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Chaplain's Commentary: Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Gretchen Hulse
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing

I’ve always wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent of Africa, for as long as I can remember. This summer that dream came true for me.

The whole excursion took seven nights and eight days to complete. It took our team six days to reach base camp for the summit. The summit took seven hours to summit the peak. Seven hours in the blistering wind. It was -15 degrees when we began the summit hike. It was the kind of cold when the tears freeze on your cheeks. The kind of cold where each breath feels like your lungs are burning. The rocks and boulders were difficult to climb over in the bitter cold. But each step in the volcanic ash felt like a major challenge. One step forward felt like two steps back as your foot would sink into the thick ash. Each step required so much mental fortitude and physical perseverance. Moving slowly was the strategy to overcome this challenge. Each small step seemed like it was taking three minutes as we got closer to the peak.

When we reached the top we were tired, thirsty, and sore - but we
actually made it! We reached the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I had accomplished my dream. What a rush! As I looked out at the vastness of the peak surrounding me, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude and awe. The peak was far above the clouds and looked like the surface of the moon. All I could see was a thick blanket of clouds below us. It was surreal.

Each day we spent grinding out the miles, hoping to find what we were seeking, the mountain top. What are you hoping to find? What is your mountain? Is it a new job, a promotion, a new relationship, a new degree, a spiritual renewal, a life changing experience or challenge? Whatever you seek, that goal is dependent upon you making it to the end. If you have the motivation to accomplish your goal, you can and will do it.

But what about the many miles walked to get there? What about all the experiences and people you meet along the trek? What are you able to discover about yourself along the way? If we only focus on accomplishing the goal, we will likely miss the lessons and opportunities for reflection along the way.

You are more than the sum of your accomplishments. Your journey is just as important as your destination.  If you’re uncertain about the future, have questions about how to discover your path forward, or could use some encouragement along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Religious Support Team. We’re happy to help you achieve your goals and discover the joys of the journey!  Keep trekking!

(Story written by Chaplain (Maj.) Gretchen Hulse)