All the guides on our recent climb up Kilimanjaro were incredible. They were selfless people, and every one of them did everything their power to get us to the top of the mountain. There was one guide, however, who’s personality made him stand out to our whole group. His name was Dixon, and Dixon had a tremendous gift of encouragement.
It was the final day of our ascent up the mountain. This is the day famously known as “summit day.” The guide company did everything they could to prepare us for summit day, but it is one of those things that you really can’t understand until you experience it.
The day began at midnight, when we were awakened after a brief and restless night of sleep for our 1:00 A.M. departure. Our campsite was set up at over 16,000 feet of elevation, which is higher than anywhere in the continental U.S. It’s difficult to sleep at that elevation, so most of us really only got a couple hours of sleep. Not to mention, everyone was already tired from the previous 4 days of climbing. The elevation was starting to get to us, and it was significantly colder with the sun still a long ways from rising.
The path that day was steep. We ascended over 3000 feet in around 5 hours. We could see headlamps way off in the distance when we looked up towards the peak, and it didn’t seem possible that we still had to climb all the way up to where they were. Just over an hour into the climb, we were already tired. Our guide finally gave us a break, but he hurried us to keep it short. He knew that sitting too long could increase the likelihood of someone developing symptoms of hypothermia. Most of our camelbacks had frozen, so we had very limited amounts of water for the day. It’s hard to describe just how mentally challenging this all was.
About 3 hours into the climb, you could just tell that hope was dwindling. Some folks were upset that we were not being given enough time to rest. Some were visibly frustrated at how cold it was. Others wanted us to pick up the pace in hopes that it would shorten this difficult journey. Essentially. We were all beginning to have natural human reactions to being put under extreme conditions.
Then, at the precisely perfect time, we hear a boisterous shout arise from within our group. “God willing! God willing!” shouted our good friend Dixon. He followed that up with a queue to the rest of the guides, and they all broke out into a joyous song. Immediately, the Holy Spirit rose up within our group! We were all given a renewed sense of hope. People from our team began speaking encouraging words to each other, and joining in the cheers with the guides. In an instant, we went from deflated and beginning to doubt, to inspired and full of hope. From that moment on, it was as if we knew we were all going to make it. It was still cold. We were still dizzy and had headaches from the altitude. Our bodies were still exhausted from the lack of Oxygen. However, we knew we were going to push through all that. Our flesh was indeed week, but our spirit was willing.
It wasn’t the words that Dixon spoke. There was nothing profound or especially insightful about what he said. It was simply that at the right time, when hope seemed to fade, he dared to life up a shout of faith. It was as if those words were building in his heart all morning, just itching to get out. I’m sure he was battling the same things we all battle when God asks us to reach out and be bold. Will they think I am weird? What if they don’t respond and I look stupid? Will God even show up?
At the exact pointed time, Dixon overcame those fears, and it was as if the life of the Holy Spirit just came bursting from his mouth. Can I say for sure that we wouldn’t have made it if Dixon hadn’t spoke up? No, I can’t. I certainly can’t speak for everyone. What I can say for certain is that the rest of that day would have been drastically different for my wife and I. We wouldn’t have been inspired to encourage the other climbers around us. Each and every step would have had a little less passion and joy behind it. We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience God the way we did had Dixon not stepped up to shout out those simple but powerful words.
How many opportunities do we have each and every day to follow his example? How many people will you come across today where God says, “A simple smile and ‘good morning’ could change their day!” How many people could just use someone to say, “Can I pray for you?” Maybe you will come across someone that just needs an ear to listen. I don’t know who God will put in front of you today, but I do know that a simple act of obedience could change their world in ways so far beyond you can see. Don’t miss that opportunity today. Follow Dixon’s example, and lift up your very own shout of encouragement.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. – Proverbs 18:21