Women Prepare to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to Combat Human Trafficking

image of local climbersA team of women from South Florida, including two women from Boca Raton Community Church, will summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, to raise funds for women and children who are oppressed, enslaved, exploited and trafficked around the world. The funds will provide vital services through Operation Mobilization’s Freedom Climb projects that help break the cycles of poverty, shame, slavery and despair through prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and development.

Debbie Johnson and Lindsey Mitchell, of Boca Raton Community Church, will participate in the trek which is planned for February 26 – March 8, 2015.  As part of their commitment, they have set a lofty goal to raise $60,000 for the cause, and the Women’s Ministry at their church has planned several fundraisers dedicated to the cause.

Sharing treasures

To stir up compassion, action and advocacy for the issue, women are encouraged to donate two valuable items from their home such as furniture, jewelry, china or porcelain to help rescue women and children whom God considers his treasures. These items will be used as part of a Bring 2 Buy 2 event in which people commit to buy two treasurers that others brought. All of the proceeds will support the climb. The Bring 2 Buy 2 event will be held on November 13 from 6 – 9 p.m. at Boca Raton Community Church, 470 NW 4th Ave., Boca Raton.

Speaking up for the oppressed

Supporting the Freedom Climb is one way to obey the command in Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and the needy.”  Members of Operation Mobilization creatively communicate the call to obey this mandate as well as exposing dark deeds worldwide. Due to one creative Freedom Climb project, Sunitha an Indian woman who cleaned latrines for a living, returned to school and gained a trade making Indian Sari dresses.  As one of the most famous tailors in her area, she now bears witness to the freedom that can be had even within a country that maintains caste-based slavery.

Why women climb

Freedom Climb members have broken world records for the most women to climb together, and the highest ratio of climbers reaching the summit, bringing needed attention to injustices suffered by women and children all over the world. Climbers are impacted by the realization that God cared for the individual hikers, as well as caring about the cause.
Debbie Johnson, who participated in a Seven Summits Event in Colorado in July, said she realized she was called to climb from the start. Lori Degler, who is a regional director for Operation Mobilization and has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in the past, said, “I struggled with leaving my comfort zone, especially having a strong dislike for both for both cold and exhaustion. The comfort of home was like an idol to me, but I realized God had called me to climb.”

Lindsey Mitchell, a long-time friend, found the desire to help after hearing what benefits are offered to children. As a social worker at Bethesda, she saw the benefits in helping the whole community see the value of them. She considered simply donating, but God spoke to her: “You need to do more than that!”
Her response was “Who climbs Kilimanjaro?” Yet she felt God’s told her, “You do!”
Mitchell added, “I hate camping, but I told my youngest child about this climb. She loves mountains, so she tells others about what I am doing. And my Husband is also 100% behind me.”
Mitchell admitted to fearing the climb. “I looked and was afraid.” But she said God told her, “You’re afraid of climbing a mountain; you should be afraid of disobeying Me.”
Both Johnson and Mitchell felt the name of Kilimajaro’s summit is significant: “The Swahili name for the summit means freedom. This is a great symbol for what we work for: freedom for those who have no voice.”
The women said they hope to reach the summit, but are placing their trust in the Lord. “We are here to get as far as we can get,” Mitchell said. “It is all about God. He called me to do this and however he chooses to allow the climb to go, it is for him to decide.”

A 3-pronged approach

The Freedom Climb goal of standing up to injustice has a three-pronged approach: prevention, rescue and rehabilitation and development.
Prevention occurs through the education of the community as to how to prevent their children from being exploited, and what to look for when their children are offered work.  Educating people whose children are at high risk for being pulled into the slave trade due to economic oppression is key to preventing the problem.
Rescue and rehabilitation of those trapped in the slave trade means breaking the feelings of despair and hopelessness through intensive, one-on-one types of intervention. Children and women may need years of counseling to become whole after such a traumatic experience. The victims need shelter and health care as they recover and life skills training to earn a living after healing.
The development of long-term solutions to the cycle of poverty and the oppression of women focuses on assisting women in discovering their God-given talents and abilities.  Skills training and microloans assist women in supporting themselves and their children.

To learn more about the Freedom Climb and Operation Mobilization, visit bocacommunity.org/freedom or www.thefreedomclimb.net

Penni Bulten is a homeschooling mom who is fascinated with the Founding Fathers. She can be reached at [email protected].

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