Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Climb

"It's not very, how do you say?  Es-steep," said our host-pastor, Manolo.

Famous last words.

From my first step off the bus I knew the hike up the mountain would be challenging for my out-of-shape self.  Manolo said it would take 45 minutes, but I didn't dare time it.

I followed in line behind some mountain runners... I don't run on flat ground much less up a mountain.  It was not long before, I was incredibly out of breath and I could feel my heart pound in about 87 different places.  It was so bad someone asked me if I have asthma.

Those in front of me kept going but I could not keep up no matter how hard I tried.  I gave everything and it wasn't enough.  Finally, I paused to rest.

Neal: Hey, Katie.
I didn't even have the breath to respond; I turned my head towards him.
Neal: That's where we're going.
He pointed above our heads to the rock.
Neal: Does that encourage you or discourage you?
Katie: I know it's supposed to encourage me, but, honestly, it's really discouraging.

I had no idea how far I'd come but it seemed shorter than I had left to go.  That was discouraging!

As the runners disappeared from my view, I found the strength to continue.  I'm not a quitter.  I knew it would eventually be worth the pain.  And I had been promised communion at the top of the mountain.

A Nicaraguan youth with our group offered to carry my bag.  I let him (that bilingual Word of the Lord is heavy!), and he disappeared up the mountain.

Katie: There goes my water.
Neal: I have some.
Katey: We can share mine.

I felt so cared for and loved.  I was getting up that mountain, my friends were going to make sure of it!
Neal would pop back down and again, but Katey and I walked together the rest of the way up the mountain. She accepted my pace, and we stopped frequently to enjoy the views (ok, and catch my breath). It was no longer a race to the top but about enjoying the journey. Slowly I began to enjoy my trek rather than only continuing for the communion at the end.

Tortoise-style Katey and I continued towards the top... Slow and steady. Eventually we heard laughter and shouts from nearby.  Even though we'd lost the rest of our group, they had to be nearby.  We rounded the corner and there they were.
We'd made it!  We had reached our destination!  The handiwork of our Creator was ours to enjoy!
From the top, we could see for miles, kilometers, actually.  It was breath-taking!  When everyone made it to the top (believe me or not, Katey and I weren't last) we took a group photo.  Best team photo ever!  Then we took a seat and listened to Manolo teach while we watched the Master Painter paint us a beautiful sunset!
Afterwards, we were given the assurance of the forgiveness of sins through the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  We then sang "Revelation Song" a capella.  Breath-taking!

The wind was blowing and the sun going down, taking the temperature with it.  Even with the goose bumps on my arms, I didn't care much. 

Now in the dark, we began our journey down the mountain, under the barbed wire, and around the rocks.  Except we hadn't planned to be hiking in the dark, so we didn't have enough flashlights for everyone.  New version of walk by faith and not by sight!

We walked slowly, getting split up as we went.  We prayed for safety.  Cold rain began to fall.

Hiking down a mountain in the dark, shivering, and it's raining.  Sounds awful, right? 

"Well, it'll be a story to tell when we get back," I said.  Honestly, I thought it was wonderful.  Maybe I'm biased because I was one of the lucky ones with a flashlight.

Sherry began a rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus."  That turned into "The Hokey Pokey" which became "I'm in the Lord's Army" and "Father Abraham."  (Those are Baptist songs... I don't really know them either).  We were having so much fun singing and slipping.

Eventually our group got separated, and I walked alone with my flashlight.  Under my breath I continued to sing.

I love You, Lord,
and I lift my voice
to worship You.
Oh my soul, rejoice.
Take joy, my King,
in what You hear.
May it be a
sweet, sweet sound
in Your ear.

Abba, I belong to You.
I belong to You.
Abba, Father.
Abba, I belong to You.
I belong to You.
Abba, Father, God.

Worthy is the
Lamb who was slain
Holy, Holy is He.
Sing a new song
to Him to sits on
heaven's mercy seat.
Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God Almighty
who was and is and is to come.
With all creation I sing
praise to the King of Kings.
You are my everything,
and I will adore You.

Just me and Jesus time.  Somehow amidst the literally rocky ground, the cold breeze of night, the gentle rainfall, and the tiredness of my body, I found the strength to praise Him.

The climb down was considerably better than the trek up because I had a goal.  It wasn't the top of the mountain.  It wasn't even the bus at the bottom.  It was to spend time in the presence of the One who formed every mountain, placed every rock, and grew every leaf.

The same One who put me there was worthy of all of my praise.

When we made it to the bus, those who were already there cheered for the newcomers.  I smiled.  We did it.  Not by our own strength or power. God's hand of protection guided us up and down.

Take a minute to praise Him today.  Amidst the barbed wire, the rocky ground, and the wind.  As you share the heavy load and water with friends, thank Him for the friendship.  As you see flowers, sunsets, and raindrops realized He formed you, too. Enjoy the hike up; it's not a race.  Enjoy the stumble down; it's ok to fall.

<>< Katie

PS: No one was hurt in the making of this blog.  (Except maybe a spider).


Amber said...

hahaha....those aren't baptist songs. I grew up singing them too! but nice try!

David Bell said...

Thanks for this Katie. Your writing is so full of life and humor.