There was a moment in the pre-dawn stillness when I realized just what I was about to do.
Days of trekking through forests, grasslands, Afro-alpine regions, scree slopes and mountain passes had passed and suddenly: that … moment.
I hope I never forget the bone-deep sharpness I felt as I inhaled a 16,000-foot, early morning breath or the clarity of the jagged peaks, their silhouettes outlined with knife-like precision by the always changing saturated pinks and oranges.
In a way, that moment was more profound to me than the summit. It was the promise of the reward.
We set out, our boots crunching over frosted rocks and snow, our head lamps bouncing over the thin track snaking upwards, the nylon of our jackets and pants swishing with each step. Less than an hour later, we reached Point Lenana, the third highest peak of Mount Kenya – the highest point you can reach without technical climbing.
We were part of a small group watching the sun crest the horizon and bathe the mountain crags with early morning light. Smiles flashed. High fives slapped. Amazement. Relief. Joy. Giddiness.
For about 45 minutes, we celebrated at the top of Kenya.
Mount Kenya isn’t even the highest mountain on its own continent. But at 17,057 feet and 16,355 feet respectively, Batian (the high peak) and Point Lenana are plenty high enough. High enough to help me rise above the complexities of wrapping up a year living in East Africa, a year I don’t want to be over, a year that’s been … for lack of a less cliched phrase … life changing.
I don’t think it’s an accident that everything came together for the trip just weeks before my departure. Just like the hike at Mount Longonot two days before I went to South Sudan, God knew I needed alone time.
By the middle of the six-day excursion, that feeling of insignificance I experience whenever I’m on a mountain returned. And here’s the kicker: I had missed it. Weird, right?
I re-charge away from crowds. And as I shared before I went to South Sudan, that’s sometimes hard to do in a city of millions. As part of that, I am on the move constantly. To function, I need to make myself be still, the remember just what I’m doing and why.
Enter: the mountain.
The stillness on a mountain is like no other. It is God’s cathedral, no distractions to take your attention away from the utter sense of place, the now-ness.
Even as I picked my way along the Chogoria trail, there was no shame in stopping and marveling over the flowers and unique vegetation or the sweeping vistas. Allow me to be completely blunt here: I cannot imagine how you can experience such things and not believe in an amazing, ingenious, caring Creator.
Movement – but with reflection.
My year assignment with SIM is nearing an end. As I wrap things up, I find myself coming back to Philippians 4. While I may not know what the next steps are, I am loved by the God who created Mount Kenya and other mountains like it for our enjoyment – and His. How can I not be at peace with what’s to come next?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:6-7