A friend put up one of the best posts I’ve seen in a long time yesterday on Facebook. It’s a picture of her son, looking completely and totally dejected, standing next to an easel. His little face is so downcast. On the easel it says, “It’s my 4th birthday, and I have no idea that I’m going to DISNEYLAND today!” Obviously, he can’t read what it says because he’s only 4! Now, here’s the funny part. She writes below the picture, ‘I told him we’re going to Broccoli Land; the land of broccoli, naps, and spiders.’ Talk about bursting a little boy’s birthday bubble! I can only imagine his surprise when they pulled up to “The Magic Kingdom: The happiest place on earth!” Picture the immense joy that filled his precious little four year old heart as he realized what his mom REALLY had in store for him!
While it seems a little odd and disconnected, that’s how I feel about the Freedom Climb. In September, 2010, the Lord spoke the vision for the Freedom Climb: He wanted women who love the LORD, from all around the world, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for oppressed and exploited women around the world for the purpose of bringing awareness of their suffering. At the core of this vision was His heart for these women; His deep, deep love for each and every one of them.
Now, when the Lord tells you to do something, I’ve learned the tough way that it’s just smart to do it and not argue. And so, 48 women from around the world did! We all thought that we were climbing for others who were enduring horrific oppression and exploitation. And we were! We knew that going into a point of physical suffering would allow us a brief moment of understanding what their daily pain is like. While we were choosing to do this, they don’t. But what we didn’t know is what would happen to us. In his infinite, indescribable wisdom, the Lord did, and that was all a part of His plan from the very beginning. And that’s the Disneyland part of the whole equation.
You see, when we started the Kilimanjaro ascent, we were in the ‘broccoli, naps, and spiders’ mind-set. Human trafficking, oppression, exploitation, and slavery are as bad as it gets. But, as we came down from that mountain, we began to hear the stories of bondages broken, suffering released, fears conquered, and brokenness healed. It was as though we watched a metamorphic transformation directly in front our blurry eyed faces. Women literally ran down the mountain released from their own form of personal pain and suffering. It was glorious! God was breaking chains of bondage for the women were climbing for AND He was cutting the chains we were enslaved by. Who knew this was going to be another integral component of the Freedom Climb? Certainly not us………but God did! And, it was not a one-time deal–this same thing has held true with every climb we’ve gone on. God is forever faithful.
The Freedom Climb is merely a symbolic gesture of the climb to freedom for every single one of us. By embarking on something as demanding as these climbs, it’s impossible to come away the same as when we began. It’s the suffering that does something to these women. It’s in the suffering that we are driven to our Lord because when we’re at the end of ourselves, He’s waiting right there. He walks that personal path of suffering right next to us. It’s suffering that teaches us to be compassionate and allows us to walk with others in their pain with a heart of understanding. Suffering moves us from a place of judgment to grace. When we’re suffering, the lines of difference and distance begin to blur.
There’s so much about the Freedom Climb we will likely never fully understand, and that’s OK. The Lord was right when He said, “Women from around the world climb for women around the world.” Little did we know that He meant we would also be climbing for ourselves. And, yes, when we come off the mountain we can say we saw “God’s kingdom: the happiest place on earth”.