On June 23rd, 10 of us with Team World Vision set out to conquer Kilimanjaro and change children’s lives. As I return from Kilimanjaro, I am keenly aware that, for many of us, Kilimanjaro conquered us and changed our lives forever. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Lessons Learned while conquering Kilimanjaro:
I was glad for my training and physical prep. And even though I over packed a little I was well prepared and glad I did. But it was the little things I learned to appreciate along the way. One of those things was my pee bottle. Yes my pee bottle. When you take Diamox (drug for acclimatization) you have a tendency to need to pee a lot. This is not fun 2 – 3 times in the middle of the night when it is cold out. So I rejoiced often in this. And even though others gave me a hard time about this, my tent mate was grateful when he found himself desperate one night.
Pole Pole (pole A – pole A)
This phrase means slowly slowly. This became a valuable lesson for me in life. We from the west are all about getting there and getting there quickly. We say “hurry hurry”. What I discovered was that, not only can this bring failure in reaching the summit but it also causes you to miss the journey. As our guides would say “twin Danny” (let’s go) We would very slowly put one foot in front of the other and begin a turtles pace up the trail. It is at this pace that you are going slow enough to look around and appreciate the journey. So much of life is missed as we hurry along and in another similarity we are killing ourselves trying to arrive at the summits in life instead of simply enjoying the journey.
As we walked “pole pole” we were able to keep our heads up and look out over the clouds and appreciate what God has created for our enjoyment and not stumble along the way. I arrived at each camp with energy and a sense of achievement and wonder.
Success in Weakness
One of the great lessons for me was found in a contrast on the summit. 10 of us set out to conquer this mountain and 10 of us walked to the summit sign at Ahuru point, the highest point in Africa on the tallest free standing mountain in the world, together. We went as a team, we climbed as a team, we arrived at the summit as a team. However, we did not all succeed equally. I learned a great lesson as I came along side team mates who were puking along the trail. I was strong, had only a slight head ache, and made it to the top in my strength… But true success for me was seen in those on our team who made it to the summit in spite of their weakness. We all summited together but I have great admiration for those who pressed through their weakness and did not allow them to determine the outcome.
Pride Takes A Fall
I also discovered that no matter how strong you may think you are the mountain can strip you of your pride. It wasn’t the journey to the top that took my pride. In fact I was pretty proud that I had energy at the top. It wasn’t until all “accomplishments” had been met by standing at the sign that I found myself in a weird place. It was the descent that ate my lunch. It seemed to never end. As I headed down the mountain, I found myself hungry and fatigued. I longed for camp and even though I could see it it seemed to never get closer. I found myself with a tear in my eye, my pride left on the side of the mountain, and the reality that I was totally emotionally defeated. My mind was beginning to remind me that even after I arrived at Kibo camp my journey was not over but that we would only stop long enough to take in some nourishment, pack our gear and hike several more hours down to the next camp where we would spend the night. As I entered Kibo camp I realized I was getting sick. I would have to hike the remainder of the evening out with extreme exhaustion and a severe sinus head cold that has lasted for over a week now. This day turned into a 20+ hour day of hiking and I left my pride on the mountain and skipped dinner at camp and went to bed sick. I found myself successfully defeated. I summitted the mountain but the journey is a round trip not one way. Success is only half accomplished at the summit.
Now as I sit at home and look through pictures of Kilimanjaro, I am quickly reminded of thrill of accomplishment and much of the difficulty is forgotten. Yes there were times of difficulty and even suffering. But as I look through the pics and the journey I was privileged to be a part of those times were worth it and an important part of the success of this journey in my life. I am grateful for the difficulty for in it the beauty is magnified.