By Danielle Leonard

As the dirt is settling in my pores and the two weeks of sickness I picked up traveling back settles in my gut, my mind is still trying to process all that we (myself along with 13 other climbers) accomplished in six nights and seven days.

We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa nearly one month ago.

For all of us there were personal and spiritual elements to making the decision to take on the challenge, and for me it was an opportunity to come full circle and complete one of the small chapters in my life. Many moons ago I was a broken soul, lost in the darkness of hurt, depression, addiction, and self-loathing. Redeemed by the Father with a testimony that needs to be shared, I find being obedient to a calling can be scary and uncomfortable but always produces fruit with faith in Him.

It became very clear that I was to follow the lead and share my story even when I knew how uncomfortable it would be.

Nothing can prepare one's self for the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey God will take you on when climbing a mountain that stands at a whopping 19,341 feet. To give another perspective, that is fourteen Empire State buildings stacked on top of each other. Remember the movie 'King Kong'? How small King Kong looked when clinging onto the tip of the Empire State building and fighting off the planes? See how vast this mountain is? Perhaps you are thinking, no way I can do that.

But, why not say, I absolutely can do that.

With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). It truly is. I believe that and I have spoken it out loud before, but it really resonated with me on the mountain. God revealed many moments of grace when I was climbing and without Him, climbing the mountain would have been way more challenging than it already is. This mountain requires physical fitness, but most of all--grit and tenacity. 

The first day was a huge reality check for our minds and bodies. We entered into the rain-forest portion of the mountain hopping and skipping along like Goldilocks traipsing through the forest on her way to Grandmother's house. Sweet innocent babes full of wonder and excitement and way too many snacks in our daypack. God forbid we didn’t have enough Cliff Bars and Trail mix in case we got lost. It turned into a nearly six hour hike up gradual stairs and then narrow dirt paths as the incline got steeper, and nary a clean toilet in sight.

This was the moment when I tapped into my reservoir of God's sustainability and encouragement.

The mind wants to say, Nope. This is insane. Did I train enough? Am I really capable of this? This isn't what the internet pictures showed me. Thoughts ran amok in my brain. It became the perfect time for me to tap into God's word and encouragement. There is nothing greater than downloading the Holy Spirit to ease your fears, reservations, mental roadblocks, and ridiculous banter in your head. I became strong in body, mind, and spirit with Him flowing through my veins.

Each day what I faced became harder and harder. Exhaustion, repetition, and the fear of the unknown all came at me at lightening speed. I dug deep in my walk and also reached out to fellow team members. We were a motley crew of gifts and talents and our resources were available to each other whenever we needed. There is something comforting about knowing the person on your right is the "coach," the other one is the "encourager," the "comedian," the "motivator," and so on. The perfect orchestrator for this killer team and His saving grace became our fuel to conquer the mountain together.

An awesome reminder to me that He provides everyday resources and people in the peaks and valleys of life. Always.

Our most challenging day was summit day. Hiking started at 1:15am in the morning with 40mph winds and -15 degree weather. I know, what a glorious time to hike. Conversations are limited due to visibility and hearing abilities. Basically, I was alone with my thoughts for nearly six hours in the grueling dark and unforgiving weather. I prayed a lot in those hours. Prayers ranging from, "Please make it end" and "Am I going to die?" to "Thank you, Father, for choosing me to be among the 15,000 people in the world that hike Mt. Kilimanjaro a year. "

The ending to some of the most difficult hours of my life came to a conclusion as the sun started to rise just before I was about to give up and lose hope.

The sun that rose boldly (a sight to behold as I was looking out at the horizon as I stood above the clouds) and beautifully, full of God's hope and promise. My life had come full circle and God delivered on His promise once again that with Him I will always be okay. It doesn’t matter the mistakes I have made and my perceived failures hold no value in Him. He provides boundless grace and forgiveness for our sins.

From beginning to end, darkness to light, mountain side to the mountain top, with God all things are possible.

And I’m pretty sure I am a beast just like King Kong.



Danielle is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, worker bee, lover, warrior, and occasionally a smarty pants. During the day she works at Journey Community Church in Cleveland and loves being a part of helping people take their next step toward God. In the evenings she moonlights as “Super Mom” and enjoys helping three kids take their next step toward being decent life-giving world changers. She loves all things Cleveland after traveling the world and realizing the grass is green everywhere. Danielle loves challenging herself with crazy ideas like running half marathons, pretending to be a blogger and a writer, and climbing big mountains in Africa. Basically she is a just a girl, with some ridiculous dreams, stumbling through this thing we call life by the grace of God.

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