Climbing Mountains

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By: Rachel Graham, CVM Fieldstaff serving in Uganda

I climbed a volcano a couple of weeks ago.  We traveled to SW Uganda where Daniel has been doing rabbit training and distributions among the Batwa people in conjunction with E3 Partners.  It was a great trip and we’d love to spend more time serving down there but the travel schedule from Soroti is brutal and this from people who are now accustomed to 7-10 hour days in the car.  It is 2-3 days of travel depending on how we break it up and the last hour of the drive is switchbacks in the mountains, which pretty much make me carsick the second I see them.  It’s not pleasant, but once we cross those mountains and drop down into the valley on the other side with its picturesque frame of mountains (where the Gorillas live!), cooler temperatures and see our friends and ministry partners, the memory of the last hour of switchbacks fades into the recesses of my brain.

After a couple days of training new rabbit recipients and visiting previous recipients, we thought it would be fun to spend a day exploring.  Kisoro is in the far corner of Uganda and there are three volcanoes in a nearby national park that can be hiked.  Each of the volcanoes borders a neighboring country (either Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo) and each has its own degree of difficulty.  We veered away from the option with “sheer cliff faces” and chose Mt. Gahinga which means “small pile of stones” in the local dialect but please don’t let that fool you.  It’s no small pile.

My sinful nature would like me to tell you that I ran up and down that nearly 11,400ft dormant beast, but since we’ve been sending our updates for 5 years now I can’t lie to you, friends.  I am only slightly exaggerating when I tell you that I just about keeled over on the way up.  Ugandan mountain trails are not for the faint of heart and I dragged my cramped legs the last 50 yards with the grace of a zombie.

But, I did it.  I summited the volcano.

After some water, rest and a generous donation of Cliff bars I was ready to descend with a new resolve.  I’d made it to the top; I could certainly make it back to the bottom.  I might not have run up, but I did practically run down the hill and when I could finally walk again two days later I relished my accomplishment.

Climbing the volcano really made me think. How many times in my life have I avoided doing various things because of the potential pain/failure?  How many times have I used pain or the appearance of imminent failure as an indicator that I shouldn’t move forward when, maybe, just as I experienced on the mountain, God was actually directing me to move towards the pain, through the pain so that in the end I could really celebrate the victory as a participant, not just a bystander?  If, at any point I would have decided that the climb was just too much I would have missed the glory of the ascent, the surge of endorphins as I hobbled the last couple feet and even the memory of the victory that even now brings a smile to my face.  I could still be stuck up on that mountain waiting for the pain to stop, but I’m not up there because I pushed through the physical pain and now instead of an embarrassing memory of failure, I get to celebrate the victory.

So, I’ve resolved to not resist pain as much this year.  I’m not saying this from the lofty place of a mythical “easy life”.  The last year has, in many ways, been the hardest of my life and at this point I still don’t see the summit but that mountain climb constantly reminds me that my pain and difficulty aren’t necessarily God’s indicators to stop; they are merely reminders that it’s still time to keep moving one shaky foot in front of the other.

No mountain lasts forever and the victory is going to taste so sweet.

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