Over this past weekend, June 23-25, I had the amazing opportunity to climb Mount Wilhelm. Mount Wilhelm is the tallest peak in Papua New Guinea and all of Oceania at 4,509 meters (14,793 feet). Although it pales in comparison to many mountains in Asia, Europe, and South America, it is higher than any mountain in the contiguous United States. It was a very challenging and amazing experience, and I am very thankful that I was able to participate in this adventure with a group of wonderful people.
These wonderful people included: The Dooley family (Dr. Scott is the hospital administrator), Charity (the elementary teacher), Nathan (our newest doctor) and his oldest son, Apa (a local pastor) and his son, and our two guides, Ben and Willie.
Our journey to climb Mount Wilhelm began Friday morning when we left Kudjip at 8 a.m. to travel the 70 km (4 hours on rough roads) to where we parked our cars. We then spent the rest of the afternoon hiking up to base camp (elevation about 10,000 feet) where we camped out for the night.
After spending the night at base camp, Nathan, Charity, Scott, his daughter Emma, Apa, his son Bon, the guide and I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and started to climb up the mountain. Scott and Emma ended up turning back after reaching the second lake, while the rest of us continued on our hike. We finally reached the summit just before 7:00 a.m. The weather on top is clearest in the early morning, which is why we left so early.
The cold, thin air and difficult terrain made the climb a tremendous challenge. Dr. Nathan did a great job at helping us keep watch for signs of altitude sickness, which would require us to turn around and descend right away. I’m still amazed that I was able to make it to the top, and I do not think I could have made it without the encouragement of my group. It really helped to know that I was not the only one who was winded and completely exhausted. On the way back down we took a lot of pictures as it was then light enough to see. It was amazing to see how far we had climbed from base camp. The two lakes near base camp seemed like two little coins in the valley below.
The rest of Saturday we hung out at base camp, ate, and rested to recover from our 9-hour hike. That night Apa shared his testimony. He shared how God reached him in the middle of many difficult circumstances and trials, transforming his heart and calling him to a new life in Christ. After hearing his story, one of our guides spoke up and said that at the top of the mountain he felt God’s presence and that he wanted to surrender his life to follow God. He shared that his concern about making this step was that his wife was not a Christian. However, he asked that he and his family be prayed for, answered God’s call on his heart, and came to know the Lord. It was an amazing blessing to see the power of the Gospel first hand! Sunday we left base camp and hiked down to the cars. I am so thankful that I was able to participate in this adventure. I especially praise God for His call on Ben’s life. Please pray for Ben as he steps out on this new journey of faith. Pray that God will make himself known to Ben’s wife and other family members.