. Similarly, we’d be experiencing the immediate need of God being our help on this mountain climb. Starting around 5,000 feet, each step would take us to the summit of 19,341 feet. Our help came from the community of each other as well as the awesome reality that God was our sustainer.
As we completed the hike 6 days later, I was once again drawn to Psalm 121. Our Lord, the maker of the awesome mountain we just climbed also wants to be part of our daily lives. The simple steps we took on the mountain became object lessons for our lives back home. We shared community and laughter while dealing with altitude nausea and dizziness. Our feet were weary. We had blisters, aching backs, and swollen joints. And on top of that, you felt as though you could never catch your breath–constantly panting for more air. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God’s megaphone. And with each step, God’s voice became louder and louder. Each step taken up and down the mountain were powerful reminders that our discomfort was temporary, but God is eternal.
As a team, we raised over $40,000 for clean water projects in Tanzania. On the mountain we experienced the trials of limited water. We used filters to purify our drinking water, and bowls for our daily, “washy washy” (small vessels of warm water for our post climb clean up). Each of these were reminders of the reason we were on the mountain. By working together, children and families in a Compassion community in Tanzania will have the life giving purified water to help them to not only survive but thrive.
Thank you for your part in our journey. The prayers of each of you were deeply felt on the mountain. The gifts you gave will be life changing for so many. We look forward, in the coming months, to send pictures and updates on the clean water project funded because of your generosity.