I’m taking another step upward, steep and obscure though the path may be.
If I knew how hard it would be back when we started out, I might never have tried at all! Whether church planting in Japan, or mountain climbing in her Southern Alps, you have to be just a little stubborn or crazy to attempt either. An overnight hike last week with Justen was sort of a condensed metaphor for 15 years of work here: hard, tiring, unsure at times, but glorious! What kept us moving up Mount Kita is what keeps us moving forward in missions: envisioning that glorious destination.
Our father-son hike last year was Mount Fuji. This year we decided to conquer Japan’s number two, all 11,000 feet of her. Given my level of fitness and expertise, I use the term “conquer” very loosely. The truth is that Mt. Kita put us through some major pain. But what glorious suffering it turned out to be!
At times it seemed that everything around was encouraging our upward steps. Tree roots and stones arranged themselves into natural staircases. Branches reached down to form handrails. Stumps offered places to rest. A cool stream with waterfalls acted as an air conditioner. And breathtaking vistas around every bend coaxed the “wow” right out of us.
At other times (okay, the majority of the time), we wondered if we’d make it. We doubted we might. We had missed our bus to the trailhead and gotten a late start. Our equipment was amateur grade at best. Our physical fitness was questionable (okay, just mine). Wet rocks sent us skidding and slipping. Light drizzle sent us scrambling for raingear. And then a cloudburst sent the temperatures down. We still had hours to go and less and less daylight to fit it all in. Would we get lost, frozen, dehydrated, attacked by animals? Why were there no more fellow hikers around? Was this still the right path to follow? One begins to wonder.
What was particularly discouraging, however, was that a view of our destination was shrouded by mist and fog. Somewhere up in those clouds was the top. And on the top was a mountain hut with our name in their reservation book. But where? How much higher? We hadn’t seen a signpost in ages, and the relentlessly steep path offered no clue as to how much further it might go on. We trudge along, bone weary, wet and sore.