Shining His Light in Dark Places

By – Annelize Theunissen

In my preparation for the second Freedom Climb to Everest Base Camp (EBC) in Nepal I asked a friend who helped us prepare for the 1st Freedom Climb to Kilimanjaro if he had any advice/tips for the climbers going to EBC. From my experience on Kilimanjaro I knew any information/tips could make the preparation more focused and hopefully help us to be more prepared.

Annelize and Ilsa

Annelize and Ilsa

His reply came back a couple of weeks later. He advised us to ‘budget for water’ on the mountain if we had to buy it. His second piece of advice kept me puzzled until I returned from Nepal. He said Nepal and the Himalayas is a ‘dark place’ spiritually.
I had no clue what to make of this. Growing up in a Christian home and committing my life to Jesus at the age of 12, I never really experienced spiritual darkness. I always had a very close relationship with God and grew in my relationship with Him. I also had to walk a road to true freedom in Christ. Even in my darkest moments I always experienced God very closely and most of the time as my best companion.
What does a spiritually dark place look like? I clearly had no idea. In my quiet times I tried to prepare myself for this challenge. From my experience on Kilimanjaro, I knew your spiritual muscles work just as hard as your physical muscles to get up any mountain.
In one of my quiet time moments, I saw a picture of climbers walking up a very dark mountain. On their backpacks, they carried oil lamps that were lighting the way up as they went higher and higher up the mountain. The light never disappeared, and the ground they covered stayed lighted. I had no idea what this picture implied but asked God that if this was a vision from Him to confirm it with at least two different sources. At two different incidents, friends confirmed this image and some of its meaning. One of last year’s prayer team members, Liesl Fuls, also had a word from God that the climbers will be ‘light bearers’.

This image was in the back of my mind as we left for our trip to Nepal. The excitement and many challenges that faced the group had my focus on many things. This image might have even slipped from my mind as the group experienced a havoc of illness and struggles. It definitely didn’t feel like any light was shining from us at the time. I shared a tent with the team doctor. She was challenged from the start as some of the team members got sick even before we left for Lukla. This situation never really calmed down, and the day at Dingboche when some of the members had to turn back was filled with a somber atmosphere. No light was shining very brightly on this day.

Annelize and Ilsa

Annelize and Ilsa

One day on our trek towards Tenboche two days before, we had stopped for a much needed break at a tea house on the way. The tea house had an open area in front of the house and at first glance it seemed like any other tea house. One of the team members, Kristy, mentioned to me that one of the trekkers, an older man had his arms wrapped around a young Nepalese girl. It is very difficult to guess her age but she looked like a preteen, about 12 or 13 years old. She didn’t look too comfortable, and I realized what we saw was what the Freedom Climb tried to bring awareness to. I just stood there and started praying. In that time, she stood up and left the area. The older man looked a bit uncomfortable with our presence there. Will we ever know what this meant? At the time it just seemed like an unfortunate situation.

Everest

Everest

With our return from Lukla, we had a session with the Omega prayer team. Again one of the prayer team member stationed at OM Nepal confirmed a word from God shining His light in this dark world. This is when it hit me like a lightning bolt. God is light!!! That is His character. That is who He is. Darkness is not an entity; it is the absence of light! And this is exactly what we were experiencing in Nepal. The people are friendly but when you look into their eyes, there is no light shining. I realized that this group of ‘light bearers’ had a huge responsibility along with every ‘light bearer’ in this world calling Jesus our Lord and Savior. We have to shine our ‘light’ wherever we go.
I returned from Nepal filled with a heart burning with a love for the Gospel, the only answer to the darkness in this world. Jesus is and always will be the answer to the world’s challenges. This is also something that I believe we take for granted in a country were Christianity can be practiced openly and freely. The alternative is a dark and gloomy place. Do we want to live in such a world? I want to scream from the mountains NO, NO, NO!
May God through His grace fill us with a new love for the Gospel of Jesus. May we never stop shining our light wherever we go and telling people about a man who walked the earth 2000 years ago to reconcile man with God and who paid the ultimate price to pave the way for us to go back to God. May we shine our lights in this dark situation of human trafficking and modern day slavery. May this ‘light’ never stop shining till there is no more darkness.
On my way back from Lukla, I received an update from my husband. Our communication on the mountain was very limited. The greatest news any mother can receive: my daughter committed her live to Christ on the day that we summated Kala Patthar. Another light shining brightly in this dark world!

Freedom Climb 2013 – One Climber’s Reflection

By – Celia Shortt

Freedom Climb 2013 was an experience like no other. Each of the 45 women climbing to Mt. Everest Base Camp was focused on raising awareness and funds for women and children around the world who are trafficked, oppressed, and enslaved. Each climber knew trekking to the base camp would not be easy, but the whole experienced ended up being much harder and more difficult than any anticipated.

The team was hit with an incapacitating stomach bug right before the climb started. This sickness affected nearly everyone and almost ended the trip. As it was, several of the climbers had to stay in Kathmandu, others had to leave the mountain early, and none made it to Everest Base Camp. Twenty-four of the women, however, were able to summit Kala Patthar Peak.

In the midst of the disappointment and dealing with a situation that was not going as planned, one of the climbers, Ilse Joubert, saw God’s grace and provision like never before. Ilse is a doctor in Cape Town, South Africa. She was asked to do the Freedom Climb to serve as the team doctor and to represent her country. She also has a desire to connect with people who are working against human trafficking.

Like others in the Freedom Climb, Ilse had little experience with trekking or climbing mountains. Unlike them, however, she had spent the last year recovering from major hip surgery.

“Since my hip surgery was less than a year ago, I was anxious that I wanted to do this out of my own will and not God’s,” Ilse said, “I kept getting spasms when I tried to train, and my doctor just shook his head and said that there is no way you will be ready in two months. I tackled my preparations in faith, leaving it in God’s hands to close the door if my hip would be detrimental to the team.”

Ilse Joubert

Ilse Joubert

When more and more of the climbers grew sick, Ilse was running around taking care of all of them even when she started to get sick.

“I never prayed more in my life, doing rounds in my head as I fell asleep, leaving those who collapsed at some stage, or still running up and down the corridors to the toilets in God’s hands for the night, praying for them as I woke up, stopping them in the corridors to ask if they needed help in between sleep sessions,” Ilse remembered, “Apparently I even sorted them out, talked about medicine and gave orders in my sleep!

In the midst of unexpected and unreal circumstances like these, many people would give up, go home, and forget why they are there in the first place. None of these climbers, Ilse included, did that. They all remained focused on the women and children who live everyday enslaved, oppressed, and unable to declare freedom in their lives.

“I have never experienced God’s grace, mercy and rest as intensely as during this trek,” Ilse said, “and I am convinced He kept me strong and revived me to be there for the ladies, because we were serving His Purpose. I enjoyed every moment thoroughly, and the challenge of being there for the team kept me alert, stimulated and full of energy. Never have I been so aware and reliant on God’s healing of my patients as on this never ending challenging expedition that started out with fit strong ladies, crippled by the effects of disease and dehydration. Where medicine and medical knowledge couldn’t help anymore, God did and kept them safe from major life threatening complications and death. When we returned safely back to Kathmandu I could only fall on my knees in gratitude to God for bringing back every lady safe and sound, singing: Our God is greater, Our God is stronger, Our God is higher than any mountain, our God is HEALER, awesome Redeemer, our God!!”

Everybody!

Everybody!

God who in His goodness and grace helped these women who were following His purpose for them loves every woman and child and man who is enslaved, trafficked, and oppressed in the world today. Through Him, they will be set free. May we, like all of those women who climbed, continue to do our part to raise awareness and funds for them.