Finally, after what seemed like days of laboring in increasingly cold conditions, we made the top at Gilman’s Point in a last scramble over ice-encrusted rocks. As the glacier-cooled winds buffeted us, I turned and looked down on the constellation of moving lights representing other climbers far below us. Then I looked up to see the vibrant stars above, closer and brighter than I ever remember seeing them; as if I could simply reach up and grasp those cold, unwavering points of light. Then I began to laugh. The laughing brought tears of joy – joy that we had made this arduous climb and I stood there in triumph over the challenges faced below. From there (to my dismay) we had to walk another hour to the actual peak. This was truly the most difficult part for me, mentally. I had just ascended the mountain and seemingly finished, only to face another long walk through blisteringly cold winds. I simply put my head down and placed one foot in front of another, following Stephanie’s lead until we arrived at Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the continent.
As we walked back down the mountain in triumph, much refreshed and energized by our accomplishment, I thought about the personal implications of what I had just done. The verse that first came to mind is from Hebrews 12:11 and says “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I had just undergone the most painful physical self-discipline exercise of my life, and it yielded a sense of accomplishment that I have not often felt in recent years. I also began to comprehend the metaphor represented by the climb. Every season that life brings has times where I must simply put one foot in front of the other and believe that the next step will not be my last. Rather, the next step is one closer the goal. Even as I am blindly following the guide in front of me, I know that I can trust that guide and must push through the mental (and spiritual) rollers that threaten to push me back or drown me. Every time I stumble or slide on a loose patch of gravel, even as I gasp for breath, there is one to grab me and put me back in step with Him.
When thinking about education and this endeavor to raise awareness for the assistance of African leaders, I know that there will be adversity and challenge. Achieving a good education is difficult, and I am still in the middle of a M.A. program that promises plenty of challenges in the year ahead. Aspiring African leaders face even more challenges: high tuition rates, little government or financial assistance, language and communication barriers, etc. I am glad that Eastern, with the leadership of Dr. Beth Birmingham, has begun to raise awareness of the fact that there are many African students eager to learn and, in turn, to use that education to become leaders in their communities. Just this year, our Eastern University cohort learned that two of our African brothers would not be able to complete the program this year because of financial difficulty. I pray for those brothers and others like them who have the gifts and desire, and only lack the means of accomplishing their dreams. With God’s help, they too can overcome mountains of adversity and take the lead in the transformation of their communities.