Hope Rising

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons from a Hike

*See below for an explanation of this picture
 It was a summer in the late 1990's (I can't remember the year!), and I was blessed to be on a 3 week missions trip to the islands of the Philippines. 

Our team was there to encourage the local missionaries and church members, so we often traveled in a van (sometimes riding on the top of the vehicle as the locals did) from village to village, where we met many wonderful Christian people.  At each town, we would gather in a one room wooden church to sing for the people, and our team leader or the local missionary would give a sermon (usually with dogs or chickens running freely through the church).  After the service, we would talk with the locals and play with the children.

In the middle of the trip, we went to a Wycliffe Bible Translator compound, which was an oasis to us.  The grounds were simple, but well kept, and after the oppressive heat, the large shady trees and the coolness of the stone floors and walls of the buildings were delightful.  There were missionaries there from around the world--I remember specifically people from Switzerland and America, and they were so kind to us.   

We were at the compound to begin the part of our journey from which I would learn the most. There was a helicopter pilot based at Wycliffe who flew us in groups of 3 or 4 into a little village so high in the mountains that trucks and vans could not get to it.  You either had to fly in or walk in to this village, because the roads leading up to it were narrow and dangerous.  We got to do both—we flew in by helicopter, and walked out a few days later, up and down muddy, often slippery, trails. 

A bridge that we crossed during the hike-can't believe we walked over this now.
Throughout the physically demanding 10 hour hike from the village to the nearest bus stop, I found that the best way to keep going was to watch the heels of the hiking boots in front of me.  If I looked beyond the boots to the trail in front of us, I could get discouraged about how far we had to go, and if I looked behind me, I could get discouraged about how little ground I had covered. If I looked beside me, I would see the narrowness of the trail or the steepness of the incline below me. So, for the majority of that long hike, my focus was only on one thing—the mud-covered boots in front of me.  What a feeling of accomplishment when we made it to the bus stop at the end of our hike!

I’ve often looked back at that trip with mixed emotions. It was very complicated in many ways. The unfamiliar culture, an oppressive heat, and the traveling conditions all proved to be difficult at times.  On the other hand, the kindness of the people, in spite of their poverty, always comes to the forefront in my memory, and seeing firsthand the plight of so many in our world was priceless in changing my world view. 

 But the most important lesson I learned was the one from the hike. Focusing on the boots before me got me through a lengthy and physically demanding hike.  Someday, my journey here will be done, but as I've experienced the inevitable difficulties of life on this earth, the principle in Hebrew 12:2 always comes to mind:  “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of [our] faith…”, and I remember the muddy boots from that long ago hike.  

*These beautiful children were at a tiny church in one of the remote mountain villages we visited.  They had never seen light skinned, light haired people before, and they kept running their fingers through our hair in amazement. I also have a vivid memory of one of these little boys literally scampering up a banana or coconut tree to get the fruit. :)

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