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Archive for January, 2012

January 19, 2012

The Freedom Climb is now in the history books.  We watched and listened from a distance as forty-eight women, inspired their leader and our good friend Cathey Anderson, took on the challenge – the highest point on the continent of Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro.  They climbed to raise awareness and money to combat human trafficking – for the women and children victimized by the cruel imposition of slavery on a global scale.

If you have ever set out to climb a mountain or ride bike a hundred miles or run a marathon or swim the channel, you know what it’s like to train.  You know that setting the goal and doing the work are two entirely different things.  It’s one thing to share the dream of accomplishment; to imagine the joyous celebration at the finish line.   It’s quite another to start the training – and to push yourself to new levels, new distances, new disciplines.  You set the routines.  You feel the pain.  Not long into it, you wonder what on earth you were thinking to imagine that you could reach that crazy goal.  You didn’t really understand the cost.  You hit the wall.  You feel the pain.  And after awhile, there is a break through.  A new surge of strength carries you past that first milestone.  But you know there will be more work ahead.  You begin to feel the benefits of the hard work – but you know that’s exactly what it is – hard work.

LeaderFOCUS is predictably my own original work.  But this time, I’m going to let JoAnn Hummel speak.  I’ve never met her, but I was moved by her words.  She is now a Kili Climber.  She now has seen the sunrise from 19,000 feet.  Here’s what she learned on the trail as she trained –

Dear Kili-climbing sisters!

With less than a week to go until we depart for Africa, the Lord said to me today, “It is time to move your eyes from yourself (your packing, shopping, and stressy self) and refocus them on Me and why I called you to make this Freedom Climb.”

When I know God is speaking, it is time to pay attention! Here’s the rest of what the Lord was speaking to me…

This Kilimanjaro trek is a powerful prophetic symbol. You – the climbers – are meant to symbolize the victims; Kilimanjaro symbolizes the towering “mountain” of pain, evil, injustice and woundedness that dehumanizes millions of trafficked and enslaved victims daily.

Every hardship you will face step-by-step and breath-by-breath on Kilimanjaro is meant to mirror the life-threatening extremities of the trafficked and enslaved for whom you climb.  They are deprived; you, too, will face deprivation. They persevere through extreme conditions; so will you. They receive no comfort; you will sacrifice your comforts for their sake. Their unclean bodies ache and sweat and hurt and shiver; yours will, too. They are forced to live one moment at a time and you will only make this climb one step at a time. And the same God who gives the millions of victims breath and life, sees their pain, holds their hands, and whispers His hope into their darkness will likewise be present with you.

This trek is meant to break your heart for what breaks Mine. I will do this in you by taking you beyond the limits of your own human strength, wits, and abilities. When you summit Kilimanjaro, you will not be able to credit yourself, but only give glory to Me. You will make it because I will carry you. That heady joy of freedom as you stand on the roof of Africa will serve as a symbol of the joyous release and victory I have in store for those who are now in bondage!

I will call many of you into active engagement to overcome and destroy these evils as you return home. Be ready for a life change.

I love you and that is why I invited you to make this climb. I didn’t ask everyone; I asked you and you said YES. I am so proud of your willingness to follow Me up this mountain that I made with My own hands. This will be a radical journey of faith and risk, but I knew what I was doing when I called you. I never make a mistake. You were meant to be on this Freedom Climb and I will be with you every step of your way. Now surrender your “me” stuff.  Lay all of it down at the Cross.  Ask Me to give you My heart, My perspective, and My strength and I will do it.

Refocus the eyes of your heart on Me.  It is time.

JoAnn Hummel

As you and I face our own Kili, let’s remember JoAnn’s challenge.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2012

More on FREEDOM CLIMB |  Read Susan Kasper’s Thoughts

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Monday, January 9, 2012

It was a relatively brief news short.  YouTube videos that go viral will often make it to the national feed of the evening news these days.  When a YouTube strikes a million hits or more, it makes us wonder – what is the draw?  What is the hook?  YouTube gives new meaning to the phrase “word of mouth” marketing.  Now, instead of sharing your enthusiasm – for the movie you just saw, or the book you just read, or the speech you just heard – over the fence, or over the cup of coffee or over the water cooler, you just click on “send.”  Or “share.” Or “tweet.”  Or “like.”

Ben Breedlove breathed his last on Christmas day.  I was in Florida celebrating my role as a grandpa when, in Austin, Texas, Ben, an eighteen year old student at Westlake High School, slipped into eternity.  His parents and siblings will forever link Christmas day with his passing.  The cardiac arrest did not come as a surprise.  The timing, however, will bring a sense of loss and heartache, but also wonder and awe.

We like to think that a life well lived becomes a legacy.  When we encourage retirees to prepare for the inevitable transfer of assets, we suggest they also consider the transfer of values.  What is it that we really leave behind?  Wealth?  Memories?  Stuff?  Or is there something more?

Generally, we expect that it will require a minimum of three-score and ten to make the kind of mark that rises to the level of “legacy.”  But sometimes, these assumptions are shattered.   That would be the case with young Ben Breedlove.

The first clarion call, the first shocking episode came when Ben was only four.  That’s when they diagnosed an untreatable heart condition (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).  The physician predicted that Ben might survive until his early teenage years, probably no more, likely less.

Ben looked like a healthy, strong, energetic child and then teenager.  While he lived with some limits, he traveled, wake boarded and over-all determined to live his life with passion.  He emerged as a leader in Young Life.  As he described it, he “cheated death” several times.  When he came close to dying, he experienced a powerful peace, a stunning “glimpse of eternity,” that gave him confidence and took away his fears.  His faith became strong.  The clear threat of a life-ending heart episode made him acutely conscious of the gift of the present.  He discovered YouTube.

He launched a (brief) career as a self-directed teenage talk show host.  There are thirty-eight episodes online in which Ben and a couple of friends talk about dating and friendship and growing up.  They call their channel OurAdvice4You.  They attracted a modest but loyal following.  Ben’s winsome, Justin-Bieber-like presence made the program a favorite among his peers.

But then, this year, almost as though he had a premonition of things to come, he created a solo seven-minute long video he called This Is My Story.  With an easy listening sound track playing in the background, contemplative and soothing, Ben holds up a succession of handwritten cards in sequence.  He remains silent.  There is something about his countenance that captures you, all the while wondering where the story will take you.  Unlike the giddy, scattered, frivolous ambience we generally associate with teenagedom, Ben appears calm.  He’s filled with an unusual, palpable peace.  He’s comfortable with himself.  He follows his own story as it unfolds phrase by phrase on the series of cards.  And as you smile at the next, he smiles with you.  He keeps his gaze in place, right with you as you read.

And then you learn that he knows his life will end way too soon.  You feel grief.  And then admiration.  Then you begin to reflect on the uncertainty of your own life.

On Christmas day, just a few weeks ago, after the paramedics did all they could to bring him back and cheat death just one more time, Ben slipped away as his family wept by his side.

This Is My Story went viral.  To date, the total count is over eleven million hits.  Clips of his video made all the major news outlets.  Word of his memorial service went around the globe.  1,400 people showed up at Gateway Church for his memorial in Austin that day.  Eleven thousand more tuned into the simulcast all over the world.   Thousands of comments were posted.  Hundreds created YouTube videos of their own, relaying their thoughts, emulating Ben’s approach to story telling.  Many told of revived faith, renewed purpose and heart-felt commitments.

Young Ben left a legacy.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2012

Watch it for yourself: This Is My Story

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