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August 07
My Intern Experience

By Parker Samelson


I still remember the first day of camp in Kakamega, a region in the Northwest of Kenya on the outskirts of the vast rainforest. It was here where busloads of kids singing and cheering could be heard from down the road before pulling into the front gates of Young Life camp. They jumped out of the van and into a dance that almost seemed choreographed, at least to the Americans observing from outside (our American group had never seen such a mass of kids our age that all were apparently professional hip hop dancers). We were blown away by the joy and exuberance that these kids brought with them.  But we realized that they were not just excited to dance and play games, but they knew that this camp was where they could experience Jesus Christ. This was a discipleship camp, and these kids were touched by the transformational power of the Spirit.


For anyone that has been involved with Young Life in the United States, it is surprising how similar the ministry is in Africa. Granted, there are certainly some breaks and gaps between these two cultures that are hard to ignore. In Africa, clubs usually meet with a dirt floor and minimal equipment for sound and games, camps typically take place at a high school, events and meals are hardly ever on time, and leaders are presented with the challenge of getting kids to clubs and camp without access to cars.


Despite all of these differences, I was blown away by how clearly I could recognize the DNA of Young Life so far away from where I grew up next to the Young Life headquarters in Colorado Springs. Regardless of how wide the ocean is that separates my hometown from the leaders and kids I met in the depth of the Kakamega rain forests, kids share many of the same troubles, struggles, and burdens. It brought to mind "no temptation has overtaken you but that which is common to all men" (1 Corinthians 10:13). Depression descending into drug addiction, entanglement in sexual struggles, families torn asunder by the effects of alcohol. At Young Life camp, our group was able to witness this evil and despair overpowered as it came into contact with the transformational love of Christ. This message was proclaimed by the words of the camp speakers and the actions of the dedicated leaders.


I found it beautiful to see God raising up leaders in the plains of the Rift Valley, in the cities of Nairobi and Addis Ababa, and in the Rain Forest of Kakamega to battle these timeless symptoms of the virus of sin. I realized that even the strongest medicine or the longest list of vaccines cannot defeat this illness - Christ alone is the antidote that is setting kids free all over the continent of Africa.

August 04
Beauty in Vulnerability

By Kate Cavin 


There is Beauty in Vulnerability. Throughout my life, people have always encouraged me to be vulnerable. The idea of which is simple – open up with others and share what you are feeling. However, just because it is a simple idea certainly does not mean that it is easy. But vulnerability is worth it.


As I spent the month of June in Ethiopia and Kenya with Young Life, I found myself feeling an array of emotions and sharing those emotions with my Expeditions teams and the local Young Life staff. This led to the start of some incredible friendships. For instance, when club ended at a Young Life camp in Kenya and everyone in the clubroom left to go spend 15 minutes with Jesus, a boy fainted. A few people from my Expeditions team stayed composed and began preparing to take the boy to the nearest hospital, as he remained unconscious. I, however, was not composed. I was incredibly scared and immediately began gathering the rest of the team to pray. We prayed and we wept, and I felt truly vulnerable as I pleaded to the Lord that the boy would be okay. I felt vulnerable as I cried with others that I did not know well, but I was terrified that the boy would not make it. I was scared for the boy’s life. I began asking myself all kinds of questions. How could he have passed out? How hard did he hit the floor? My Expeditions teammates and I prayed, and then we prayed some more. However, in the midst of everything, I suddenly felt a sense of peace. I knew that the boy’s health was in the Lord’s hands and that my God was present amongst us. A few hours later, we received word that the boy regained consciousness and he had a severe case of Malaria, which had caused him to fall unconscious. Prayers were answered. Friendships within my Expeditions team were strengthened. The Lord had used our fear and vulnerabilities to draw us closer to Him and each other.


There is something so beautiful about praying to the Lord with others because it encourages vulnerability to speak to God in the presence of our peers, which is why it is so amazing that the Lord promises he will be amongst us when we gather to pray in His name.



August 02
So Many Emotions

By Kate Cavin

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This past June, I left the United States feeling confident and excited about spending the in Ethiopia and Kenya with both Young Life Expeditions​ teams as well as local Young Life staff, volunteers, and club kids. You see, I am a huge extrovert and I get excited to meet new people. This is especially true when everyone is involved with Young Life, an organization that has made such an impact on my life. But what I did not expect was to be uncomfortable while I was in these countries and I was shocked that I felt anxious and out of my comfort zone only a few days into the trip. As I was taking cold showers and sleeping under mosquito nets, I realized again that the Lord works in me in big ways when I feel most out of my comfort zone.


While at camp, I was witnessing kids meet Jesus for the first time and leaders pour their whole hearts into loving their high school friends. It was truly unreal to serve on work crew in these countries with my Expeditions teams and club kids from local Young Life areas. In Ethiopia, we would carry over 400 chairs from the club room to the dining hall and back to the club room. We would carry the chairs back and forth six or seven times a day and it was exhausting. My back hurt and my legs were tired, but it was also so beautiful. Campers were feeling loved by us and by their leaders as they saw us do manual labor for them. It was such a new experience to labor for the Lord in such a physical way, but motivating because as we moved each one we would pray over the kids that would soon sit in the chairs. We would pray that they would know Jesus deeper and more fully and in this, I found myself seeing the Lord love His children.


Several weeks later, near the Kakamega Rainforest in Kenya, a few people on my Expeditions team as well as a few local volunteer leaders traveled to a village and walked to different huts to visit and pray for those involved in the ministry there. It was so incredible to see how gracious, kind and welcoming everyone was. I distinctly remember one woman, the mother of a Young Life Campaigners kid, who gave us a chicken as a thank-you for coming to her home and praying for her family. It was so abnormal for me to be given a chicken in return for praying for a kid and her family, but also so kind and again I could feel the Holy Spirit working in me. I know I am completely insufficient without the Lord. However with Him, I believe that we were able to help show this woman God’s love, mercy, and grace. Later that afternoon, our Expeditions team and the all of the local Young Life staff met up to climb a mountain in the rainforest. Once we got to the top, we started to sing songs of praise to the Lord. It was beautiful. It was majestic. I was in awe. I could hear people singing in English, Swahili, and some other local language that I had no idea what it was. The Holy Spirit was present and it was incredible as I looked out over the mountain and across the plains of Africa, knowing all the while that He is working in each city, village, and person across Africa as much as He is working in the lives of people in the United States.


When it came time to leave Kenya and board a plane back to the States, I was filled with all kinds of emotions. Sadness as I was about to leave so many new friends. Amazed by everything that I had seen the Lord so clearly do. But I was also filled with joy and comforted by the fact that the Lord would continue to use this journey and work in me after I return home. 

July 26
My Journey with Young Life Africa/Middle East

By Samara Wright


Hi! My name is Samara Wright. I am honored to share my journey with Young Life Africa/Middle East. I grew up actively involved in Young Life in my area of Pinehurst, North Carolina. In middle school I fell in love with all that I knew Young Life to be — I loved the community and relationships I had because of it, and I loved how much fun you could have while loving and learning about Jesus. Growing up I also remember having vivid dreams of myself in Africa and was anxious and expectant for when it would be my time to go. Last summer I traveled to Tanzania, Africa for my first time on a Young Life Expeditions Trip and fell in love with every inch that I was exposed to while there. I was left anxious and expectant all over again for when the Father would send me back. I immediately assumed that it would be after I finished university, had more to offer, and had a better idea of what exactly I was going to do with my life. However, back in November the Father began revealing to me that that was not actually His plan. In less than one week, the Father spoke to me that I was supposed to go back to Africa this summer and I basically had my whole trip paid for. Although my summer looked way different than I thought it was going to back in November, it was incomparable to any plans I could have made on my own.


For the first six weeks of my trip back to Tanzania this summer, I worked at a baby-home in Mwanza, a city on the shore of Lake Victoria. Not only was I wrecked by the love and stories within the perimeter of the home in which I was working, but I was wrecked by the culture that I was completely immersed in each day. I felt the Father almost tangibly building on top of what He had taught and revealed to me during my Expeditions trip the summer before. I had time to ask the Father hard questions like “Why is it that I love this culture and country so much?” and “Why is it that I’m here again so soon?” and learned what it truly meant and felt like to quiet myself and wait on the Lord. The Father’s presence was unshakable and taught me something new every single day.


After leaving the baby-home, I traveled to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where I would be for the majority of my last two weeks in Tanzania. The Larmey family, who I had met while I served on work crew at Crooked Creek Ranch three summers before, invited me to come, work, and see alongside them. So, I was at the Young Life Africa and Middle East retreat as a pair of extra hands and probably knew the least about Young Life Africa/Middle East than anyone there.


From the moment the retreat began to the moment it ended, I loved how full of connection it was in the most natural way. Americans connecting with Africans. Africans with Africans. Americans with Americans. So many different languages, so many different paths that brought us all to the same place, barriers that should have been but simply were not. There was so much lingering around the dinner table. So many tears and laughs that magnified the Father’s heart for us and reminded us what life is truly about. I loved being reminded of the incredible power of our Father who is orchestrating both the seen and the unseen, in Africa and in every continent.


At the retreat, I was completely blown away by the statistics of Young Life Africa and the Middle East. Twenty-six countries. Over 837,000 reached kids, which is a rapidly increasing number. The fact that more kids went to Young Life camp in Africa than in the States last year. I loved seeing and hearing firsthand how creative and innovative the Africa and Middle East staff and volunteers are. I witnessed and heard testimony of boldness like I’ve never known before. I learned what it truly means when David says in Psalm 16, “You make known to me the path of life…” I witnessed that sometimes the path is narrow and sometimes it’s wide. Sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it’s right in front of our eyes. Sometimes the path leads us up the mountain and sometimes we get to walk around it. The Father aches to make it known to us, we just must be passionate and dedicated enough to seek it out. Young Life Africa and Middle East leaders and staff never cease to seek the Father’s presence so that they may learn the path of their life. These leaders will stop at nothing.


When I picture the Father working in Africa I see a massive wave absolutely engulfing the land in the gentlest yet fiercest way, unlike anything the continent has seen before. The Young Life Africa and Middle East leaders and staff are thorough in their ministry and the wave is to bless not only their countries, but also their own devotion. Their love for the Father is deep, rooted, and so personal. Every part of their lives are dedicated to finding the way He has prepared for them. I see the Father’s wave not missing any area or any tribe. His powerful yet gentle love is on the way to wreck every person and every story with the Young Life Africa and Middle East leaders and staff as His vessels.


If you’re somebody who reads this is and is interested in taking a trip with Young Life Africa and the Middle East, I would encourage it with every part of me. Go with open eyes, open ears, and a malleable heart. Go with a mindset that you are most likely not going to change the world while you’re there, but that maybe the Father wants to let it change you. Maybe He wants to bring you into some of the deepest parts of His heart and invite you to become a part of His massive wave over the continent of Africa. His presence is thick and His heart for Africa and the Middle East is something special. It’s completely changed me. Let it change you.


July 20
Zimbabwe in the Wilderness

By Nkosi Sampindi

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An excerpt from the Zimbabwe monthly ministry update. 

This has really been a bittersweet month for us in Zimbabwe. As you might have heard, our economy is really struggling again and we see the full effects of this problem on the lives of our leaders and the kids we reach out to. It is very hard right now to find a group of Zimbabweans that still hold onto Him, and for those that still do it is a daily exercise of seeking reminders of God's promises.

I was reminded of something amazing in my devotional yesterday that I thought you would love to read. It’s not too long.

The Midbar

He took me out in the desert to an immense valley surrounded by reddish mountains, which turned increasingly purple and blue as they extended out into the far distance.

"What words come to your mind," said the teacher, "when you look at the desert wilderness?"

"Dry ...barren ...hot ...austere ...severe ...hard ...forbidding ..."

"And when people go through hard times - times of loss, crisis, tragedy, loneliness, conflict, hardship, problems, separation, tears - they speak of going through the wilderness. And yet the wilderness is a holy place. It was in a desert wilderness that God gave His Law, His Word, and where He revealed His presence. The wilderness is holy."

"So the hard times in our lives are holy?"

"For those who are His children, yes."

"How so?"

"In Hebrew, the wilderness is called the midbar. Midbar comes from the root ward dabar. And dabar means to speak. What is the wilderness? It is the midbar. And what is the midbar? It is the place of God's speaking, the place of His voice. It's where God especially talks to us. Why did He bring His people into the wilderness, into the midbar? So He could speak to them. He brought Moses into the midbar to speak to him in a still, small voice. So too He brings us into the wilderness that He might speak to us."

"What is it about the wilderness that makes it the place of God's speaking?"

"Look around you," he said. "What do you see?"

"Rock, sand, mountains - not much."

"That's why," said the teacher. "God speaks, but we don't hear. We have too many distractions. But in the wilderness the distractions are gone. So God brings us to the wilderness that we might hear His voice. Therefore, do not fear or despise the wilderness of your life, and don't despise His removing of the distractions. Rather embrace it. Draw closer to Him. And listen to what He is saying. Seek to hear His voice, and you will hear Him. For the wilderness in your life is not just a wilderness. It is holy ground ...the midbar ...the place of His voice."

Having read this I am reinforced in my belief that Zimbabwe is in the perfect place for us to hear God speak and see Him move in our midst. I actually know that we are in a holy place because of what I have seen happen with our ministry in Young Life. In the midst of a hard time the Lord has blessed our ministry with leaders that hear God's voice and boldly act on it. I also pray that in the midst of any wilderness you go through may you hear God's voice loud and clear in your lives.

Please continue to pray with us as we make final preparations to take over 3000 kids to hear the Gospel shared at over 11 camps nationally. 

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A picture that I took yesterday which reminds me to always be grateful with the life and people in my life God has blessed me with. 

July 11
Finishing the Freedom Walk

By Dana Knowles


"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." Galatians 5:1



Three years ago, Young Life Africa started a pilgrimage along the historic slave caravan route in Tanzania from Ujiji to Bagamoyo. Here, millions of men and women were chained together and then sold to Arab slave traders in the Zanzibar slave market in the 19th century. But in 2017 - hundreds of years later - over 200 Young Life Africa staff, committee and friends representing 25 countries walked, prayed, sang, talked, healed, established Young Life connections and worshipped along the 1200 km route. Why? To "break the chains" of pain and suffering. The 2014, the Freedom Walk ended at Bagamoyo near Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  In Swahili, "Bagamoyo" means "lay my heart down" - what so many Africans were forced to do by their captors.


But...the Freedom Walk was not complete.


In July 2017, the Freedom Walk was finished in a powerful way.  Members of the Young Life Africa/Middle East committee and friends, in Tanzania for the 2017 Africa Retreat, joined staff from across Africa and the Middle East to carry chains from the 2014 Walk down the dirt road to the cross which stands at the beach where Bagamoyo meets the Indian Ocean. Country flags flew and were passed from hand to hand, allowing everyone to participate. Voices lifted in song to break chains of bondage from years past and present. Cries of anguished prayer and beseeched forgiveness at the foot of the cross over past sins of slavery and persecution allowed reconciliation and healing. Each region of Africa and the Middle East was prayed over.  


The symbolic final crossing from Bagamoyo to Zanzibar was made by Simon Okiria from Uganda and Irene Mwasanga of Tanzania, two elders on the Young Life Africa/Middle East staff. They left the shores of Tanzania in a wooden dhow, a sailboat similar to what was used in slave trading times while Amazing Grace was sung and cries of hallelujah rang out as the boat broke through the shore waves and headed out to sea. Simon and Irene took the chains, which had been carried across Tanzania, on to Zanzibar to complete the journey.


The group reunited with Simon and Mama Irene the next morning as their boat arrived in Stonetown, Zanzibar. From there, the crowd walked together down cobblestone streets to curious stares - flags waving, chains held up, singing songs of praise and worship.  It didn't matter that not everyone understood the lyrics.  It felt powerful and holy. Leaders prayed for freedom from slavery of all kinds - addiction, atheism, poverty, oppression. For pain and suffering to be redeemed; for chains to be broken. The walk finished at the old slave market and cathedral, which was built as a memorial to those who suffered there. A moment of reflection and silence to remember what African brothers and sisters endured. Then, flags and chains were carried into the church and up to the chancel for joyous song and sacred prayer. Freedom. Reconciliation. Chains Broken. Healing in Jesus. Peace.

June 29
Climb Day 6 & 7: The Descent

Kili Rap - by “Pop$ da Top$” (aka Steve Larmey) 

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We Climbed Kili

Y'all we just climbed Kili

Folks back home said we were silly

Said we’d pay too big a bill

But with a big act of will

And the help of a little white pill we

Together together took step-by-step ‘til we

Conquered that big ol’ icy African hill, we

won—YoungLife 35-Kilimanjaro Nil, we

Pushed through trial and adversity

What sisters and brothers are made for

But with sweat, tears and blood its paid for

We trudged through ashes, dust and mud

Boots landing thud thud

Coughing up crud

But doing it all with our newfound buds.


But whoa, remember those guides and porters?

(Moment of silence)

Those guides and porters

Did what they did for a buck and a quarter

Carrying our burdens, fetchin’ our water

Gate to gate, border border

Teachin’ us more than that big mountain did

About how to serve and to love and to live

How to work ‘til it hurts and to give, give and give

Lord for my selfishness please please forgive.


But let’s give props where props are due

To our leader Drew

The glue

The Mountain Man how-to

Told us what to do

What to wear

From our hats to our underwear, gloves and shoes

Couldn’t have done it without you

Our big floppy hats we take off to you


But to whom did we really turn

When the climb was too tough

Or the trail was too rough

And our legs and our knees and our backs had enough?

Who was our real go-to

When we had no O2?

I think you know Who…

Our side-of-the-head whoppin’

Sunrise and sunset eye-poppin’

Baranco Wall hoppin’

Barafu wind stoppin’

19,000 foot mountain toppin’

Creator Savior God


Have you not heard?

Do you not see?

Yes Lord we see—we are not blind

And with knees and hearts bowed low we thank you for this climb

And for these brothers and sisters whose hearts with ours you’ve entwined

One more time Lord we say Thank You, Thank you for this climb

June 28
Climb Days 4-5: The Wall & The Summit

Climb Day 4

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Today was the day I’d been dreading the most of my Kilimanjaro experience. Yes… more than the cold or the prospect of altitude sickness.

We had to go over “the wall” to get to the next camp (Karanga camp). It’s not the kind of wall you’re imagining. But think huge rocks and boulders (a dream for the hiker and adventurer) and a pathway that goes up, one that only the guides can expertly guide you over.


I am not one for heights. And I was most nervous about facing that wall and crossing to this next camp. Okay – I have to say everybody else enjoyed climbing the wall and they say it was the best part of their climb so far. So I am obviously amplifying how hard it is. One of the main reasons I chose to climb the tallest mountain in Africa was to overcome a lot of fears, and rely on the Lord’s leading (listening to and following the guides has a big lesson on that actually…). I have overcome a huge fear today!


I am looking around at the lunch table as I write this (we’re having veggie frittatas, fries and chicken!) and am grateful at how this team cheers each other on and patiently helps each other to go up higher and higher so we all make it to the summit together. Everyone looks excited and well.


Keep praying - we are almost there!


– Banji


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Climb Day 5


Today was amazing. After 14 long hours of hiking, we are back at 10,000 feet tucked safely away in our tents at camp. This morning, we woke up at midnight to the sound of excited voices and porters who sang to wake us for our ascent to the summit. After conjoining in the meal tent for coffee, tea, and other sugary snacks, we set off into two groups: one left at 1:00 am and the other left around 1:30. By the grace of God, the wind had died down and the temperature was mid 20’s…perfect peaking weather I was told. As our two groups made it up the mountain, our porters were nothing short of amazing: warming our hands, handing us our water and reminding us to eat during rest breaks. They even checked up on us about every 10 minutes. It took my group around 4 hours to get to Stella Point, which is just a half-mile short of the peak at the top of Kili. By then the sun had started to peak above the clouds and warm us up a little bit. It was absolutely beautiful. We could see the entire crater, the massive ice blocks, and the other lower parts of Kili, all floating above the clouds. A few pictures and a cup of tea later, we were headed back down to the camp (16,000 ft) to sleep until lunch. After we had rested and eaten, we all begrudgingly began our four hour descent down to our last and final camp.


Needless to say, today was a great and long day. We are all sore and tired and still trying to process the events from the dawn to the dusk. Above all, I believe that all of us are just thankful. Thankful for our porters who helped us every step of the way. Thankful for the countless encouragements of our team. Thankful that all 35 people who attempted to summit last night made it to the top. And thankful for a God who is so much bigger than we will ever be able to understand, and who loves us very, very much.


With love,



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June 23
Climb Days 2 & 3

Climb Day 2: Machame Camp to Shira Camp

10,000 ft. – 12,500 ft.


We woke up on the right side of our sleeping bags this morning with a loud Tanzanian hello and Tent side coffee after a night under the stars. We ate a wonderful breakfast all together and got going early. The first 45 minutes we hiked in silence, each spending time with the Lord as we began our second day. Poles were necessary today as we climbed up and up until we were above the clouds, resulting in a photo opportunity every rest spot. We traversed on the side of the mountain, winding through the mountain and through clouds and sunshine. We arrived safely at camp with a greeting full of dancing and singing thanks to the porters and guides with time for meals and rest! I think I have transported to a scene from Star Wars or Lord of the Rings at this camp, it takes your breath away.


Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts. This is a joyous adventure that most of us climbing cannot yet believe is reality. It seems as if God is speaking louder with every step we take! Please continue to pray for strength, energy, and friendships as we continue to gain altitude! The end of Isaiah 55 is a wonderful piece of scripture for the day – as the mountains and the trees sang as we climbed them.


Much love to you all,


Hailey Hess


Climb Morning Day 3: Shira Camp


Here we are Morning day 3!! Yesterday’s hike brought us up to a beautiful plateau overlooking an ocean of clouds flanked by the peak of Kilimanjaro. As beautiful as it is this morning we must press onward and upward. The lava tower, a famous Kili landmark, awaits us today at 15,000 feet. Upon arrival we plan on dinning for lunch in its ominous shadow. Our team is one of a kind, climbing alongside new individuals has been both encouraging and uplifting. Pray for us today that as mountain sickness starts to rumble and heads start to ache that God would intercede and refresh us as we continue the climb.


As always




Climb Day 3: Shira to Lava Tower to Baranco Camp

12,500-15,000-13,000 ft.


Sitting in the mess hall as the sun waves goodbye to day 4. Continuing to wonder whether this is all a dream or reality, but starting to be content with either. Getting a chance to hear people’s stories, encourage one another and dig into knowing Jesus more has started to change the direction of this trip.


Coolest story of the day: Jose (a climber and YL area director in Mozambique) who speaks Portuguese was able to share the gospel with our guide Ahim (who happens to speak Spanish), and through the Lords hand Ahim accepted Christ today. This thing is more than a climb. The mountain is unexplainably beautiful, but what will be taken home are the bits and pieces of each other that we get to laugh about, shake our heads at, and maybe even wish we never smelt.


     Today we ate lunch higher than any peak in the continental US, while looking at a view that I’ve only seen in mars exhibits. A tower of black lava towered over us encouraged us on forward. We camp tonight in the clouds and tomorrow push onward. Thanks for the prayers, keep em coming! Prayers for health and that we would all be open to experiencing God in new ways.


– Eyob Yirgau

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June 22
Climb for Change Day 5: The Climb Begins

Day 5: The Climb Begins

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Wow, what an incredible & jam packed first day we had! We woke up to a cloudy & damp day in Arusha with absolute eagerness to begin our first day on our Kilimanjaro adventure. We all packed into the bus with our 3 guides and made our way to the gate. As we approached the gate, we saw dozens of groups of strangers from around the world, waiting with excitement & uncertainty of what the next 7 days have in store. Our (very large) team was able to all sit at a table to share our first meal of our trek together, where we discussed our excitement, our fears, our hopes, & our prayers for our climbing adventure. The Lord has truly brought together a special crew for this trip filled with strong & devoted hearts to Christ.


We kicked off the climb trekking in gators & rain jackets because of the wet, rainforest type climate. It was truly amazing to witness the God breathed beauty that filled our view all 6 hours of our initial hike. We arrived at camp around 7:30 pm, filled with awe & wonder over the beauty that surrounded us. We have a view of the backside of the summit, with a sky coated with sparkling stars. Now that we’ve enjoyed our first dinner together, we have all tiredly wandered to our tents to enjoy our first night in our tents. Thank you all for covering this group in prayer! We could not thank you enough. God is so sovereign & glorious, we are filled with hope that He will guide us according to His perfect will. His presence will be our continued strength as we continue to explore His wondrous creation together.


Sending our love from Tanzania!




Laura Varberg

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