On October 12, 2018, I participated in my first ever Freedom Challenge. There were 29 women in total for this challenge and collectively we raised $130,000 to help fight and prevent human trafficking around the world, along with agreeing to hike the Grand Canyon.  

On the first day, we met each other and had “pack school”. This meant we were learning how to put everything into our backpacks that we’d need for the next four days. As I looked around at all these courageous women, I was in awe.

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All of our fundraising and 16 weeks of training had led to this moment. For some reason, the reality and weight of what we were about to do didn’t hit me until the next morning.

Overwhelmed with emotion

We woke at 4:30 am to pack, grab breakfast, and set off. As I sat in the hotel holding coffee, waiting for our van to leave for the hike, I was overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry. It wasn’t a scared or tired cry, but rather a full realization of what we were about to embark on.

I felt the incredible task that lay ahead, the thoughts and prayers of all those who supported me in this journey to this point, and thought of all the women and children whose lives could change through this. These feelings exploded in the form of tears and as they ran down my face with the prayer team’s arms around me, I knew they could bring healing; for myself and potentially many others.

Embarking on our journey into the Canyon, I realized we carried more than just the weight of our packs. In our group, the seven of us carried titles like:

·         Nervous

·         Excited

·         Scared

·         Strangers

Surviving in the wilderness

With every step and story shared, as we descended 3,000 feet, the gap of the unknown decreased. Normally, relationships take time to grow, but I learned they can be fast tracked when you’re hiking and surviving in the wilderness for four days.

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You see, it didn’t matter who we were. In fact, half our team was American, the other half Canadian, ranging from 24-59 years old. We had this fantastic group of unique women that became connected no matter what our age, race, origin, or occupations were. All of those things fell away when, for example, one of us tripped on the way down, or when I woke up to a migraine on the second day.

In those moments, we surrounded each other, both physically and spiritually. As I lay flat on the rock, after throwing up from the intense pain, I didn’t know how I was going to continue on.

Praying for a miracle

But these women placed me on a mat, covered me with blankets, and then laid hands on me, praying for a miracle. (Normally, migraines take me out for the whole day)

Initially I couldn’t move, but within two hours, I was able to keep water down, and then breakfast.

As I was in this pain, our group had an hour of T.A.G (time alone with God). I sat there, wrapped in a blanket, and memorized this verse.

Don’t panic. I’m with you.

  There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.

I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.

  I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” - Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Strength returned, pain slowly decreased, and we were all hiking again by noon! We are truly never alone, and God gave me the strength to carry my 57lb backpack and walk to our next camp site that afternoon!

Taking steps towards freedom

Over those four days in the Grand Canyon we hiked down, climbed up, and pushed our bodies to the limit. We also laughed, cried, told our stories, spent time with God, and took many steps toward freedom!

Each morning, Blair (who had participated in two other freedom challenges before) read to us about the women and children that were being rescued and restored through Operation Mobilization (OM) and the money that was raised.

This gave us meaning and strength with each step. I also couldn’t help but stop at least 10 times a day and revel in the astonishing beauty that encompassed us while we were down there, feeling intense gratitude.

God bought us together

The women I was surrounded by had come from all over North America, but it was God who brought us together. There is nothing God cannot do when we give Him our “Yes”, including set the captives free!

Emerging from the Canyon back to civilization on the last day, we carried new titles:

·         Warriors

·         Sisters

·         Friends

Taking part in the Freedom Challenge Grand Canyon has been surreal, intense, and life-changing. Perhaps God is calling you to something similar.

And you can be sure that if He calls you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I am living proof!

Why not take on a new challenge in 2019 and join us in Mount Hood or Mount Rainier - registration opens Nov, 23!

Sylvia St.Cyr is an author, speaker, blogger and publishing consultant. Her first book, Love vs. Fear, was short-listed in the 2016 Word Alive Press Publishing Contest. She lives in Manitoba, Canada with her supportive husband and their two children. 

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