In January of 2012, the Freedom Climb began with forty-eight women from seven different countries. These women climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and were on a mission to raise funds to help oppressed women and children around the world. From the peak of that tall mountain, millions of dollars were raised and hearts were inspired to change the world on behalf of those victims. With God’s hand pushing them forward, Freedom Challenge expanded its boundaries in 2015 to open its arms to more women who wanted to help. Not only did women begin to climb mountains around the world, but they also started walking, running and engaging in any physical activity that moved them to fight for the 45.8 million modern day slaves in 167 countries, including the United States.
And so a new climb was born – Freedom Challenge Wyoming, The Grand Tetons. “We are so overjoyed this year to have sixty -seven women from Florida participating in this climb, “ said Tina Yeager, Freedom Challenge, US Director, “This is such a wonderful opportunity to gather and come together to join in the battle against human trafficking.”
This year a new initiative launch of “freedom circles” has allowed women to participate in a smaller, more intimate setting, Yeager explained. These freedom circles exist in order to find community in a common bond of taking a stand against the injustices of modern day slavery. “Women can create their own circles and share what’s going on in the local community. They meet once a month to hear about and donate to Freedom challenge’s global projects. The next month these women share their love and commitment by supporting other local organizations whose focus is also on the issue of modern day slavery. It’s a win-win for all involved.”
Focused on the journey
Although the climb is the center and focus of what the women are working towards, it is the journey there that changes them, which in turn changes the world. Women who are set to climb in Wyoming in July train on weekends at Vista View Park together in Davie. There are also weekly training bulletins to keep the participants on target, so they can train individually during the week. “We try and have a group walk every Saturday,” said Yeager. “This is a great way to train and also provide a real community with a common goal, to end modern day slavery.”
In order to raise money, participants are encouraged to have small events, such as gatherings in their home or at local coffee shops. Women also send out letters to friends and family asking for support. The focus is on making the climb personal and individual, making those that contribute feel as though they were climbing too, and becoming a part of a dynamic community that is committed to fighting injustice. “The effort to raise funds is completely grassroots,” said Yeager. “The women feel such a calling and connection.”
Not only are there multiple generations of women participating but also a large diversity of denominations in a multitude of churches. From Lutheran to non-denominational to Presbyterian, these women from South Florida are coming from everywhere, with Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale and Advent Lutheran in Boca Raton having the greatest number of participants.
“The engagement of the various churches in this battle against human trafficking has been amazing,” said Yeager. “You start to see the churches as soldiers for Christ coming together to care for the oppressed and the hopeless.”
God equips the called
Stephanie O’Bryon is one of the many women who has answered the call to climb the mountain. Her story is one of personal triumph, courage and God’s great grace. In September of 2013, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and during that experience Stephanie’s eyes were opened to the glory of God. “In going through surgery and a year of chemo and radiation God taught me a lot. One of the things I learned was that we can’t assume that our plans will work out according to our timeline. The same thing goes for how and when we respond to what God asks us to do – we’re not supposed to negotiate our ‘to do’ list.”
Stephanie and her husband Dan moved in June of last year from Ohio to South Florida. With no local family or friends, they soon found Boca Raton Community Church and started attending regularly and becoming more involved.
At one of their Women’s Events, Stephanie heard one of the women from her church speak about her experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with the Freedom Climb. “I was intrigued by what she had done and what motivated her to do something so big,” said O’Bryon.
In January 2016 Stephanie and her husband were invited by that same woman to a fundraising luncheon for the Freedom Challenge that moved her heart. “It was one of those ‘jump then think’ moments. I didn’t know anything about when, what or how, but I knew I would regret if I didn’t commit right then to join the next challenge.” It took Stephanie several months, until one night the Holy Spirit moved her to realize that this was God’s calling.
And God has been faithful. Stephanie is over halfway to her fundraising goal and is focused on her training. “I have learned during my training that life is sometimes very hard, but God calls us to keep pushing through because He is our strength. When I am tired and even in pain, I think of the women and children who will be helped thanks to the Freedom Challenge, and I just keep going.”
Interested in learning more about the Freedom Challenge? Visit them www.thefreedomchallenge.com at or call Tina Yeager at 954-415- 8969.
Melissa ZelnikerPresser is a Jewish believer in Jesus who is chasing her God-sized dream of becoming a full-time writer. She can be contacted at [email protected].