Climbing Kilimanjaro


Dear friends, family and supporters, 

I'd like to give an update of our recent ministry trip to Africa. First the good news . . . as a result of your prayers and God's grace, I made it to what's known as "the roof of Africa" . . . the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro! 

Friday, December 30

Our team of 27 trekkers took a ten-hour bus ride from Nairobi, Kenya to Moshe, Tanzania where we stayed the night in the outfitter's hotel. That evening we met our team of 8-10 guides for the first time. They assured us that getting to the summit was "a piece of cake." Our group laughed tepidly. I later told them (with a smile) that they had stretched the truth a bit!

Pam stayed in Nairobi and on Friday she toured the slum area called Kiamaiko where Summit has invested considerable ministry effort. Summit families sponsor over 200 children from Kiamaiko providing schooling, food, health care, and spiritual discipleship. A few days earlier Pam and I met Vallory, the child we sponsor. Pam also saw the property Summit invested $60,000 to purchase for a new school in Kiamaiko. 

Saturday, December 31

Our trekking team took a one-hour bus ride to Kilimanjaro National Park. We had still not seen the peak because it was shrouded in clouds. For the previous few weeks Kili had been pounded by uncharacteristically late season snow. This added intrigue to the adventure ahead!

After checking in with park officials, we began hiking. The elevation at the park gate is 6,100 feet. Saturday we hiked five miles and climbed 2,760 feet in elevation. This portion of the trip meandered through tropical rain forest with a lush green canopy above us, exotic flowers dotting the trail, and we even spotted two different types of monkeys.

It rained off and on throughout the hike until we arrived at Mandara Huts for the evening. These "hiker huts" are rustic shelters provided by the park for Kili trekkers. Three nutritious meals were provided daily by our outfitter. To do this required a team of porters working behind the scenes. I understand that it takes three porters to support each hiker by carrying up the requisite food and gear.

Sunday, January 1

We rose early and, after breakfast and devotions, we hiked 7.2 miles in a drizzling rain climbing an additional 3,280 feet to Horombo Huts. We were now at 12,140 feet above sea level. We stayed two nights at Horombo to acclimate. By now the rain forest was far below us and we were in terrain covered by scrub and rocks. When the sky finally cleared we got our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro . . . it was both breathtaking and daunting!

Meanwhile, back in Nairobi Pam began leading a retreat for pastors' wives in the home of Mary Kamau, the Executive Director of Missions of Hope International. Sixteen wives participated in the Sunday-Monday event. Pam knows as well as anyone the rigors, challenges and blessings that come from being married to a pastor. The women were blessed and Pam has been invited back in 2018 to speak to even more pastors' wives.

Monday, January 2

This was our second day at Horombo Huts. To help us acclimate we took a short three-hour hike climbing 1,000 feet in elevation in a pelting hailstorm to a location called Zebra Rocks. Then we returned to camp.

Tuesday, January 3

The trek was about to turn serious. We left Horombo early and hiked 5.7 miles, climbing another 3,280 feet to Kibo Huts. We were now at 15,420 feet and it looked like moonscape with no vegetation in sight. We had a light dinner at 5:00 PM before receiving our final instructions prior to "the ascent." It reminded me of a war briefing before heading into combat. We rested in bed until 10:00 PM and by 11:00 PM we began the long awaited march to the summit. This was the moment we had all trained for!

From Kibo Huts to the summit is 3.5 miles climbing 3,920 feet. The first seven hours zig-zags through volcanic cinder dust virtually straight up. We slogged uphill in single file with our head lamps creating the illusion of a snake slithering up the mountain . . . melodic singing in Swahili from our guides kept us buoyed up.

When I was most tired I thought of my amazing family, my friends who were praying and the kids in Turkana who would have new classrooms as a result of this effort.

Pam spent Tuesday and Wednesday in Turkana where the classrooms will be built. Turkana is a two-hour flight north of Nairobi. It is a desolate area with great needs. The classrooms will be a gift from God!

Wednesday, January 4

We reached the crest of the volcanic crater atop Kilimanjaro at 6:00 AM just as the sun was rising. The crest is known as Gilman's Point 18,700 feet above sea level. From there, the trail followed the lip of the volcanic crater for about two more hours, often through ice and snow, before we finally reached Uhuru Peak (Freedom Peak) . . . the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro 19,340 feet above sea level!

The sky was crystal blue. At the summit it felt like you could see for a million miles! I will never forget it! But it was bitterly cold with the wind howling at gale force. None of us wanted to stay long . . . so after taking photos we headed back down. I arrived back at the Kibo Huts at 11:00 AM . . . after twelve hours of the hardest hiking I've ever done. 

From our group of 27 trekkers . . . 21 made it to the summit. The two who showed the most grit, in my opinion, were two single gals named Rosalind and Lucy. They were the last two from our group to make it up . . . and they both had "I will not quit" tattooed on their soul!

Oddly enough, the hardest part for me was yet to come. You see, after resting at Kibo for a couple of hours, we had to put our day packs back on and descend another 5.7 miles and 3,280 feet to Horombo Huts. I was among the first on our team to reach the summit . . . but I was among the last to make it back to Horombo arriving at 6:00 PM. For the final few steps one of the guides had to put his arm around me and virtually carry me to my cabin. I have never been more exhausted in my life!

Meanwhile, Pam was still in Turkana where she traveled two hours farther into the bush in a Jeep to visit a school where she helped distribute new uniforms for students. In that area the people earn their livelihood by herding camels and they live in grass huts. In Pam's words, it was a real "missionary experience!"

Back in town, Pam also participated in the dedication of a new dorm for 7th and 8th graders. This is the school for which the Kili hike raised money. Our team raised $120,000+ in total and there will soon be room for 240 more students thanks to those who donated! Believe it or not, they still have 1,000 names on their waiting list hoping to enroll in the future.

Thursday, January 5

After mere 12.2 more miles of hiking we finally arrived back at the gate of Kilimanjaro National Park. We were all sore from head to toe . . . I think even my ear lobes ached! But we were happy to be down off the mountain and we were all looking forward to our first shower in 2017!

Friday, January 6

It took 12 hours for the bus to finally deliver us to the Grace House in Nairobi. Pam was a sight for sore eyes when we arrived at 9:00 PM!

The trip was phenomenal! Pam and I can't thank you enough! We both felt carried along by your prayers. It was especially nice for Pam to stay with Mary Kamau in her home. It gave them plenty of time to build their relationship. Wallace and Mary are remarkable people and it is a joy to partner with them in the advancement of God's kingdom in Kenya!

Christian Missionary Fellowship is planning another trip to climb Kilimanjaro next year . . . so stay tuned if you want the experience of a lifetime!