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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.