Forever Changed

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Forever Changed

Canadian Denise Heppner shares how hiking can teach us so much about how to overcome those mountains in our lives that can stop us moving forward and reaching our potential

Looking up to the towering mountain tops above was daunting.  My breath was coming in heavy gasps, my legs cement pillars protesting each step forward and upward.  “Just one more step,” played over and over in my mind. 

More intense than the pain in my legs was the terrible heartache for the women and children I was climbing for. Beautiful people, children of God, trapped in horrible circumstances beyond their control. The nightmare of the sex trade where darkness, despair, and pain rules.  How could I make a difference in the lives of those suffering such atrocities? 

Breathing God's name

Pausing on the mountainside, a sharp intake of breath (“Yah”) and it’s exhalation (“weh”) reminded me that with every breath I take I am breathing God’s holy name: “Yahweh”.  And God is love, light, and hope. Through participating in the Freedom Challenge I have the incredible joy of helping to bring love, light, and hope to those who are suffering! 

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The Freedom Challenge has indeed challenged me, stretched me and changed me; the love and support from family, friends and even strangers is part of this incredible journey. Every cent raised makes a huge difference in the lives of others. And every step taken on the mountain leads to freedom and empowerment of those who are climbing. With empowerment God has created, in me, a passion and drive to press on and to continue helping others in need. Through participation in the Freedom Challenge I have been forever changed.

Overcoming the mountains in your life

By taking part in the Freedom Challenge God has given me the strength to climb my own mountains, whatever those may be.  Overcoming the mountains in your life involves the proper trekking gear: 

  • Good boots are the key to a journey with minimal pain. They provide the foundation of your walk. As with good boots, a life with Jesus is sure, simple, and steadfast. 
     
  • Backpack: We are always going to have some baggage, however, you can choose what you want to carry around with you.  Jesus desires to love and to heal – He will be your porter, carrying your burdens so that you can move forward in your life.
     
  • Toilet paper: Life is messy. It is sometimes explosive and sometimes an easy clean-up. Thankfully, God promises a fresh start, a clean slate. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come!”
     
  • Water bottle: To prevent against altitude sickness we were advised to drink a lot of water and think of it as extreme hydration. Just as our physical bodies need water for life, so does our spirit. Our souls are thirsty and we may try to quench that thirst with a lot of different things, often with unhealthy choices, but eventually we thirst again. Jesus is the living water, and by looking to Him each day, He is the only thing that can truly quench the thirst of the spirit.   
     
  • Trekking poles are a necessity as they offer balance and support.  Life will never be without sorrow or troubles and, with God’s help, we can maintain a balanced perspective in our life and our attitudes. We can experience joy even during difficult times. The Lord brings balance to our lives which gives us hope, which in turn gives us strength.  
     
  • Headlamp: If you need to find your way after the sun goes down you had better have a light. The terrain is rocky and it is easy to misstep and fall. In John 8:12 it says, “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” 
     
  • Sunglasses: These are important on the mountain to guard against the sun’s harsh rays at altitude. They are a good reminder to keep our eyes focused on what is important in life and not get side-tracked by the little things. “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” Psalm 16:8.
     
  • Warm, water-proof clothes: As you trek through life and get hit with the cold, the rain showers, the messiness, know that you are surrounded by God’s warmth and comfort. And know that it is okay to reach out to others to borrow pieces of their gear to get you through a cold spell.  
     
  • First aid kit: A first aid kit is useful in learning to dress your own wounds. However, I found much joy in assisting others. Helping others makes you feel connected, it takes your mind off of your own worries for awhile, and gives a sense of meaning and purpose to your life.   
      
  • Camera: to capture those amazing moments in life!  We can look back and reflect on those moments when things are difficult. 
     
  • Merino wool socks:  Merino wool is known for being odour-resistant. And, quite frankly, when you kick those boots off at the end of the day and crawl into a tiny tent with your tent mate it ain’t gonna be pretty!
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Proper trekking gear – make sure you are equipped!  Climbing your own mountains will never be easy but it will be an incredible journey.  Following Jesus provides hope and transformation of the likes that we can’t even imagine. 

Beautiful in God's sight

God has something beautiful in store for each and every one of us. We are beautiful in His sight!  I wish that we could all see ourselves the way He sees us, His beloved children!  My prayer and goal for my participation in the Freedom Challenge is that we can help free oppressed women and children, that they can experience a transformed life, and truly feel the love of Christ, and see how beautiful they are. 

The Freedom Challenge truly changes lives – of those whom we serve, and indeed, in the very lives and hearts of all who participate. Step out in faith and you will be forever changed. 

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Denise Heppner teaches online for the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in the area of Special Education. She accepted the Lord’s call to the Freedom Challenge in 2013 and has completed Everest Base Camp, Colorado 7 Summits, Fernie Canada, and most recently Machu Picchu. As Denise climbs mountains for the freedom of others, she leaves behind on the flat prairie her wonderful husband and three fantastic children aged 6, 9, and 11.  Her goal is to encourage people with the idea that they can indeed make a difference – helping one person at a time! Denise hopes that in addition to creating widespread awareness of the horrors of human trafficking and raising money for enslaved women and children, that participating in the Freedom Challenge will allow her to show how God’s love has helped her to overcome the challenges in her life and inspire in others the strength to climb their own mountains.  

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"Hope is always present"

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"Hope is always present"

Jessica Sherwood took part in our Machu Picchu hike in September. Here, she shares in a creative and beautiful way what this experience meant to her

Inhale.

Exhale.

I can do this.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Every step feels important.

Heart beats fast.

Deep breathes in and out again.

I look up at the sky.

Tiny droplets forming. Now falling.

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Turning quickly into ice.

Am I walking alone?

The question comes up in my heart and mind.

But then laughter. People calling out my name.

The guide running down the mountain toward me.

“Let me carry your pack.”

I shake my head no.

Isn’t it my burden to carry?

My chest aches.

My lungs burn.

I take two more steps and then I see them.

All lined up.

All calling out my name.

“You’re so close Jessica!”

Walking through the line of their arms raised high.

My team leader embraces me.

“I’m so proud of you.”

My face is wet.

I think I am crying.

The moment feels surreal.

My trail friend and support takes a photo with me.

I smile at him, “I did it.”

“No...we did it Jessica.”

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And then understanding falls on me.

He’s right.

We did it.

It was never a burden I was meant to carry alone.

Their names and faces rush to my mind.

The stories I’ve heard.

The ones I’ve imagined.

The times I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in the night thinking of her fate.

Only 2% rescued.

My deep sorrow on display.

But my sorrow is met with great belief.

I see it on each of my new friend’s faces.

“Jessica, we walk alongside of you.”

So often hope is veiled.

I can’t always see the beauty.

Yet somehow on the mountain, I begin to see it.

Only a glimpse.

A moment when we were walking and the sky pulled back.

Lush green mountains.

The fall and rise of sloping hillsides.

My ears ring from the silence.

I am in His presence.

And He tells me there is hope.

The immoveable presence of God in the mountains.

Victory awaits.

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Hope is always present.

It may not always be seen.

But God takes my faith so small and moves these mountains.

God saw my every step.

I discovered a shared mission and burden.

We can do this.

You are not alone.

She will not be left behind.

He will go to great lengths to find her.

My privilege and joy is to walk on her behalf.

To dedicate a year.

To meet others who share the same passion.

The journey to rescue and restore won’t be easy.

It will be a long road.

But I trust that in some sense she will hear us.

Hear all of the voices of the women who believe in her rescue.

Calling out on the mountain.

There is hope.

Rescue is on the way.

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He can restore every part of you.

Come out of hiding.

And when the clouds pull back just for a moment, I pray that she will see it.

The story waiting for her.

The hope, belief, and beauty that surrounds her.

And more than anything I pray that she will behold the One who sees her.

Who has so graciously poured a piece of himself into each of us to fight for her.

Her rescue is inevitable.

Hope will not disappoint.

Jessica grew up in the Midwest, but now lives in South Florida where she works for an international non-profit called OneHope. She serves on the Advancement team developing creative strategy and content. She attended Oral Roberts University with a double major in French and Public Relations. Jessica is a lover of books and stories and creative writing. She's had a passion to help in the fight against human trafficking since she was in a high-school. Since then she's had the privilege of working with varying non-profits to advocate and fundraise on behalf of women and children caught in slavery.

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"The doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel"

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"The doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel"

Anna*, one of our brothel outreach workers in Eastern Europe, shares about a recent visit to a brothel and how she and her team are reaching out to some of the broken and desperate young women there

“When we entered the brothel, ladies began waving at us and calling out greetings to us; the doorman mistook us for ladies working in the brothel. Their conduct was very warm, friendly and familiar... until we explained to them why we were there. Immediately the doormen became more formal and called the manager; he knows us well and let us right in!

Complicated relationships

Ava*, a Romanian/Italian woman that I know very well waved us over; we went to sit with her and started chatting. We talked about her family. She is very close to her mother, even though her mother encourages her to have a relationship with a man that she recently broke up with, a man who I believe is her pimp.

Ava told me that she plans to meet her ‘ex-boyfriend’ in two weeks’ time. I asked her (indirectly) if she thought he might try to persuade her to get back together and whether she thought she would be able to resist his charm if they were face-to-face.

Hiding the truth

She told me she knows it is not a good idea to meet him but that she does not want to disappoint her mother. She has not told her mom everything that he has done to her (he has physically and verbally abused her), and she told me that she has kept the truth secret from her mother.

During our conversation she passed pills to another Romanian lady. The security guard spotted this and told her there are no drugs allowed in the brothel. She insisted that they were headache tablets. When they were not looking she passed the pill to the Romanian lady who quickly took it.

Bad customers and drugs

A gift for the women in the brothels to help them know they are loved.

A gift for the women in the brothels to help them know they are loved.

Then Ava told me that she is not feeling very good, that she has had some bad customers; ladies regularly get beaten and customers do things that are very dehumanizing, both physically and verbally. I think the ladies take pills (which are technically prohibited by most of the brothels) to cope with the physical and emotional pain of what they do.

I was not very comfortable that pills were being passed around while I was talking with her. At the same time, I did not want her to feel that I am judging or accusing her. The lady she passed the pill to has only been in prostitution three days and was clearly both uncomfortable and scared.

Knowing the right words

Please pray for us to know what words to say to share the truth of the gospel with the ladies, and for open hearts and the right timing. We really want the Holy Spirit to lead us in all we say and do.

Thank you very much for your prayers. Our God is The GREAT and ALMIGHTY God, and nothing is too hard for Him!”

Your support means that we can help more and more women like Ava to have hope and know that they are loved. Thank you!

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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Free to Live

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Free to Live

Sabina* lost her desire to live when she found out she was HIV+ - she thought her life was over. But thanks to one of our projects in Central Asia, she is learning to live again

Sabina was given little support from the doctor who diagnosed her; in fact, he told her that she only had six years to live. In some parts of Central Asia, a diagnosis of HIV is still seen as a death sentence and little is known about how the right treatment can prolong life.

So Sabina, a mother of two, was left feeling desperate and very depressed.

Overwhelmed with fear

Her life had lurched from one struggle to the next; she left home when she was very young with little education and no way of making a living. She got into a relationship with a man who was in and out of prison. Each time he went back to jail she promised she wouldn’t take him back, but each time she felt overwhelmed with fear; her partner was aggressive and demanded that any money she earned should be given to him.

She was struggling with her health, struggling to make ends meet and worrying about the future. She didn’t know where to turn. She feared for her two daughters, and began making plans for her eldest daughter to get married, even though she was still quite young.

Learning to cook

Then a friend told her about one of our projects – Dorcas Kitchen, which provides training and helps develop women’s self-respect. Women learn cooking, food handling and budgeting.

Sabina loved attending Dorcas Kitchen – it was the one high point in her week. As she slowly began to grow in confidence, her new friends at the project, and the team leader, encouraged Sabina to seek medical attention. At this point she hadn’t seen a doctor for two years – not since she was told she didn’t have long to live.

Getting her life back

The team at Dorcas Kitchen put Sabina in touch with an organization that provides HIV+ people with advice and support. She was incredibly relieved and overwhelmed to learn that she could live a long and healthy life now that she was receiving good medical care.  

Sabina told her friends at Doracs Kitchen: “I am not going to die with this infection. If I take good care of myself and get the medical care I need, I can live a long life.”

Dorcas Kitchen is doing an amazing job of changing the lives of vulnerable women like Sabina – bringing them to a place of greater hope and freedom.

But none of this would be possible without your support!

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom but any gift you give will make a difference.

*Name changed to protect identity

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Safe in the Father's arms

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Safe in the Father's arms

Two of our Estes Park Climbers, Laura Wagner and Shannon Perry, share their very different experiences of climbing with The Freedom Challenge in July

Laura Wagner: Safe in the Father's arms

The Freedom Challenge Estes Park in July 2017 was my second time hiking for women and children oppressed, enslaved and in danger around the world.  I raised money and I trained to be able to keep up with the other ladies on the mountains.  But I was there for even more.  I was there for God Himself.

Beautiful mountains

Not only has God given me a burden for people who don’t know Him and don’t know He sees them in their situation and has freedom waiting for them.  But He has drawn me each year to his beautiful and very high and vast mountains to meet Him and know His love for me.

This year, I couldn’t wait to go and see Him working and align my heart with His for His people. But, He also had a work He wanted to do in me and that was to truly trust Him.

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Feeling frightened

My story started on Monday evening after our first day of hiking. There was talk of a difficult snow field we would have to cross on our hike the next day.  I began to worry and feel weak and frightened.  Not my usual way as I usually try to be strong, positive and encouraging to others.  Tuesday morning, I woke up excited for the hike to Chasm Lake and amazed by the glorious day.  

When we were about a mile away from the lake I saw the snow field and fear stopped me in my tracks.  I thought seriously about not crossing and our guides said it would be fine if we hung back.  I was at a crossroads! This was, after all, the Freedom Challenge – we were hiking for those who faced tremendous fear and uncertainty in their lives.  What would it look like if they decide to trust Jesus and see Him work in their lives? Would their lives be different? What about me?

Weak but secure

I asked the Lord if I should go across and I felt that He said, “I will be with you” and so I started across so slowly and fearfully.  Then, this is the amazing part.  As I planted my hiking poles in the snow each step, I felt as if the Lord personally was standing strong behind me, holding my hands and planting my poles for me. I had an image in my mind of a Father teaching his daughter to walk, holding her hands as she toddled and sometimes walked on his feet.  I felt so gloriously weak in my Father’s arms.  My Daddy had me and I could feel weak but secure in His arms. 

When I had crossed, I found this verse from Isaiah in my mind:

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Since I returned, I’ve been able to pray even more passionately for the women and children who need to know that their heavenly Father is with them. I pray that they would experience the same God who embraced me in the midst of my fear and that they would rest in the safety of His strong and loving arms.

Laura Wagner


Dr Shannon Perry: Keeping going when it's tough

As a nurse with an interest in women’s health, supporting a cause to rescue women and girls (as well as men and boys) was dear to my heart. From my first encounter with the Freedom Challenge on Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2012 until the more recent climb in the Rocky Mountains, I have followed the Freedom Challenge and supported their efforts to create and support programs that benefit those affected by human trafficking and other atrocities.

The oldest climber

As the oldest of the climbers (at age 79) at Estes Park, I worked to prepare and then to meet the challenge of the daily climb.  After the first day, the climbs seemed to be a little easier or we were a little better acclimated to the altitude and the terrain. Teresa, our group leader, provided inspirational moments as we rested and spent quiet moments with our thoughts.

We had some wonderful views and spectacular scenery. We encountered some wildlife. On the first day, we saw a bear with two cubs, elk, deer, a marmot, and a moose. Other days, we saw some ground squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and a variety of birds including the ouzel which we saw dive into water seeking food.

Suck it up and keep going!

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When the hiking became difficult or we tired, we were reminded that the women we were hiking for were undergoing challenges.  By overcoming our own difficulties, we could empathize with their challenges which were much more serious, in other words: suck it up and keep going!

I would encourage and challenge others to participate in Freedom Challenges. One of my challenges was raising the money to participate. I am often asked to contribute to various causes and I do so. It was much harder for me to ask others for funds. And I have not yet perfected any fundraising techniques such as involving a church or other group in my efforts. Others are much more successful in that respect.

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Keeping active

What I try to do is to keep my mind active, exercising (encouraged by my more fit daughter and husband), reading extensively, keeping involved with a book club and a writing club, traveling, participating in church activities, playing with my grandchildren, and taking Spanish classes. I have heard that learning a new language is one of the best ways to keep your mind (and memory) active.

And for the next Freedom Challenge, I plan to cheer the hikers on from my armchair!

Dr. Perry is a nurse specializing in maternal-newborn nursing. She has taught maternity nursing and child and adolescent development courses. She is co-author of three maternity nursing textbooks and numerous articles on maternal-child topics.

 

 

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Light in the darkness

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Light in the darkness

In July, not only did a team of womem take part in our Freedom Climb in Estes Park CO, we also sent a mission team to Moldova to work with one of our projects, running a summer camp for vulnerable girls. Team member Micaela Krumweide shares how she experienced God the Father, Protector and Provider, battling for his daughters

A couple of months ago, I finished a nine-month discipleship program through my church, during which God revealed my calling. There were three things God explained my calling involved: women, being abroad and fighting spiritually for those in bondage and chaos.

Toward the end of the program, my pastor announced our church’s partnership with Freedom Challenge and the mission trip to Moldova for a “vulnerable girls’ camp.” This was an exciting opportunity to start working in this calling; however, a worldly reality settled over me—I was already raising money to finance another mission trip in May, so how in the world was I going to raise funds for an even more expensive trip one month later? But that’s just it, isn’t it? It seems quite impossible to raise this money according to the world’s standard, but we do not live according to the world.

'Do you trust me?'

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So one night I was lying in my bed pondering this possibility, and I heard God’s voice so clearly saying, “Do you trust Me? Do you trust Me financially? Do you trust what I can do? Do you trust Me?” I did not answer, so repeatedly He asked me. I am not quite sure how long it took before I could even answer, until finally I answered “yes.” So I signed up and began the process of raising money, and of course, it all came in—and then some!

There I was, already seeing God’s hand in this trip. Realizing that this was right, this was what I needed to do, this is where He wants me. So now, it was time to pray for the trip. Somehow, I came across 1 Peter 1:3–9. I kept coming back to this verse, and every time, the words “hope,” “inheritance,” “suffering” and “salvation” remained, fixed in my heart and mind.

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The realization of darkness

When we arrived in Moldova, it was easy to feel the darkness that surrounds this country. There is a lot of corruption, very few jobs and many broken families. People have little money and are not living—merely surviving. Parents and children are abroad making money in other countries, so there’s no money and no family or community. What a terrible tactic of the enemy. We all felt the darkness, and as we began to feel it harder to smile and harder to laugh, we arrived at the girls’ camp. Understandably, the girls were very stoic and hardened, and very few smiled.

The camp began and games were played, messages were heard and prayers were essential. I could see a covering of that camp, and lightness began to illuminate from the girls. Smiles were everywhere, and laughter was amounting while the Spirit guarded this camp and the fight for victory commenced. The battle that had started within these girls became evident.

Growing up too fast

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One night, we planned to have a time to pray over the girls. They told us about their situations—some had parents abroad or a parent who was an alcoholic, they were taking care of themselves and they grew up too fast. It was clear what the enemy was trying to accomplish—he was robbing their hope, hiding their inheritance, making it hard to see anything but suffering and fighting against their salvation.

However drained I felt did not matter because I was humbled recognizing that this was not my fight; this was the battle for the Spirit inside me, and it was ready to fight these tactics of the enemy. There was a very clear prayer that kept arising, and I spoke it over every girl I touched. This prayer left my mouth countless times: “May this girl know that she is the daughter of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, that this is her inheritance, and it cannot be taken away from her. Cover and protect her as she leaves this camp back into her situation.” It was evident that God wanted to defeat the enemy’s strongholds and bring life to these girls.

The final night was the time to deliver the message of salvation. More than ever, it was clear how badly the enemy was fighting to keep these girls in pain and suffering. More than ever, it was clear how badly God wanted to give them freedom, truth and life. At the end of the message there was an altar call. Victories. Hope. Salvation. Peace. Life. Joy. Value. Identity. Love. All of these accomplished!

The Victory!

God called me and provided for me so that I could partner with Him and see Him overcome. It’s scary to think of these girls back in their situations after being protected and loved at this camp. But I trust God, and my hope is in God. I saw firsthand the extent to which He fights for these girls. I have no doubt that because of the battle fought at that camp, there have been seeds planted. In these girls, there is a newfound hope, a recognized inheritance, a new perspective of suffering, and the gift of salvation!

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I had the honor of being used to fight and cover these girls (learning lessons of trust and humility along the way), and I trust that God continues to fight and cover them right now as well as all of us. God the Father, Protector and Provider constantly battles for His daughters! Oh how amazing He is!

Micaela Krumweide is a college student at the University of La Verne who took a year off to do a nine-month Discipleship Program at The Father’s House church in San Marcos, Calif. She is excited to continue missions and partnering with God to fight spiritually for those around her and is awaiting the next step after she graduates in two years.

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What the Freedom Climb Taught the Teacher

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What the Freedom Climb Taught the Teacher

For our latest blog, we're excited to hear from Dr Christina Crenshaw, one of our speakers at Estes Park, and a novice hiker! Here she shares what she learned from her first ever Freedom Climb...

In late Spring when asked if I would be interested in speaking on the topic of domestic sex trafficking at this year’s Freedom Climb, I took a few days to pray about it and then replied, “Absolutely!”  

I’ve spoken at several human trafficking conferences and events. I’ve conducted research and published on human trafficking prevention related topics. I’ve even lent my consulting hand to a global human trafficking agency when they were writing curriculum for high school students. So, I felt comfortable discussing the current landscape for human trafficking prevention and policies. What was an unexpected and new experience, however, was learning I would not only be speaking, but I would also be hiking.  

Feeling nervous

In the spirit of transparency, I must admit: I felt a biDr of significant caliber. To be certain, I was looking forward to the physical challenge. I welcomed the opportunity, especially one aimed at raising funds and awareness for human trafficking.  But I was also fairly nervous. 

Most participants had more experience. Some had climbed the base of Mount Everest and many had climbed The Grand Tetons. They were also several participants training for an upcoming climb in Mauchu Picchu. They owned mountain gear I had never before seen and from companies of which I had never before heard. 

I, on the other hand, arrived at Estes Park with my Target purchased hiking poles still in their package and my off-brand boots not yet broken in. I brought an oversized Nalgene bottle rather than a Camel Back (and learned the important distinction while on the trail, unfortunately). My pants were not waterproof, my socks were not wool, my hiking boots were actually hiking shoes, and evidentially there is a difference, particularly when walking the side of a snowy mountain. To say I was woefully undertrained and underprepared would be an understatement!  

Still, I trusted the Lord had something for me to grasp about His strength in my weakness. I could see His loving humor in the situation. I could feel His refinement through the process. This summer, I came to The Freedom Challenge to teach, but the experience actually taught me two important lessons: 

1. We get to carry each other. 

As the Lord’s humor would have it, I was placed on an intermediate team. I felt inadequate by comparison, and I initially thought it best to withdraw. My team, however, would hear none of it. In love, they encouraged me to try the first day and reevaluate afterward. I’m thankful they did.  

Day one of the intermediate hike was a challenge for me. I was arguably the slowest, least experienced hiker on my team. And yet, they never once made me feel this way. In fact, my team was quick to praise my accomplishments, the big and small ones. They shared their water when I ran out. They covered me with their garments when I was cold and lacked the proper attire. They even carried some of my gear when it became too heavy near the end. With their help, I made it. We made it together. My team’s support was nothing short of Scripture’s exhortation in Galatians 6:2 to have compassion on one another and carry each other’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ. We fulfilled our goal because we carried one another for His glory. 

2. Our ambition is for His mission.  

We are called to engage ambitious endeavors. The Lord gives each of us a vocational call with the intent of furthering His kingdom on earth. In Os Guinness’s The Call, he affirms two facets of our vocational callings.

First, there is the General Call. This is our invitation to follow Jesus. It is the vocational call to be reconciled to Christ. It is our call to follow Him. Second, there is the Specific Call, a call unique to use our gifts and abilities for His glory. Our Specific Calling is an invitation to co-labor with Christ and to use our ambition to accomplish His mission.

I regularly witness my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ using their vocational gifts in the work place, but the Freedom Climb reminded me the Lord’s work is completed everywhere and in every facet of life, not just the four walls of an office or in the foreign mission field. No matter the scenario or context, when we gather, unify, and climb in His name, we are using our God-given ambition to accomplish His mission. 

Dr. Christina Crenshaw teaches Leadership and Education courses at Baylor University and serves as the Prevention Committee Chair for The Heart of Texas Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. She lives in Waco, TX, with her husband Craig and their two sons.

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'The only thing that kept her alive was prayer'

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'The only thing that kept her alive was prayer'

This is the story of Ruth. Her story is such a powerful example of why The Freedom Challenge exists and why your support is so vital in bringing an end to human trafficking. Ruth and her baby are free at last...

On a cold winter’s afternoon, Ruth, six-months pregnant and scared for her life, boarded a dangerously overcrowded inflatable boat on the coast of Turkey, desperate to escape her past and hopeful of a new life in Europe.    

As they set sail for Greece, Ruth held on to the memory of a dream she’d had the night before; in it, God told her that she would be safe. 

Despite the rough seas, Ruth and all on board arrived unharmed on the Greek island of Chios.

A safe haven

For Ruth, the refugee camp was a safe haven after all she’d been through. But she didn’t know how she would manage to care for the baby when it arrived in such basic living arrangements and with little support.

Ruth grew up in Nigeria with five siblings; every day was a struggle for her mom to feed and take care of Ruth and her other children, especially after Ruth’s father walked out.

A chance to succeed

So when a local woman offered to take Ruth to Turkey and employ her in her shop, her mother agreed, believing that Ruth would have a much better chance to succeed in life away from the poverty and hardships of their village.

Of course, when Ruth arrived in Turkey there was no shop. Only a room with a bed. And no customers, only ‘clients’.

Running for her life

Ruth was heartbroken and very scared. She was locked in the room for hours on end. The only thing that kept her alive was prayer.

One day, the owner of the house invited some men over; they spent all day drinking and for once took little notice of Ruth. She knew that this was her chance – she escaped through the open front door and ran for her life.

As she fled to the nearest town, she was stopped by a Nigerian man called Adam; he asked her why she was running and took her to a local café where Ruth spent the day telling him her dark story. Ruth trusted him and he invited her to live with him.

Short-lived happiness

A few months later, Ruth discovered she was pregnant, Adam was delighted that he would soon be a father. But their happiness was short lived when the woman who had enslaved Ruth found her and started threatening her and her unborn baby.

Terrified, Ruth and Adam decided it was best for her and the baby to escape on one of the migrant boats to Greece.

New life in Greece

After spending just over a month in the refugee camp, the birth was imminent. When UNHCR realized that Ruth was close to giving birth they contacted one of our projects in Greece – Damaris House which cares for refugee women and their new born babies, giving them shelter, food and quality bonding time with their babies away from the hard living conditions of the camps.

Now, Ruth’s baby is three months old. Through the counselling and training she is receiving in Damaris House, Ruth is learning to trust people and experience God’s unconditional love.

She is already making plans for her son: “All I worry and care about is making sure my son has a better life than I had.”

Your support is providing a lifeline for pregnant young refugee woman, some who are escaping trafficking and enslavement. This is such a vital project and we are so grateful that you have made it possible to give Ruth new life and new hope. Thank you!

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom

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Learning humility on a mountain top

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Learning humility on a mountain top

Karis Williams, first-time Freedom Challenge hiker and US Navy Vet, shares her story of the joy and challenges of taking part in our recent Estes Park climb, and how God used the event to speak to her about her future... 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Peter 5:6).

I am not a patient woman.

I am a stubborn woman, and that often means I have to learn my lessons through life experiences.

God’s disciplinary tool this time was the Freedom Challenge’s Estes Park hike in July.

Is this what God wants me to do?

At first the idea seemed cool, but I debated with God if this was truly the one and only thing he wanted me to do. After all I have spent the last six years doing research on human trafficking and I had already devoted my career to aiding victims of trafficking so for some reason climbing a mountain to raise money did not seem like the next step.

This is where the journey began. I agreed to do the Freedom Challenge and for months I fundraised, built awareness and trained.

Ready for the challenge

The months flew by and soon I was on my way to Colorado. During the flight and drive to Estes Park I was excited and anticipating the fun I would have climbing, the friends I would meet and I was confident that I had trained for the climb and I was ready for the challenge.

We began the Freedom Challenge with an acclimation hike. Each step I took made me tired, the air grew thinner but I was confident that I was going at a good pace, until my body decided to betray me.

Due to a combination of the hardships of being a women mixed with my naivety that I would be able to acclimate to an increase of about 8,000ft, my body began to do things that none of you would want me to go into detail about.

Facing my biggest fear

I was so upset at the weakness of my body, that I barely paid attention to the women around me who took time to take care of me and pray for me. My biggest fear was that I would not be able to climb.

Later that night our group leader tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I was going to be moved to one of the beginner groups. She told me that due to my previous episode it would be better if I would not over stimulate my body, but she consoled me by telling me that the leader of my new group was the most amazing women she knew.

I should be going more!

The following two days, I hiked through some beautiful trails, I sighted some bears, even a moose and I had some of the most spiritually stimulating conversations in my life, but in the back of my mind I thought: “I could…I SHOULD be doing more than this!”

I was promised a Mountain! I had trained for a Mountain!

Although the trails were not as physically demanding I assured myself that there was a reason I was there. I searched deep inside and knew God was working out the characteristic of humility in me. I knew that I was where I was, because there was a lesson to be learned. This was not just about the physical mountain I was promised but that this was about my purpose and my calling.

Revelation from God

This was the revelation of the question I had been asking God.

For months before the climb I had been asking God when was the proper time? When would I be living the manifestation of my calling?

Just like with the climb I knew I could do more but things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to.

I told God I am ready, I am trained, I am healed, I am educated… so what now? How much longer would I have to wait?

This is when it all began making sense; God was showing me that He was the one that gave me my desire and my purpose.

Learning to be humble and wait

He was the one who had made me a promise. He was the one who called me to the Mountain top and it would be Him that would bring that into fulfillment – all I needed was to be humble and wait.

Wait to be lifted up.

On the second day my new leader looked at me and said, “I can tell you’re doing well, and that your body is strong do you want to go back up a level?” I tried not to seem too overly excited and said, “Yes!”

The next morning as I woke up at 4am I thanked God for the opportunity to do what I had come and set out to do. I thanked him for fulfilling his promise and I prayed that I would get to that top of the mountain in VICTORY.

Each step I took I took with GRATITUDE. The air was cold and the trail we walked upon was slippery but we kept going.

The more we walked the quicker our pace became and so did my excitement. After all this is exactly what I had expected.

Living out a promise

The climb progressed and there were a few moments as we climbed in silence that my eyes filled up with tears because I was living out a promise that was given to me.

 I remembered Micah 6:8, “Seek Justice, Love Mercy, and walk Humbly with YOUR GOD.”

This verse was on repeat throughout the year, every season enveloped with a new characteristic that needed to be developed and I had finally gotten to Humility, but I was not alone… God was walking with me.

I looked at the progression of the last three days and it was simple; Pain, Healing, Serving and Triumph. It was a summarization of my life and the picture God saw.

Getting to the top came quickly, and the moments at the summit where few. I did not contemplate the amount of time it took me to get there, the conditions or the exhaustion. I just basked in the glory of it – I was standing in a Holy place!

 A place you only arrive to through obedience and humility.

The mountaintop was surreal, if it were not for the photo I may not believe I had gotten there.

Remembering God's faithfulness

But we could not remain on the mountaintop (mainly because we were freezing). The mountain top was a momentary place, a symbol, a lesson.

It would always be there for me to look back at and remember God’s faithfulness.

That everything God had spoken, He will bring to pass. That what He has purposed, He will do [Isaiah 46:11].

Karis Williams lives in Plantation Florida with her husband and dog. She is a US Navy veteran and currently works for a non-profit doing immigration / trafficking advocacy and has just graduated from a Masters in Global Affair. She loves going to the gym and the beach and is enjoying her new found hobbie of hiking!        

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'Open your heart to share and learn and love'

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'Open your heart to share and learn and love'

With our Estes Park hike a little over a week away, we asked seasoned Freedom Challenge hiker, Debbie Dingle, to share her story and offer some advice for new climbers

As we draw closer and closer to our climb at Estes Park its funny all the different emotions that one can go through. If this is your first climb the feelings are coupled with anticipation, excitement, possibly fear or fear of the unknown.  

If this is not your first climb you are completely relieved that your fundraising is over and now hoping that you trained enough for whatever level of climbing you have obligated to. I am blessed to have partnered with Susan Hagen and Advent Lutheran Church in prayer and teamwork and have been involved with Freedom Challenge from its first climb to Kilimanjaro in 2012.  

Opening eyes to see

Funny how God works to open our eyes to something He wants us to see.  Honestly, before Freedom Challenge I didn’t know anything about Human Trafficking.  Recently I didn’t know anything about AFIB (Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular and often very fast heart rate.) I have been dealing with an irregular heart beat for many years but never took it very seriously.  A couple weeks ago I ended up in the hospital and soon faced the fact that I may not be able to do Estes Park or Machu Picchu climbs. The worst-case scenario of AFIB is stroke. AFIB is a very common condition and affects millions of people but all of a sudden it was very personal to me.

Open your heart

Looking back to when Susan and I joined Freedom Challenge, one of our first prayers was “break our hearts for what breaks yours.” And boy did He! Make time to read the heartbreaking stories about human trafficking as hard as they are to read. We have connected our hearts with India and have been blessed to visit that amazing country twice.

On this climb in Estes Park you are going to meet some amazing women that God has hand-picked to be on this mountain with you. Open your heart to share and learn and love on the women on this climb. I recently got the OK from the doctor to participate in both Estes Park and Machu Picchu and my heart skips a beat thinking about it!

100% capacity!

Lastly, I would encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to empower and encourage you in your final preparations for this climb. I am currently reading a book called IF by Mark Batterson and he nailed it on the head when he said “if you ignore one-third of the Godhead, you function at two-thirds capacity.” Father, Son and Holy Spirit…let’s all work for God against Human Trafficking at 100% capacity!   I look forward to meeting you all in just a few short days!

Safe travels to all traveling to Colorado. In His service,

Debbie Dingle

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These women have lost all hope

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These women have lost all hope

One of our projects in India is working with some of the poorest and most vulnerable women and girls in the world. And yet there is hope. Laxmi's* story is a shining light in the midst of overwhelming darkness...

When she was just seven years old, Laxmi’s life changed drastically.

Her parents took her out of school and sold her to the local temple where she was dedicated as a Jogini (temple prostitute).

Tied to the 'goddess'

Very quickly her life became one of duty to the temple ‘goddess’ and, when she was older, her duties extended to serving local men, performing any sexual acts they demanded, unable to turn any man away.

Even though the practice has been illegal in India for 30 years, little has done by law enforcement to curb it, particularly in rural areas. This is why, in one State where Freedom Challenge is supporting an anti-human trafficking project, there are 80,000 women enslaved as temple prostitutes.

Enormous risks to health

A Jogini’s life is indescribably hard.  Joginis are not allowed to marry and due to the nature of their work they are prone to serious disease; they are 10 times more likely to die from HIV than any other women in India. Unsurprisingly 93% are illiterate, but what is perhaps even more concerning is that 92% are clinically depressed and 57% have attempted suicide. These women have lost all hope.

But that doesn’t have to be the end of their story.

The chance to be free

Laxmi was 35 when our project workers visited her village for the first time. They explained to her that it was possible for her to leave, that she could be free, that she didn’t have to suffer any more –  words that Laxmi could scarcely believe.

Laxmi was given all the help she needed to overcome her fear of leaving.

A changed woman

Today, five years later, she is completely unrecognisable from the woman she once was. Her past has given her a passion and determination to see other Jogini women set free. Now she works with our project to teach local communities about the reality of the Jogini system, and she meets government officials to lobby for the rights of women trapped in such an horrific form of slavery.

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What’s more, in 2015 Laxmi was given an award by district government officials for her role in stopping the dedication of a 12-year-old girl. And recently she was elected as a council member for her town. 

This is a story of true transformation – and it’s one that your support has made possible.

We long to see these oppressed and forgotten women experience freedom, love and compassion in the same way that Laxmi has.

Will you help rescue more women and children like Laxmi?

$150 sets one woman or child on the path to freedom

*Name changed to protect identity

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'Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me!'

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'Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me!'

Brandi Richardson took part in our Freedom Challenge trip to the Grand Tetons, Wyoming in 2016. During the trip Brandi and fellow women from her church, The Father's House in San Diego, climbed almost 30 miles and raised more than $525,000 for Freedom Challenge projects. Here, she shares more about her biggest challenges and how God tugged on her heart to go on the trip...

How did you hear about the Freedom Challenge?

When I heard about the Freedom Challenge through The Father's House, it seemed a little crazy to me. Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together freezing? Nope, not for me! However, I was interested in the local hikes they were training on, and I wanted to train and encourage the women who had decided to do the Freedom Challenge.

How did you end up taking part?

I actually didn’t want to sign up at first. I had gone on a mission trip to India in January 2015, and this year, 2016, our family had planned a family vacation, so all funds went to this. We had nothing. I wasn't sure I could raise the money or take more time off work as I had just done the trip to India the year before.

After a couple hikes and talking with the women on the trails, I started seeing/feeling that God wanted me to take on this challenge. He put peace in me thathe would make this possible for me. On my trip to India, I had seen what The Freedom Challenge funds went to, and now I wanted to be part of raising more funds to help. I felt God wanted me to complete the circle, so to speak.

What were your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge for me was the hours of training and being away from my family. I loved the physical part of hiking but missed being with them. I'm so blessed to have the support of my husband; he allowed me to focus on the physical aspect of hiking and training for the hours I did. I physically challenged my body and mind and accomplished so many things. I learned a lot about what I am able do physically and mentally. I learned how to fuel my body and mind. The months of training allowed me to see the beauty of God’s creation all around me. This calmed my mind and brought a sense of peace to my spirit. To take life in, slow down and enjoy the beauty around me.

What lessons did you learn from going on The Freedom Challenge?

Fundraising and bringing awareness to everyone I came in contact with sparked a fire in me to make a difference in this world. I knew the funds would come in and allow me to take this challenge. I knew I would have to work hard for it, and I did because the fire was burning strong to fight for this cause.  

Now, looking back, what have you learned from your experience?

I'm so glad to have taken this journey. The friendships I've made and experiences I've had is something that I will cherish for years to come. I'm glad I listened to God and did what He called me to do. We are His hands and feet. He asked me to speak up for the voiceless, so I did and will continue to do so.


California native Brandi Richardson has been attending The Father’s House for almost 11 years. She’s been married to Steve for almost 15 years, and has two sons (Tyler, 21, and Zakary, 12). She works as a patient care coordinator for a home oxygen and respiratory company, and as a massage therapist. She’s lived in Illinois and Germany, and currently lives in Escondido, Calif.

 

 

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A simple guide to slave-free shopping

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A simple guide to slave-free shopping

Sadly, too many of the products we buy and consume on a daily basis have their roots in human trafficking. Whether its fish caught in Thailand, or clothes made in Bangladesh, we can’t always be confident that big retailers are making sure their suppliers are not using slaves.
 

So, we’ve compiled a short list of some independent retailers that are committed to ensuring the products we love to buy are made ethically and by people who are paid a fair wage for the work they do.

Our choice of footwear, handbags and even chocolate can make the world a better place and bring an end to the oppression suffered by millions of people around the world.  

1.       Buy survivor-made goods

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This is such a great way to support women or children fleeing trafficking, abuse and slavery. Freedom Challenge’s own shop includes unique gifts made by women who are being given a new start in life through our projects. Please do check our shop out and tell your friends about it:

https://freedomclimbmarket.myshopify.com/

But also check out these great websites for inspired gifts that give women the chance to change their lives and provide for their families.  

https://www.shopforfreedom.com/

http://www.tothemarket.com/

2.       Clothing

http://www.indigenous.com/

These clothes are absolutely gorgeous but their real appeal lies in the fact that you can rest assured that you are purchasing products that are completely slave free. The artisans who make these clothes have been paid a fair wage and work in safe conditions. This company works with some of the poorest communities in South America to produce stylish, perfectly-crafted, environmentally-friendly clothes.

3.       Chocolate

http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies

Check out this list of ethical chocolate companies. Is your favorite chocolate snack featured? You may be surprised at the companies that make the list, and those that don’t! But the good news is, there are lots of businesses out there dedicated to making chocolate eating a truly guilt-free pastime!  

4. Shoes

http://www.toms.com/

For every shoe purchased from their range, Toms gives away one pair of shoes to a child in need. They’ve also now expanded their range of products to include things like eyewear and bags and coffee which means they now also provide eye care, safe births and other essentials to vulnerable people around the world. We love this business model and the philosophy behind it, especially when the shoes look so cool and fit so well.  

5.       Electronics

shop phone.png

This phone is only available right now in Europe, but we love the idea of this fair-trade, ethically produced cell phone.

https://www.fairphone.com/en/

The End Slavery Now website gives lots of information about shopping smarter and how to find businesses that are transparent, examine their supply chains and buy fair trade or locally-sourced products. You can also check how many slaves could be helping to make the regular products you buy. 

http://www.endslaverynow.org/act/buy-slave-free

Happy Shopping!

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Tracy Daugherty: What Freedom Challenge means to me

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Tracy Daugherty: What Freedom Challenge means to me

We are excited to have Freedom Challenge's new director introducing herself on our blog this week

Hello!  I’m Tracy Daugherty and I’m thrilled to be joining Freedom Challenge as the new director.

I have been in ministry alongside my husband Dan in various pastoral roles for all of our 25 years of marriage.

Currently we pastor The Father’s House Church in San Marcos, California. We planted this church with a handful of friends and family 11 years ago; it is thriving and has grown into a healthy, missions-minded church.

Together we have three amazing children and one incredible son-in-law! They are remarkable human beings that love Jesus well and are walking out their individual destinies in Christ.

How I caught the vision for Freedom Challenge

The Freedom Challenge originally entered my life when my dear friend the late Cathey Anderson (founder of The Freedom Challenge) was attending the Father’s House. After seeing Cathey’s enthusiasm for the cause it didn’t take long for me to catch the vision and join her to gather women from across Southern California to pray, climb, raise funds and spread the anti-slavery awareness.

Quickly, I realized that this was not just about the women we were supporting, but also about “this woman” God was longing to transform. There is something powerful about the simple combination of fellowship, exercise and mission with purpose! It is a winning combination for personal growth and spiritual transformation. 

Creating confidence

The weekly fellowship spent hiking with like-minded women – praying, talking, laughing and crying, the accountability to train and prepare physically, and finally the personal challenge to courageously share the mission by raising the funds to support the projects creates a new confidence that becomes contagious to family, friends and church communities.

I am deeply humbled to build upon the solid foundation of the amazing visionary women who have gone before me to establish this ministry.

Choosing to be inconvenienced

Over the years I have watched a company of women from all over the world intentionally choose to be inconvenienced for others, bodies trained and bruised, mouths open courageously speaking into the face of injustice, spending hundreds of hours, raising millions of dollars, climbing impossible mountains and traveling the globe to spend on people not things, choosing to comfort others over comfort of self. I have seen ordinary woman make an extraordinary impact.

What I have seen has changed my life! It is now my privilege and honour to lead this company of woman to impact – with God’s help – thousands and, I pray, millions of vulnerable woman and children all over the world.

Mother’s day: May 14

Tracy family2.jpg

As a mother of three wonderful children, I love Mother’s day! And I love receiving the thoughtful gifts my kids pick out. But nothing would make me prouder or happier than my children giving me a gift that will change the lives of other mothers around the world, moms trapped in poverty, in slavery and weighed down by their circumstances. I’m sure you feel the same!

So this year, give your own mom a unique and meaningful gift – set one woman or child on the path to freedom.

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Just go for it!

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Just go for it!

If you're thinking about signing up to our Estes Park hike, there is still time, but registration closes on May 1! So if you're in need of a little encouragement, read these inspiring quotes from previous hikers. Watever's stopping you from taking part, these ladies have experienced similar barriers. But here's what happened when they made the decision to just go for it!


Not your stereotypical hiker

‘I did not meet the stereotypical model of the avid hiker. Being the largest woman in attendance made my insecurities resurface. What was I doing with a group of women that were there to stretch themselves physically?

I had trained to do this but ... I was not in my comfort zone. We climbed and climbed and climbed. We saw people far up the mountain and I was told that was where we were headed. This was my biggest physical challenge. Would I really be able to do this?

After what seemed to be hours, which really wasn’t, we made it to the top. I was relieved and in shock. Are we really here? It was glorious being so high up and overlooking the lake from a totally different view.’

Ginger Taddeo took part in the Wyoming Freedom Climb in August 2016, read her story here.


Enjoying creation

'The view of this high Alpine lake was beautiful. It was there I recalled what my Ugandan pastor friend would say when he sees something of great delight, “God made this just for me to enjoy it. He knew that I would come someday.” That is exactly how I felt. God brought me here to show me His creation, His majesty, and His omnipotence.'

Janice Munemitsu, Wyoming climb 2016, read Janice's story here:


A dream come true

‘I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, triumphant, and most of all relieved.  It felt like a dream come true.'

Sarah Bradfield, Mount Kilmanjaro 2016 and Wyoming 2016. Read Sarah's story here.


A team effort

‘I can’t fully express how the hiking affected me, I am still processing the lessons I have learned. It was amazing to sense the team effort. Even though each of us had to put one foot in front of the other to get up (and down) the various peaks, there was a real sense that we were in this together.'

Shirley Turner, various climbs, including Wyoming 2016


Just do something!

'My motivation is based on the song by Matthew West – “Do Something”. I know God created me to “Do Something” about the social injustice of modern-day slavery. I am committed to be a voice for those women and children that don’t have a voice. Climbing mountains to raise funds and then sharing my story about the climbs as an inspirational speaker is my way to “Do Something” '.

Ginger Martin, President and CEO of American National Bank and part of the Wyoming 2016 team, read Ginger's story here.


And if you still need persuading, watch this video:

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