Freedom Climb Summits Kilimanjaro

Our 2015 Corporate Freedom Climbers summited Kilimanjaro today. Praise God! After starting their climb at 11:30pm last night, they climbed 3,920ft. to reach Uhruru Peak. Nearly every climber was able to reach the top.

After descending 7,200ft., the team has reached Horombo, their camp for the night.

“We’re just so thankful that God has intervened on our behalf and the weather has been spectacular, and we’ve been praying for those we’ve been climbing on behalf of,” said Tina Yeager, Freedom Climb director.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for our team and the projects around the world that the Freedom Climb funds. Please continue to pray for the team as they climb back down the mountain – and for all those who are currently being trafficked, enslaved, and exploited; pray that God would bring freedom to them today.

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Trusting God to be the Alpha and the Omega

Photo credit to Alex

Photo credit to Alex

Our 2015 Corporate Freedom Climb will be attempting to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro tomorrow. They’ll be climbing to the highest peak, appropriately named “Urhuru,” which means “freedom.”

The climbers are in good health and spirits, one of them commenting that “we are a family now. It’s God that bonded our hearts.”

The climb to Urhuru will be the most difficult trek so far, and the climbers are praying that everyone will summit. The hike is very steep, especially at the end. Today, they completed an acclimatization hike that helped them adjust to the altitude.

In the face of a very strenuous hike, the climbers are hopeful. As one of the climbers put it, they are trusting God to be not only the Alpha but also the Omega – to be the Finisher. They’re trusting that He will take them to the very end at the very top.

The team is staying strong physically and spiritually, remembering why they’re climbing:

“It has just been an amazing opportunity to be part of this. […] It’s just so humbling to think that we can be a part of such a greater cause, to bring glory and honor to our Savior,” said one climber.

Please be in prayer for our climbers, for safety and physical strength as they continue on and up. Also pray for the millions of people trafficked, exploited, and enslaved around the world, that God would loose the chains of bondage around them in this time. And trust that He is both the Alpha and the Omega, that He will finish what He began.

Why We Climb: Syrian Refugees

Photo credit to Kathryn

Photo credit to Kathryn

Written by Nicole James, OM volunteer in the Near East. The Freedom Climb sponsors relief efforts for refugees fleeing their homes in the Middle East, including those from Syria.

A truck pulled up in front of the church, black metal bars surrounding its open bed like an oversize cage, filled with foam mattresses, blankets and bags full of clothes. These packages of winter essentials, purchased by OM from an on-field partner organisation, each contain two mattresses, six blankets and a sack of hats, gloves and socks. Two men quickly unloaded the truck – tossing the mattresses, covered in bright fabrics, to the ground and restacking them in one of the rooms used by the church.

Cracking open the wooden door to the room next door, where 124 Syrian women were gathered for a Bible study, Tracy*, the pastor’s wife, stepped outside to direct the unloading process.

“We’re giving out 25 portions after Bible study today,” she said, gesturing towards the makeshift storage. “Last week, we also gave out 25.”

Inside, seated on plastic chairs, tightly arranged in long rows, the women listened intently to Grace*, a member of the local church who helps lead the Bible study, finish her message about choosing the narrow path to follow Jesus. Usually, around 75 women, mostly Muslims, attend the gathering. But this week, the crowd had almost doubled.

“Take a minute and think about what you can thank Jesus for,” Grace instructed the women in Arabic as she finished speaking. Mothers quieted their children and the women bowed their heads and considered the question.

Sandwiched between social time and an activity of some sort – cooking, crafting, or counselling – the Bible study is what compels the women to come back, week after week.

“When we first started meeting, two years ago this March, we tried to think of activities that would make the women return,” Grace said. “But we found out that the only thing that is getting [the women] here is to hear the Word of God.”

Relational relief

The Bible study started as an opportunity to introduce Syrian women to Scripture. As OM and other organisations have provided funds, the women have also distributed practical aid through the church. Sometimes food. Other times, like this winter, blankets and mattresses.

Of course, the women are thankful for the help – many who have fled Syria’s ongoing civil war live in empty apartments and sleep on the floor without coverings – but they also know the Bible study focuses on relationships, not the relief.

“[The Syrian women] know the funds are not from the church,” Grace said. “They know that we are here to support them in prayer, to listen to their problems, to support them emotionally.”

When the church first received funding for tangible gifts, the Bible study, which had started with five Syrian women and five church volunteers, started to grow. Then, outside funds would run out and aid would stop for a while. As new money was donated, the church provided additional help, but in accordance with certain stipulations.

OM and its partner organisations strictly monitor which families receive help to ensure that aid benefits only those refugees who are new to the country and only those who have not received gifts from other churches.

“When the women have been here for three or four months, they know they can’t get [aid], but they come anyway,” Grace said. “Women have told me that for them, the best moment [since they left Syria] was the moment they came through the church door because they felt someone loves them for who they are.”

Healing hope

A couple weeks ago, the church volunteers counted how many women have become believers since attending the Bible study. Around 35 have professed faith in Jesus. But according to Grace, “Even when women don’t say it out loud, we still see a difference in their lives after they’ve been coming for a year.”

Most of the women come to faith through an answered prayer, and with them, their whole families.

“How can I not believe in Jesus when He healed me? When my sons, who were kidnapped in Syria, appeared on our doorstep? When our paperwork was processed? When my husband got a job?” they ask.

Zaida*, a young mother who attended the meeting, cradled her new baby, just over a month old, as she waited among the jostling crowd of women squeezing through the doorway after the meeting.

“I’m new this time, and my name isn’t registered yet, so I can’t get any blankets or any help,” she said. “But I’m glad I came today because [the message] gave me new hope.”

*Name changed

First three days of Kilimanjaro Corporate Freedom Climb

Our 2015 Corporate Freedom Climb is underway! The climbers have started their journey up Kilimanjaro.

On Day One, the team left their hotel at 9:00AM and rode three hours to reach the gate/starting point of the Kilimanjaro trail. There, they registered as climbers and took off! They reached their first camp safely, having climbed from 6,500 to 8,665 feet elevation. They hiked through farms and pine plantations, then an afromontane forest. They slept overnight at the Simba camp, their first night sleeping in tents, eating in the mess tent, using some of their gear, and using the toilet facilities.

Day Two saw an early beginning, with the climbers up at 6:00AM and breakfasting at 7:00. They began their trek at 8:00 and arrived at their second camping spot at 12:30PM. Their ascension gained 2,835 feet from the day before, ending at Second Cave, which stands at 11,500 feet. From Second Cave, the climbers witnessed a beautiful view of the eastern ice fields.

Day Three was a short walk to Cave 3 at 13,050 feet. Once they arrived there, they had a short rest time. In the afternoon, they had an acclimatization walk in the late afternoon to get used to the altitude.

So far, the ground staff has sent up one extra sleeping bag (as one of the team members had a bit of a cold night) and received a sick porter. Otherwise, everything is going well so far. As one climber put it, “We’re strong in faith, strong in body, and strong in fellowship.”

Another climber added, “We’ve had a great opportunity to share Christ with the porters who are with us. […] It’s great to be a part of making a difference on the issue of human trafficking.”

Be in prayer for the climbers as they continue their climb, for health and also that God would be revealing Himself to them in new and amazing ways through the experience. Also pray for the teams worldwide who are lifting up this group in prayer every day of the climb.