Category Archives: Kili

Finding Uhuru on Kilimanjaro

On our first night of the climb, I led devotions.  Starting out a series of lessons centered around mountains, I talked about Exodus 3 – where the Lord meets Moses on Mt. Sinai in the burning bush.  Moses was there tending sheep.  He was on no quest, not seeking after God in any special way.  But the Lord came to him on His own terms in a way that would be life-changing.    I challenged people to seek after the Lord on this trip (as Moses does later in Exodus 33), but to realize that He will come in His own time, in His own way.


I really appreciated the week spiritually.  Seeing the beauty of the various terrain that we walked in was wonderful.  I brought my Kindle with me and decided to pick up a book that I had appreciated in college called Transforming Grace.  This book was deeply impactful to me in college and focuses on the way that God’s grace (and not our own efforts) is what brings about our growth in the Lord even after we first come into relationship with Him. Even the first time I read it, I remember thinking, “yes of course”, but the message eventually soaked in in a way that really rocked my world.

As we approached summit day, I felt like everything had been going well.  I had worked my tail off (literally) to get into shape for this and while I was definitely tired at the end of our hikes, it was nothing out of the ordinary.  Our last campsite was around 15,200 feet above sea level with the summit being at 19,340.  Our lead guide spoke words of support telling us that the guides were available to help us with our daypack, water, whatever we would need.  It was nice to have the option (the guides started out grabbing packs for a few people), but I had this on my own.  When we took our first break (around 16,000ft), I remember thinking, “this isn’t bad, might even be nice to go a little faster.”

As we continued up the mountain though, something funny was going on inside.  I had a hard time keeping balance when I turned and I started to feel light-headed and dizzy.  I pushed through and kept going.  I talked with one of the other climbers who gave me some tips on ways to climb and breathe that would maximize getting oxygen, and minimize using a lot of energy.  That got me further, but the more I went, the more dangerous it felt.  The rocks up there are sharp and if I fell, I would probably roll a long way down the slope of volcanic ash.  At some point above 17,000 feet, I started to wonder if I should stop and turn back.

As I continued up the mountain, I was reminded of a verse that a fellow climber had shared earlier that week: Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  I heard the Lord in that verse – “if you want to make it up, you have to get rid of what’s hindering you.”   I had put on most of my layers – my pack was light at that point, it had to be less than 10lbs.  It wouldn’t make a difference, would it?  I looked around and most of the guides were already carrying packs.  So I pressed on feeling worse and questioning myself more and more.

Everything was fuzzy, but eventually I accepted that the status quo would not work.  I needed to get rid of my pack.  But I felt shame.  “How can I ask for help when the guides are already helping others?”  “Can’t I carry this light pack on my own?”  It took every bit of intentionality I had in me to swallow my pride and say to the climber in front of me, “Carl, I need someone to carry my pack.  I can’t do it.”  Carl didn’t hesitate – he scrambled around and found one of the guides, Abu, who took my pack in addition to the pack he was already carrying.

When Abu took my pack, something beyond explanation happened.  My head cleared almost immediately and within 5 minutes, I had no doubts that I would make the summit.  It was a weight lifted that was well beyond its own mass.  This was something from the Lord.  As I continued to climb, I realized that in that bag was something more than a “hindrance to be thrown off”, but it marked my own self-sufficiency and pride in a way that was truly “entangling”.  I couldn’t climb the mountain on my own and I almost turned back because I couldn’t ask for help.

The summit of Kilimanjaro is called “Uhuru Peak” which in Swahili means freedom.  When I reached the summit along with our team, I was moved to tears.  The Lord laid my sin bare before me on the mountain and showed me that I couldn’t make it on my own.  It was hard, and frustrating, but when I gave up my way of doing things, I experienced the “uhuru” of the Lord in an incredible way.  It wasn’t up to me to make it on my own.  The Lord knew: I needed to experience the Gospel anew in my life – physically and spiritually.  The Gospel at its root is the realization – both for our salvation, and for our day to day existence – that we can’t do it on our own.  As much as I wanted to reach the summit in my own power, I needed help, and the Lord had help ready for me when I asked for it.  I experienced the presence of Jesus in a Tanzanian man named Abu who “took the weight of my burden” so that I could “run the race before me”.  This was part of God’s much needed Transforming Grace in my life.


Since coming back, I’ve told several people that I “met God on Kilimanjaro”.  My expectations, book included, were high, but He came on His own terms.  Now I can only pray that my “mountaintop experience” won’t just be a 1-time deal, but like Moses, that I will come down as a changed man.  That my lesson learned at the summit would lead me to experience Uhuru on a daily basis.



Kilimanjaro Recap

Hello All!

After a few days of rest, recovery for swollen and blistered feet, and sorting through very deep inboxes at home and work, I am just now getting a real opportunity to provide some updates on my time at Kilimanjaro with EMI.


Kilimanjaro is an incredible place – the climb went through rainforests, heath and moorland zones (picture if you can “the Scottish highlands meet Super Mario World”), an alpine desert – where volcanic ash is mixed with sharp foreboding rock, and a stunning glacier at the top.  When you throw in species of plants that grow nowhere else in the world, it really did feel like we had entered another world.


Much of our climb was a slow ascent around the perimeter (we started on the western edge and summited from the southeast).  The time gave us some incredible views of this gorgeous piece of God’s creation.  This also was precious time to acclimatize (we spent several days around 13,000ft above sea level) and prepare ourselves for summit day.

Kili mountain

Our team of 14 got along great.  Including 4 East Africa staff, 2 East Africa interns, 2 other EMI folks from the US office, and 6 volunteers with varying histories with our ministry.  Among them was my college buddy David – my tent-mate for the week.  I was so blessed to have this long time friend with me and loved ggetting to have some solid time with him.   Thankfully he is NOT an engineer so that helped the humor vary significantly!  It was powerful to start each day with Psalms or scriptures about mountains and to reflect together on what the Lord was teaching us in this “mountaintop experience” over dinner.  As Jen mentioned in her earlier post, we were so excited to have all 14 of us successfully summit early in the morning of the 27th!


The outfitter that we worked with was incredible.  Each climber had a porter carrying a 15kg duffle bag for them so that we could have different layers for the varying terrain / climate.  They set up tents for us (usually by the time we got to camp) and had hot meals 3 times a day.  Watching the porters (and the cooks, and the guides) was extremely humbling as these men worked so hard to give us every opportunity to succeed.  Someone asked how it felt to conquer Kilimanjaro – I can only really remark that it was only possible through the aid of these amazing folks.


I don’t have a total from our team together yet, but I can say that I have personally received sponsorships over $6,000 from partners like you!  Including a tremendous effort by First Baptist Jasper, GA along with many incredibly generous individuals, I want to send out a strong THANK YOU! with more personal notes soon to follow.  During summit day especially, I felt a huge motivation by the “cloud of witnesses” that were praying and standing behind me in this climb.

For those coming into this late, the purpose of the climb is to raise funds for the ministry that we are a part of: Engineering Ministries International, which hopes to build a new office in the immediate future in partnership with a like-minded organization, Mission Aviation Fellowship.  You can see more details on the fundraiser here.  While the climb is over, EMI would still be grateful for your consideration to contribute to this effort.  If you are still interested, you can do so at:  Give to account 1528 – Kilimanjaro Climb.

I will share more in a different post, but the Lord also used this time in my own life in powerful ways.  As I had been praying beforehand, I truly “met the Lord on the mountain” and experienced His presence in some very tangible ways.  For those that were praying in this regard, thank you!

Lesson #15: endurance produces character

Today is a day of Double Blessing: first, my incredible husband is home!  He and the team arrived back to EMI today to an office full of staff, interns, and families cheering and yelling for their victory!  We are so proud of all of them, and our family is especially proud of one in particular for all his perseverance, hard work, and courage.

Second, today is our 1-year “Afroversary.”  In other words, one year ago today our family arrived in Africa.  🙂  Jeff will write more in the next few days, I’m sure, on his adventure.  But, while my exhausted husband slumbers upstairs (he fell asleep while Haven read to him, how cute is that?), I thought I would share a little about what our entire family has learned on ours

Each month in our homeschool co-op, our kids learn about a certain character trait and learn a song about it.  Their fantastic “character” teacher (and my increasingly dearer friend) is able to turn abstract concepts into practical, real-life qualities that they each desire Jesus to form in them.  This month we are learning about endurance.  Romans 5: 3-4 talks about how we can rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

Jeff being gone has given the girls and I much opportunity to discuss what it means to endure, and, with that, to talk about how God is shaping our character.  But it’s not just Jeff’s trip that has done that.  It’s this entire year.  This year has been a year full of incredible blessings, incredible mercies, and incredible FUN.    But it’s also been a year where God has stretched us in ways that we had no idea needed to be stretched (or ways we already knew needed to be stretched!).  There have been times when, like a balloon, I wondered if I would pop.  There’s been times when I’ve been really concerned for our kids because of how they were being stretched.

And yet in the stretching, in the struggles, there’s been growth.  In our kids alone there has been tremendous, incredible growth.  In this past year they have become more grateful, more empathic, more joyful, more respectful, and more loving.  And they have fallen so much more in love with Jesus.  For Jeff, even in this last week and a half, he has been shaped significantly.  The moment he got off the taxi today, I could see — he’s different.  Something changed in him up on that mountain.  He’s endured much, and he’s grown through it. 

And as our character grows, says Romans, so does hope.  As we struggle through challenges God teaches us to trust in Christ all the more.  He teaches us to cling to Him.  And that is the greatest way we can grow — to become more dependent on another, on Christ.  So whether your struggles right now are due to living in a new environment, a surgery or health issues, family struggles, fostering a child, or something else — I pray that God will use your suffering to produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in Jesus.


I am SO excited to announce that Jeff and the entire team made it to the summit! This morning (Ugandan time/middle of the night in the US) Jeff texted me and said: “Am back at camp after a successful summit!  Get a short rest and then we head further down.  All 14 of us made it in spite of some real challenges, including me.  God is amazing!”

Thank you so much to all of you for your consistent prayer for this endeavor.  Also, thank you so much to those of you who chose to financially sponsor Jeff (and others) for the benefit of the EMI office.  We greatly, greatly appreciate all of your support — whether it be financial, through prayer, or through your constant encouragement.

Kili Summit Tonight!

Well, tonight is the night!  At 11 pm East African time, Jeff will get up (yes, I said wake up at 11 pm!) and begin his final ascent to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Lord-willing arriving there at sunrise.  Apparently ALL of the climbers are still hanging in there and pumped about this last night!  David and the other volunteer who are sick are still not back to 100% (I would imagine it’s hard to get back to 100% under such conditions), but they have hung in there admirably and have been strong enough to do the climbs each day.  So thanks so much for praying for them and the entire team.

It sounds like the entire team is so excited and has “had the time of their life” on this entire trip.  Jeff has some good blisters on his feet, and others are apparently struggling with various levels of altitude sickness.  However, the levels have been quite light considering.  But this last climb is the toughest.  They will go from 15 to 19,000 feet.  So please be praying for the success of each member of the team and that they will arrive to the top feeling good and able to adequately breathe.  Thanks so much for everything.  I will write as soon as I hear news of the climb.

update on Jeff

Hello from the “Homefront”!  The kids and I were shocked yet extremely excited to get a call from Jeff today.  Apparently he has some cell reception (yet very little airtime or battery power) on Mount Kilimanjaro — who knew?  Physically, the team of 14 (7 from our EMI office here, 7 that flew in from the States) is largely doing well.  They are on track and persevering well so far.  And our girls were very pleased to know that Daddy can still breathe.  🙂

However, two on the team have gotten a sick with major stomach issues.  It seems they think it is food/water related as opposed to the flu.  One is our friend David and the other is another US volunteer.  David was apparently really sick all last night and really struggling.  However, he still was able to continue to make the climb today.  Jeff and David were really touched in the fact that their Climb Kili guide carried David’s day pack so that he could just focus on climbing.  Today included an acclimatization hike, and while I don’t fully understand what this is (sorry, I am definitely playing telephone operator here!) it seems like the group climbed back down after going up a ways in order to test their strength for the elevation.  The beauty of this was that David (and Jeff accompanying him) was able to go as far as he felt comfortable, but then the two of them just met everyone else at the night camp.

Please pray for David and the other sick climber, that their stomachs will calm down so they can have good rest tonight.  Pray against dehydration and pray that somehow their bodies can completely heal in the midst of pretty horrid conditions for stomach problems.  And please praise God with us that the team is all largely doing so well!  Tomorrow is “only” 3-5 hours, so it is a shorter day.  However, it requires a lot of scrambling, so please pray for the health of the overall team!

On the homefront, by God’s amazing grace, we are doing well.  We all miss Jeff a huge amount, but in general we have had much less bumps in the road than I think any of us were expecting.  It has given the kids and I some really sweet time together, and it has also given them an extra chance to trust in God as their Heavenly Father.  So thank you SO much for praying for all of us right now!  Please pray for us that we will finish well, particularly for Isaac as he does not understand.  The day Jeff left he kept asking to “climb the mountain with Daddy.” (oh, I just love the mental picture of Jeff climbing Kili with his pack strapped to his back and Isaac strapped to his front!)  But, that poor kid, he’s been patiently waiting for Daddy to come back, and he just isn’t quite getting why each day he’s not back from that mountain yet!  🙂

Kilimanjaro Update

T Minus 5 days and counting!

On Saturday 21st of January, I will be meeting up with a group of 14 climbers in Tanzania to begin the ascent of Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro!

How do you feel?  As prepared as I can be I suppose.  I was blessed to geta good load of new clothes, equipment, food, etc.  In terms of exercise, I’ve been diligent in getting out several times a week strengthening my legs, doing cardio, etc.  I must admit that the pictures of the peak look a bit intimidating – it’s a REALLY tall mountain!

Why are you doing this?  For almost a year, our family has been working in Uganda with Engineering Ministries International.  Eith EMI, I have designed schools, an HIV/AIDS medical clinic, and missionary housing among others.  Our office is busting at the seams and as we look to continue to grow into the future, we need a more permanent facility that will allow us to better serve Uganda and the surrounding nations of East Africa.  We have an incredible opportunity to build a joint office with Mission Aviation Fellowship, a like-minded organization that is helping the Gospel to advance in the region in powerful ways.  The Kilimanjaro Climb is a fundraiser trying to raise up funds for this facility.  You can also see the longer version here.

How is fundraising going?  To date, I have personally raised a little over $3000.  A matching gift offer up to $15,000 has come in and if you can give, your gift will be matched for twice the impact.  You can make your tax deductible donation online at:
Under Categories and Funds, Click Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb – 1528 and then be sure to write “Austin” in the box “Other Category and/or Volunteer’s Name”.
Contributions are welcome anytime but especially helpful before the climb on January 21.

How can we pray for you?  Pray for stamina, that blisters, altitude sickness, dehydration will stay away.  Pray that our team can work well together and grow as an EMI community.  Pray also that the Lord would raise up the funds we need for the office.  You can see the schedule of our climb so that you can pray more specifically for the climb elements below.
What’s the schedule?

January 19:    Travel to Tanzania and spend the night at a hotel in Arusha.

January 20:  Rest time.  Sort gear / organize.  Pre-trek meeting with the climbing team.


7,742’~2,360m ∙ 3 mi~4.8 km ∙ 3-4 hrs
After a restful night at the hotel, we begin our trek from western side checking in at the Londorossi gate with a starting altitude of 7,742’~2,360m.  The trail with gently ascend through the montane forest until we reach camp. Tonight’s camp is nestled in the Kilimanjaro rain forest at the Mti Mkubwa which in Swahili means Big Tree.

January 22:     MTI MKUBWA to SHIRA CAMP

11,500’~3,505m ∙ 4.5 mi~7.3 km ∙ 6-8 hrs
Departing the rain forest, we enter the heath and moorland zone. In the afternoon we follow the Shira ridge the vast high altitude desert plateau where the first views of Mt Kilimanjaro open on the horizon and the landscape is a magnificent contrast from the departed rain forest.

January 23:   SHIRA CAMP to MOIR CAMP

13,650’~3,818m ∙ 6.3 mi~10.1 km ∙ 6-8 hrs
Full day exploration of the Shira plateau. Trek east toward Kibo’s glaciated peak with the option to visit the ancient collapsed Shira cone, the oldest of Kilimanjaro’s three volcanoes.  We arrive at Moir Camp situated in a huge gorge at the end of a dormant lava flow.


12,950’~3,916m ∙ 6.2 mi~10 km ∙ 5-7 hrs
Today we take an acclimatization trek to the Lava Tower at 15,000’~4,500m.  Following our rest at the tower, we decend upon the enormous Senecio forest reaching waterfall prior to finishing at Barranco Camp.  Tonight’s camp is in the shadow of the massive Barranco wall with the breeze often carrying clouds from the Barranco Valley.

13,200’ ~ 4,630m ∙ 2.2 mi~3.5 km ∙ 3-5 hrs
Today the group conquers the great Barranco Valley and up the Barranco wall; continue the trek on the South Circuit path through the Karanga Valley.  We camp tonight at Karanga Camp.

15,200’~4,630m ∙ 3.4 mi~5.4 km ∙ 3-5 hrs
Slowly trek to Barafu Camp. from Barafu you will have excellent views of Kibo and Mawenzi peaks. Barufu Camp is situated on an exposed ridge providing majestic sunsets ushering in the summit night.  We acclimatize and make necessary preparation for the summit day ahead.

January 27:   BARAFU to SUMMIT to MWEKA CAMP
19,340’~5,895m ∙  13 mi~21 km ∙ 12-14 hrs
Tonight is the night!  A midnight start to conquer the highest point in Africa.  This section of the route is considered one of the steepest on the non-technical paths of Kilimanjaro. It is a 6-7 hour hike to Stella Point in order to see the sunrise. From Stella Point it is a 1 hour to Uhuru Peak and the rooftop of Africa.  We then descend down to Mweka Camp for dinner and celebration.

January 28:   MWEKA CAMP to Exit
Mweka Gate 5,400’~1,620m ∙  3.7 mi~5.9 km ∙ 3-4 hrs
A morning walking to Mweka gate.  At the bottom, we transfer to our hotel for a very welcomed shower! Overnight stay in Arusha.

January 29:     Return back to Kampala Uganda with many stories to tell!