Back in 2014, five friends and I organized a fundraising bike ride from Paris to London for a charity project for orphans, which was run for a year by the church in Dar es Salaam.
The participants were myself, Rodney Forslund, from Sweden (living in London, UK), Kim (USA), Cicero (USA), Mark (USA), Nelli (Bulgaria) and JP (Kenya).
Following that success, my friends and I committed to finding ways to support the churches in Tanzania. I met with the churches in Arusha and Dar es Salaam during a visit in 2015, where I presented them with the funds we had raised along with toys for the kids.
The fundraiser’s continued success allowed me to take books, a projector and tablet to the Church in Dar es Salaam in addition to providing additional financial support for charity projects run by the Tanzanian churches.
The trekAfter three months of training and climbing the highest peak in the UK, it was finally time to take on the Kilmanjaro. This was a new experience for me, as I had never attempted anything as challenging. I was worried about how I would cope with roughing it for nine days and potentially getting altitude sickness. A team of 25 people served us, as everything had to be brought along for the trek. Incidentally, one of the disciples in the church in Arusha, Joseph Mapima, is a mountain guide and happened to be climbing Kilimanjaro at the same time we were.
We opted for a nine-day trek to give us the maximum days for acclimatization and best chance for a successful summit attempt.
On the way up I enjoyed the different scenery we passed and on the second day we got our first look at the peak from the camp.
On the fourth day we had our first taste of high altitude as we ascended to the lava tower at 4600 meters. I started to feel the altitude from about 4500 meters as I struggled to get enough oxygen. On the seventh day we trekked up to the base camp at 4800 meters, which was relatively easy going by now as we had acclimatized well.
What I enjoyed the most about the trek was being away from the stress and pressure of everyday life. I was able to connect with God, nature, myself as well as people around me, on a deeper level. In camp, we enjoyed each other’s company as well as being treated to delicious meals seemingly whipped up from nothing by our chef.
The summit attempt started around midnight Monday morning and we were trekking throughout the night arriving at the peak about an hour after sunrise. It was probably the most challenging and exhausting endeavour I've ever been through.
One of the sisters, Ylva, who runs marathons regularly, said the runs were “a piece of cake” compared to the summit climb. The effects of the high altitude really set in from about 5500 meters, effectively slowing us down more and more as we struggled to get enough oxygen.
The oxygen level at the peak is less than half of that at sea level. I became lightheaded. A combination of sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion and the effects of the altitude will do that to you. I knew I needed a strong will and determination to make it to the peak.
The reality is that, although summiting is achievable for any fit person, less than half actually make it to the top. What helped me was being with a group of friends as well as knowing that many people were praying for us. I also want to live by the principle to finish what I start. Thankfully, the sunrise and warmer temperatures put a spring in my step, just at the right time.
Being at the summit was a slightly surreal, otherworldly, experience. Having trekked throughout the night with only the stars and the full moon above us, seeing the sun rise over the horizon and arriving at the summit in full, glorious, sunlight, felt almost like getting to heaven.
Descending from the peak to our next camp proved no less of a challenge than the summit climb, at least for me. Exhausted, I arrived to the camp around noon, having trekked for twelve hours without much food or water.
Incidentally, it was my birthday the day we completed the adventure. After nine days in the wild, a refreshing shower left me feeling like a man from the wilderness. That night we enjoyed a midweek service together sharing in a heartfelt message given by Alex Scherer. We may have shared a final dinner together that night but we all knew we would keep going on more adventures in the future.
I feel stronger and more faithful after the climb. I know that I can handle discomfort and live by the spirit. It has been a transformative, spiritual experience, which was what I was hoping for. I have unique friendships that will last my whole life and I have a new appreciation for and connection with our brothers and sisters in East Africa.
I hope that this has inspired you to take on a similar challenge and to encourage one another across our churches. Who knows, maybe we'll see each other on an adventure in the future.