Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro? Highest mountain in Africa. I have had many Kilimanjaros in my life, as I’m sure everyone has. The first year I tried to reach the top, altitude sickness descended on me with aching head, no appetite, body fluids deciding on their own to leave my body (I’ll spare the details). At 15,000 feet I could make it no further. Failure reverberated throughout my body, soul, and spirit. I wanted to climb four thousand more feet. That’s all. Get a picture of sunrise atop the highest peak in Africa, get a certificate, pass Hemingway’s success test. It didn’t happen, no matter how much I wanted it, no matter how much my climbing team encouraged me. The lessons I learned from this pass/fail experience have stayed with me, though. As I trudged back down, head bowed in defeat, I reached the clearing of the savannah and suddenly looked back at my nemesis. I raised my walking stick high in the air, shook it at the snow-capped peak, and shouted, “I’ll be back!”

The next year, even before the climb, I was so sick I could not begin the climb with my team. Time was running out, so I decided the next morning to go anyway. My climbing buddy would be a gray-haired man I quickly dismissed, wondering if he could make the climb. He turned out to be my guardian angel, a Canadian silver medalist in the ’56 Olympics, and a trainer of World Class rowers! We walked twenty-five minutes and rested five; this cycle was repeated and fortified with nuts, raisins, chocolate, tea and water, until we reached the first hut for overnight. The next morning, still sick, I knew what the hike involved and didn’t know if I could make it. I prayed for God’s guidance, and suddenly the wind blew the crude wooden door of the hut wide open, revealing the most glorious morning sunbeams shining right onto my sleeping bag cocoon. The voice in my head reminded me, “I have set before you an open door.” That was my answer. “Okay, let’s do it!”

Linda Parks cropped

When I finally reached the top, I knew it was not in my strength, but in God’s strength alone that I had made it. That lesson recurs in many daunting activities in my life. Driving around Chicago I was scared to death, doubting if I could make it. I heard God’s voice reminding me, “If I can get you to the top of the highest mountain in all of Africa, in my strength alone, don’t you think I can get you around Chicago?” Yes, yes, and yes.  When my father died, when I moved, left Kenya, got a new job, faced illness, the question was the same. That question applies to anything and everything you or I must face.  And the answer is always, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Copyright 2017 Linda Parks. Used with permission.


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