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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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December 28, 2011

In many respects, the year 2011 has been, well, in the words of Queen Elizabeth now almost twenty years ago, an annus horribilis. In her 1992 speech to Parliament, she had good reason to call upon the Latin phrase which everyone knew how to translate. It had been a “horrible year”, what with all too public family troubles among her children and their unsettled, rocky marriages, and the all time low in the people’s view of the Monarchy which included calls for severe cutbacks in the royal expense account and even the elimination of the Monarchy altogether, and then those fires at Windsor. Generally, the Queen is expected to be the gold standard for stiff upper lip. But in 1992, in her annual State of the State report, she yielded to full disclosure: it had been an awful, forgettable, disposable twelve months.

And so for 2011. Maybe not so much for the Queen. But maybe for you. The financial pressures, the lack of employment, the fears triggered by vanishing security, global instability, the proliferation of terror, political gridlock, crushing debt, institutions that were once the bedrock of the common good crumbling into irrelevance. It’s quite enough to turn us all into a society of Ebenezer Scrooges.

Maybe it’s good to remember the Queen’s lament back in 1992. Her fortunes have certainly changed, as we all will witness in 2012. In June, the United Kingdom will celebrate her sixtieth year as HRH – the Diamond Jubilee. Her popularity has soared around the world. Her persistence, her commitment to duty, her steadiness through the storms of her life and the nation’s will inspire great celebration. And then, don’t forget Kate. What a find. The case will be made that Kate Middleton single handedly rescued, of all things, the Monarchy itself. It will be a credible argument.

So this weekend, as we turn the page on another year, there is hope.

The basis for that hope goes well beyond the fortunes of Britain’s Buckingham Palace. Look around you. You’ll see little green shoots popping up all around. They will need attention and nurture and care, but be sure – there’s a harvest coming. And it will be bountiful.

One of those evidences of life emerging from the ashes involves another extraordinary woman, who, along with more than forty equally determined colleagues, are training for an unprecedented challenge. Someday, I would like to write her story in full. When it is published, you will call it an inspiring page-turner.

Cathey’s determination was born out of considerable hardship, too. But now, looking back, something beautiful came out of the ashes. We first knew her when her four children were just finding their way, becoming independent of their mother’s attentive care. (They have each one become extraordinary adults.) Cathey set out to win her teaching credential and a position in the local school district. Her college major set her in the direction of her life long passion, with values that came right out of the history books. Let’s call it American agrarian family values straight from the heartland. When she landed that teaching spot, she turned an abandoned property into a productive,working farm and hundreds, maybe thousands of children learned to work hard, plant, water, feed, tend, prune, dig, sweep, shovel, and then, harvest. She transformed a whole town. She won recognition – not only the gratitude of parents and community leaders, but the State of California honored her achievements.

Now, Cathey travels to remote places around the world teaching farming techniques that are transforming little plots of ground all over Africa. The results are stunning. A new standard of living emerges, nutrition improves, hope springs alive. But in her travels, another troubling discovery broke her heart. It’s the plight of exploited women and children, sold on the open market like chattel, all over the world. As barriers drop, and the globe becomes more and more connected, we become more and more aware. Traditions and cultural, even religious ideologies have marginalized women for hundreds, no thousands of years. Poverty turns children into assets, sold on the open market by desperate unsuspecting parents for whatever profits they might generate – industrial labor, begging in the crowded city streets, dismembered for body parts, sex for sale. Authorities turn a blind eye. And the children suffer. Women give up. The cycle of poverty proliferates.

Climbing a mountain attracts curiosity, wonder and admiration. Cathey’s husband is one of my best friends. When he and a few of his pals climbed Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, a couple of years back, something clicked in Cathey’s mind and heart. She asked a life altering question. What if a pack of women made the climb, and told the whole world that their purpose in taking on this impossible challenge was to raise both awareness and money to combat human trafficking around the world? By now, she knew personally the people who rescue, retrain and care for the victims. She understood how scarce are the resources required to take on the enormous, overwhelming task. “Let’s do something!” became her mantra.

Next month, January 12, 2012, Cathey Anderson leads forty-seven women to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro. Why? Here’s her answer: “The highest mountain in Africa, its summit is known as Uhuru Peak. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom. Climbing Kilimanjaro is symbolic of the huge climb to freedom faced daily by millions of enslaved women and children worldwide.”

I’ll be watching the blog site for daily reports. Not only because I know this is dangerous, demanding, risky business; but because it signals the dawning of a new day. Freedom for many.

Hope for us all.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

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