One Very Mountainous Testimony

I want to tell a story that God’s been writing throughout the last nine months. It’s messy, it’s beautiful, and it’s been challenging. I haven’t loved every moment, but every moment has taught me a lesson that nothing else could. I’m grateful for this process and that it’s not and won’t be over anytime soon. When you ask God to show up, He does. Here’s a story that proves that.

In March, I felt God leading me away from the DTS I wanted to do in South Africa because that was my comfort zone since some family members were doing that school as well. He led me to search the entire YWAM website and look at all schools starting in that same time period of June/July. Unlike normal search engines, this one had one school that kept coming up over and over on all the pages of schools, it was called “Mountain DTS” in Germany. In the beginning I ignored it because well, I have asthma and climbing mountains is just about one of the most stupid things to do when your lungs don’t work right. I told God that even if my lungs did work, mountains aren’t my thing so this should stop coming up. I kept looking, days of looking and getting flustered with this one school popping up over and over, but still the Holy Spirit prompted me and I clicked on it and read on the website all about it. I continued questioning God as if He wasn’t aware of my condition. I took a week to really think, pray, and dwell on the idea and at the end of this week, both my parents and I had a real peace about it, so I applied. After some doctors appointments, forms to be filled out, Skype calls to the base and school leadership, and more prayer, I was accepted. I still was asking God “why this school” even while getting all of my money and supplies together.

On June 11, I arrived in Germany and a few days later the other two students, both guys, along with a girl that wasn’t part of our DTS, and me started what they called “survival tour”, no phones, no money, just a GPS and envelopes that we could open every day with an assignment and coordinates. It was a struggle, but through struggles, we got close really quickly. We walked up, down and around the black forest for four days and 60+ kilometers. It was challenging, beautiful, and adventurous. So many times, it would’ve been really easy to give up because of lung problems, heavy backpacks, and the difficulties that come with being in a place with people I’d just met days before. Somehow I pushed and made it, but not without a struggle. During our first week of teaching on DTS, named “Hearing God’s Voice” God promised me two main things for the school, that He would be my home and that He would be the breath in my lungs. I really said okay, I’ll trust but you have to really show up as this.

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A few weeks later we attempted to climb our first summit and after a few hours of walking, I gave up around 2,600m (8,530ft) and said I couldn’t breathe anymore. I had no energy and really wondered how I should make it 6 months in the mountain based school. I went back to the camp and really argued at God, why did He call me to this school and now I couldn’t even make it up the easiest of our summits? He told me that the reason I didn’t make it to the summit was because I was going on my strength and was seeking the summit, not seeking Him. That was really hard to hear and digest.

The second and third summits were so different. The first, Mettlehorn, 3406 meters, 11,174 feet, was not the easiest, but I started the day by fixing my eyes on God and asking Him to be the breath in my lungs and that changed everything. I made it to the summit and could laugh and smile and really find my joy because my strength was in the Lord, rather than myself. The third summit, Galenstock, 3586 meters, 11,765 feet, was even more of a struggle, but the joy of the Lord was my strength. I mean, we got lost on a glacier, there was a thunderstorm and we did under rocks for an hour, it took us 17.5 hours from when we started the day until when we made it back to the car. I was doing it with the guys, while every other mountain there was a female with us so I felt like I ought to keep up with them. It was messy, but God showed up.

The fourth mountain we climbed was the most challenging of all, Allalinhorn, 4027meters, 13,211feet. This mountain was only three of us climbing, Michael, Simon, and I and there were all kinds of new challenges, not counting the fact that I’d been in contact with cats, my biggest allergy, just days before. I pushed and struggled and pushed some more. I don’t give up, that’s one thing I’ve learned to be very true during these months, sometimes it’s actually really annoying. When we got to 3850meters, 12,631feet, I had to stop. It was one of the hardest decisions to say that I couldn’t continue but instead that we had to go back. It was harder to say that I couldn’t keep going than it would’ve been to keep going. However, because of the cat allergy flaring up my lungs, causing a good bit of dizziness, it wasn’t safe to keep pressing on. God really taught me that day how people pleasing can really hurt you if it has control of you more than you of it. I walked down from that mountain with a different mindset than I did when I walked down from that first summit. I knew that God was on my side, but I also knew that I did the right thing and took control of people pleasing and spoke out what was the right thing to do, I wasn’t fearful about what the others would think. It’s beautiful to get to this point of trusting God and what He says more than the desire to do what will make other humans happy.

As we left on outreach a week later to the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, my mentor told me to “do it afraid” because the fear doesn’t just leave, you just have to make the decision to still keep moving even when you’re still afraid. The second half of the phase was spent trekking through, up, and around the mountains. Week two of trekking was the most difficult of the entire outreach, but it was also when I learned the most about God. In one village, there was just an exorbitant amount of smoke and incense. We went to one house to do ministry where it was so insanely smokey that I kept having to go out. We weren’t there that long, but in that time along with all the other ingredients in the air, my lung strength plummeted. I spent one whole free day just laying around trying to recooperate and acclimatize, being that we were already at 3400meters, 11,154feet, if I couldn’t get better we were going to have to go back. We debated turning back, but God spoke to me and said “don’t stop until I say rest”, so we continued. The next morning, we barely ascended 100meters and I was white as a sheet and couldn’t find breath anywhere. Sufficient amounts of oxygen seemed like such a distant concept in those moments.

The pastor/guide that was with us said “she’ll be fine, it’s okay, we just need to worship!” We prayed, turned on worship music and God showed up. Slowly but surely we made it away from the smokey villages and I was able to find my joy in the Lord again and press on. The very next morning, we didn’t make it very far before I had asthmatic problems yet again, only this time because the air was so cold. My lungs were burning and just not really working well at all. We stopped and I sat down, but couldn’t even keep my eyes open or talk. I motioned for a hug because I couldn’t even get the words out to ask for it. We went into a guest house nearby and I laid down in a bed to get warm until the sun came out, we began talking about going back and not pressing on any further, but God showed up. We were able to keep trekking with worship continuously playing. We made it to base camp that afternoon, 4540m, 14,895feet and then we were hit with the question of what to do the next day. The next thing that had to be done was to trek up to a pass at 5416m, 17,769feet, and then back down the other side. At this point asthma wasn’t an issue, but I was in a state of nausea, diarrhea, and no appetite. In case you are unaware, going this high is challenging for anyone, but especially for those who are barely eating. We were praying, praying, and praying some more asking God to give insight.

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We decided to stick it out until morning and then decide what to do. When we woke, the weather for the following day looked bad, so we knew we had to move, that’s what God said as well. I had quiet time before leaving and really wrestled and asked God what His will was. He told me “well, my will is not for you to walk up to that pass, but to make it over and to the other side to do ministry there. You don’t have the strength to walk up to that pass, you need to take the horse and trust me in that.” The horse option had come up the previous day, but I really and truly didn’t want to do it at all because it felt like giving up, which is the opposite of my mentality. Nevertheless, when God speaks something plain and clear, we can’t and shouldn’t ignore it, so I listened. We got the horse and headed out. I prayed, thought, and sat for three hours on the way to the pass. I still felt like crap, but I knew that this way I would at least make it, even if it wasn’t my favorite thing. While riding horses is fun and all, when you’ve worked for two weeks to climb up this far and then can’t walk to the finish line, its really disappointing and kind of feels like failure. I had a really hard time seeing the positive, I was just frustrated with God that my body was failing me when it should be capable, if only it was normal. I’ve never hit a moment where I really just wondered what it would be like if only I had tried because well, I always try and I never give up. The thing I learned this day though, was that listening to what God says is so much more important than my desire to try, push and refuse to give up. I made it to that pass, that giant thing and I did it well. I listened to what God said and that’s what matters. I was able to walk down 1600 vertical meters, 5,249feet, afterwards and although it was a struggle, I found my strength in my Father and made it down. As soon as I got down on the other side of the pass, I slept for hours, but also had a giant appetite again.

We made it to the other side of the pass, and we did some incredible ministry there. In a village we went to, a pastor took us into some houses to encourage and evangelize. In one house, we met a man who also has asthma, that was hard to hear because he has to live day in and day out with this smoke and incense. I was able to tell him my testimony of how God showed up time and time again, especially with the pass. He had an incredible story and was really on fire for Jesus. It was beautiful and I’m really grateful I didn’t give up, if I had I wouldn’t have met him. In a way, telling this guy my story made it all kind of worth it. My point is this, no matter what I went through or did, God was still there, He still remained faithful. He showed up and really was what He promised me six months ago, He was the breath in my lungs. When I turned my eyes back to Him that day we worshipped the whole way, I really saw this come true. He is a promise keeper and I’m so grateful for that. He will show up. One thing I know is true after all of this, no matter how much or how fast you hit the end of your strength, you’ll find His because it’s endless. Trust in His strength and His promises, it’s enough. He will show up, even in the times when you least expect it. Faith doesn’t remove the fear, it just teaches you how to deal with it. Be bold knowing that He’s on your side and will not leave you or forsake you. Courage is the willingness to act toward a worthwhile goal despite the presence of fear, uncertainty and/or risk. True courage does not come from within, but from above.

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Much love,

Natalie

 

photo credit : Michael Moritz

 

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