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.”
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!!”
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.