Shirley Turner works with one of our Freedom Challenge projects in Zambia training teachers - she also took part in our Bryce-Zion Challenge in June. Here she shares one of the highlights of the trip..
The high for the day was predicted to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It was six in the morning and I could already tell it was gonna be a ‘warm one.’ I had over 4 liters of water in my pack and hoped it would last.
Our team took on the cool and shaded 21 switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles at a steady pace with a few breaks here and there. At Scout’s Landing the terrain changed completely. The last half mile to the top was lined with chains bolted into the rock formations so hikers had a steady hold over the narrow, steep and drop-off lined footpath to the top. At this point all poles, water bottles and cameras were stowed so hands could be free to grip as needed.
Facing personal challenges
Our team, the ‘Scarlet Warriors,’ started off, each with our own personal challenges to face along the trail. Some facing a fear of heights going up, others facing the fear going down, a mother was nervous for her daughter, some nervous about the balance and strength needed on the trail…we each had our own individual trails to hike…but we were doing it together. Well, most of us were. After offering to help one team member face her fear as far as she could and turning back once she had gone her farthest, I started up the trail a bit behind everyone else.
I have been a fairly independent person most of my life. Experiences during this Freedom Challenge hike had begun to crack a bit of that and show me the beauty and joy of sisterhood and doing life together. Although I still had an inner determination to make it 'on my own' as I followed about 20/30 minutes behind the group, I was also keenly aware that I would really enjoy hiking with my teammates. I knew I was missing a dimensaion of life while on the trail 'alone'. I did frequently remind myself that I am really never alone because the Lord is with me and that truth brought steadiness, strength and joy all along the way!
Reuniting with my team at the top with a shout out of ‘Scarlet’ from me and a surprised (somewhat confused, where is that voice coming from looking around before seeing me) and enthusiastic call back of ‘Warriors’ from them followed by big smiles and hugs was a moment I’ll never forget.
We enjoyed the stunning views, had lunch, took our selfies and photos, set our justice doll free, prayed together and began our descent. This part of the trail had its unique challenges as well…fears, wobbly legs and all.
The heat took its toll
We regrouped at Scouts Landing and began our final descent. What I thought would be a ‘breeze’ was actually the most challenging part for me-with absolutely no breeze. The sun came out in all its fury and seemed to draw out every bit of energy and strength from me. I felt like my arms were literally frying and I finished my water completely, leaving my mouth dry as a desert. Even though my body didn’t have to strain to manage this part of the trail, the heat took its toll on me every step of the way. Once we got to the bottom I refilled my water bottles and took a bit of a break before we hit our next trail-the Narrows.
We only had one mile to walk on fairly flat terrain, but I felt I could completely relate to David when he said,
‘God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is,’
Even though I was drinking water my mouth and throat continued to feel dry and I kept thinking, ‘How in the world am I gonna make it back?’ As I looked around most of my team members had a similar expression-we were exhausted, heat-seared, sapped of strength and wondering why we didn’t just take our Angel’s Landing hike as a win and call it a day.
Keeping on going
One more step and then another, with no idea why, we kept going. When we reached the river many of us made comments like, ‘let’s just walk in the water about 5/10 minutes and then head back.’ We began wading through the river, filled our caps with water, doused ourselves and splashed each other. As we took step by step on unsteady stones into the water past our ankles up to our knees, even to our thighs in some places… something changed. We started smiling and laughing and playing. Our weariness faded and our joy and energy and strength were restored. It was mind boggling.
It was a very eye-opening moment for me as I saw the effects of water. What a very physical and visual reminder of an invitation Jesus gave…if any man thirst let him come to me…and again a declaration…I am the Living Waters…
Many times we feel weary in our hearts and minds and this amazing experience reminded me of the beauty that Jesus is always accessible, His invitation is open. In the midst of the dry days that we experience we can choose to be in His presence; this does the very same thing for our hearts that the Narrows did for our bodies. May we continually seek and find the Living Waters and find refreshment for our souls.