Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2
Patience, at least for me, is one of the most difficult lessons to grasp. Our task driven, fast paced lifestyles in America make patient people more of the minority. That is one of the things I love about Africa. The people in Africa don’t live with the same sense of urgency to get things done as we do in the U.S. As a result, they tend to spend a lot more time interacting with people and building relationships than they do rushing around to complete tasks. In my experience, Africans are just more patient in general. In my most recent trip to Africa, I met the single most patient individual I have ever come across. He was one of our guides to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and his name was Justin.
It was day 3 of our climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The journey was starting to get difficult, and some of the people in our group were struggling. One of the climbers in particular was really having a rough time. Her energy level was way down, and she was having trouble getting it back up because the altitude had depleted her appetite. As we began the climb on day 3, she was beginning to doubt whether or not she was going to make it to the next campsite. However, she had a guide named Justin who was determined to help her get there, and to make sure she arrived safely.
We began climbing that day around 8:30 AM. My wife and I opted to stay in the back with some of our teammates who were struggling to keep up with the rest if the group, including this one woman who was really hurting. We had a front row seat to watch this guide, Justin, walk step by step right with her. He carried her pack for her. He lifted her water to her lips every time she needed a drink. She had to stop every couple hundred feet to rest. He never once gave her a hard time. I never saw Justin roll his eyes or let out a sigh of frustration. He never tried to speed her up. He just walked patiently right along side her. Justin did not care what time he made it to camp. In fact, he didn’t think much of himself at all. The only thing he cared about was doing everything in his power to keep our friend safe and get her to the next campsite.
Day 3 was supposed to be around a 6 hour hike, which would have gotten us to the campsite around 2:30 PM. About 4.5 hours into the hike, the guides informed us that we were still about 4 hours from the campsite. At this point, my wife and I opted to go ahead and try to catch up with the group in front of us. We were concerned that we would arrive to camp after dark. Not Justin, though. He just kept walking right along side this woman with no concern for himself.
Fast forward to almost 8:00 PM. Our entire group of climbers, minus this one woman, is now at the campsite praying that she makes it to us safely. The sun has gone down, and it’s so cold that we are all huddled together in an attempt keep warm. Two of the porters have ran back down the trail to help Justin get our teammate to us safely. Then we see headlamps off in the distance. We all get excited thinking that it might be our team member. We watch for the next 10-15 minutes as the lights get closer and closer to us. We can finally make out who it is, and we see Justin holding our friend’s hand and leading her towards her tent. Everyone erupts in celebration. We are all clapping and cheering, and we rush to hug this amazingly brave woman and her loyal guide. It took them nearly 12 hours to make it from one camp to the next, but neither one of them gave up. It was one of the most inspiring things I have ever witnessed.
I wrote in my journal that night that Justin gave me the most real depiction I have ever seen of how God walks with each and every one of us. He doesn’t criticize us or beat us down the way we tend to do to ourselves. Instead He encourages us and constantly reminds us that we have everything we need to accomplish what He has put in front of us. God doesn’t send us off on our own without any help. He sticks closer to us than a brother, and He watches over us every step of the way. He is more patient with us than we can even comprehend. It was such a privilege to watch Justin embody all of these things for that woman on our team.
There is a pretty good chance that you are going to be faced with a situation today where your patience is tested. If you are anything like me, you will want to respond with frustration. But I urge you today, when that situation comes, think about the example Justin set for all of us. More importantly, think about the patience that God has had with you, and try to show that same grace to the people around you. Maybe you need to just be patient with yourself, and show yourself some grace. With humility, gentleness and patience, bear with one another in love.