why climb a mountain?
The term of service for Team Yeshua 2019 has come to an end, and the volunteers have all returned home safely to their families. This group was younger than our previous ones, but it proved to be one of our best teams yet and one of the most hungry to learn. It was a great summer down here in Peru. The team left me and my family here in Huaraz back on August 20th, and things concluded in North Carolina under Brother Eric’s leadership with some street evangelism in Charlotte and a wonderful testimony service at New Testament Christian Fellowship on August 25th. Thanks for praying for the Team Yeshua these past few months. Jamie and I and the kids are will remain here until October. Continued prayers for us, for boldness and the Lord’s provision, are truly coveted and much appreciated.
During their final day in Huaraz, before our last training session and the team dinner that followed, I gave the volunteers one final assignment: to go out and check on our Hebrew invitation signs posted around town and to replace any that had been removed. One of the last signs they put up was seen by 3 Israeli travelers who had just arrived in town. They contacted me from a coffee shop while I was actually sipping a Cortado (i.e. what they call a latte down here) in that same cafe, and the day after the team left us, the group came over for dinner at our apartment. Jamie was sick in bed all that day, so Bethany stepped up to the plate and prepared the entire meal and baked an incredible blueberry cake. It turned out to be a really great night that ran really late, and there was much conversation about the things of God and of Yeshua the Messiah. All three of these travelers gladly received Hebrew New Testaments, and the young lady who fancied herself a “left-winger” in terms of Israeli politics (not exactly the same as an American left-winger) said: “I’ve always been curious about this Book and will definitely read it.” Later, one of the young men sent this message: “We are so thankful for the dinner, and we all think that you have an amazing family. The conversation tonight was so fun for us.”
So, one of the last seemingly insignificant actions of Team Yeshua here in Huaraz bore good fruit. And, I am reminded that there is still work down here to be done. Please pray that we will continue to find Israelis, get messages in response to our signs, and have more opportunity to host folks for dinner that they might hear the truth about the Jewish Messiah and receive a copy of God’s Word in their language.
I rejoice to announce some of Team Yeshua’s fruit for 2019:
11 copies of the Hebrew New Testament and countless Hebrew Gospel tracts were put into the hands of Israeli backpackers, some we hosted for dinner, others we encountered on the streets of Huaraz or on trails in the Andes.
8 English Bibles and a slough of English Gospel tracts were put into the hands of Gentiles from 31 different nations, including unexpected places like Slovenia, Croatia, Algeria, and Jamaica. The Jamaican guy was actually an encounter in Charlotte, NC when the team went out with Eric for one last bout of street evangelism.
We hosted guests for dinner 7 different times, and not a single one of these guests refused a copy of God’s Word when it was offered upon their departure.
We took Israelis hiking and rock climbing 4 different times as a means to further communicate and follow-up with the Gospel.
Such numbers may not seem like much, and I’m definitely not one who measures success by numbers, but when it comes to Great Commission work amongst the Jewish people, they are huge. And, we praise God who says “he that toucheth you [i.e. Israel] toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).
The last week or so, it’s been a bit lonely here, but it’s been nice to have a time of rest and to ponder quietly upon the events of the past few months. A question keeps coming to my mind, a question you might find interesting and one for which I have a decisive answer.
This summer, I had the great privilege of training our Team Yeshua volunteers in many things, both in the physical and in the spiritual. In our daily training sessions, we covered such topics as things wrong with the modern gospel, the Great Commission, how to properly and improperly handle the sword of God’s Word, the value of the Old Testament Scriptures, the reliability and importance of Biblical chronology, Messianic prophecy, evangelism, Jewish evangelism, biblical covenants, the relationship between Israel and the Church, Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy, the BIBLICAL doctrine of a pre-tribulational Rapture, and how Jesus fulfills the Feasts of Israel. We worshipped together, we prayed together, we hosted Israeli backpackers for dinner together, and we walked miles of streets and trails together in search of opportunity to share Messiah with both Jew and Gentile.
We also climbed big mountains! So, here’s the question:
why do I climb mountains?
And why do I find joy in guiding or dragging young people with little to no experience up them? There are those who have accused me of worshiping and serving the creation more than the Creator. Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth.
Consider for a moment that the Scriptures are full of physical acts that teach or declare greater spiritual truths. CIRCUMSICION for the male children of Israel was a physical and external sign of a greater spiritual truth, that the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been cut by God from the nations of the earth to be a special and exclusive covenant people unto Him whereby all nations would one day be blessed (Deuteronomy 32:8). On a sidenote, the Jewish people have been circumcising their baby boys for almost 4,000 years, and they are still born with foreskins. That kind of throws a monkey-wrench into the cogs of Darwinian evolution, now doesn’t it. Moving on,, the LORD’S TABLE is a physical picture of a greater spiritual truth, Christ’s body that was broken and His blood that was spilt for the Church. “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19)—a memorial, not some “sacrament” that confers merit. BAPTISM BY IMMERSION in water for the believer (i.e. biblical baptism) is the perfect physical picture of a greater spiritual truth, the baptism of the Holy Spirit that takes place within the heart of a man when he repents and believes the Gospel. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Even so, is there a better physical picture or summary of the spiritual pilgrimage of the believer in this life than that of climbing a mountain? I’m not suggesting that to do so is anywhere close to being on par with the ordinances commanded for the local church, but consider what the path to a summit conveys. It is inevitably fraught with trial, trouble, and turbulence. Suffering and delay tempt one to quit or declare the path impassable. False summits and unforeseen obstacles obscure the goal. Every single step is up and demands effort. Yet, each of those steps brings the mark, the summit, one step closer. And finally, when one’s foot can go no higher, when the summit is attained, all of the suffering, trial, and tribulation is suddenly more precious than gold and there is a retrospective joy that cannot be explained. Is this not so with the earthly pilgrimage for the child of God in this present evil world? The way ain’t easy and will test your mettle. But the unmovable and immutable Summit is the Maker of the Mountains, the Lord Jesus Christ. And each step onward is one step closer to home, the goal, to being with Him in His Kingdom. And, in the words of an old Gospel song:
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Every mountain, every storm, every tear we cry. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Just to hear him say ‘Well done’ will be worth any price.
To climb a mountain, to lead other brothers and sisters in testing their physical mettle all the way to the summit, reminds, teaches, and declares this great spiritual truth. Great physical tests, if you allow them to be so, greatly strengthen the spirit and therefore encourage to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). To climb a mountain is to press toward the mark of a high calling, the summit. And to accomplish such a thing in the physical, if we allow it, will strengthen and encourage us in the spiritual to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
There’s another side to it as well. To successfully climb a mountain, you have to get back down. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine may very well have touched the summit of Mt. Everest in 1924 after they were seen from a distance disappearing into the clouds on the afternoon of June 8th. Nobody knows for sure. But what is for sure is that they never got back down, one of mountaineering lore’s great mysteries. Strangely, Mallory’s body was found on Everest’s north face in 1999, eerily preserved and draped in tattered remains of knickers and a tweed sweater. An American climber was curious about a large flat white rock he saw in the scree field, and that rock turned out to be Mallory’s exposed back. Andrew Irvine’s ice axe was found about 800 feet above the body, but he was never located. Later, on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norway summited the world’s highest peak and then eventually got back safely to their families. Hillary famously said, “Getting to the top is only half the job.”
On the big peaks down here in the Andes, you don’t to stay on the summit too long. Rappelling down steep ice and snow in the dark is not fun and not safe. In the same way, fellowshipping with believers and worshipping the Lord together is a mountaintop experience in which we may like to hide. But, I’m reminded of the words of an old song from Amy Grant’s 1977 debut album when she was a teenager (i.e. long before her testimony was compromised):
But I’d love to live on a mountaintop, fellowshipping with the Lord. I’d love to stand on a mountaintop, cause I love to feel my spirit soar. But, I’ve got to come down from that mountaintop to the people in the valley below, or they’ll never know that they can go to the mountain of the Lord.
It’s pretty hip and trendy in today’s churches to consider “worship” the mark of spirituality, and the Laodicean church often looks to twenty-something worship leaders with little to no life experience for the answers. Here’s a great article about this nonsense in response to some idiot from Hillsong recently “renouncing” his faith in Christ. It’s a worthy read:
Worship circles are NOT the Great Commission, and they are NOT evangelism. Moreover, to ignore these things in favor of the praise band is, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, to “worship ye know not what” (John 4:22).
So, whether climbing up or back down a mountain, there is plenty in the physical to teach or remind oneself in the spiritual. And taking others up a high mountain to teach them something, after all, is to walk in the footsteps of our Lord: “And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them . . . And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:2,9). Jesus dragged these men up snow-capped Mt. Hermon to teach them something, both going up and going back down. And, I guarantee they never forgot it.
The mountains down here are high like the Himalaya but quite unlike them. In Nepal, the upper faces are mostly bare rock and ice, for the snow doesn’t cling well to the steep grades (Mallory’s body pictured above was found partially buried in rock, not snow). The big danger in the Himalaya is unpredictable weather and bitter cold. Down here in Peru, however, the summer weather window is large, and I’ve been over 18,000 feet without a big down coat. Notwithstanding, large amounts of snow cling even to near-vertical faces and form amazingly beautiful fluted patterns that are incredibly perilous in terms of AVALANCHE DANGER (i.e. much worse than the Himalaya). Like a broken record, climbers are buried alive up here every year. Back in the Spring, a team perished in an avalanche on the back side of a peak I have climbed twice. I can’t understand why people would be so foolish as to attempt a descent of that west face; but they were, and they paid for it with their lives. Last year, a group and their guide perished on Alpamayo. One young man from New Zealand survived because he had a terrible stomach bug and had to remain in his tent at the high camp while his partners went for the summit. We actually met that individual on the way down from base camp while trekking in the Santa Cruz and gave him the Gospel. We also tracted a group of Peruvian search-and-rescue experts on their way up to search for the bodies.
A couple of weeks ago, we were rock climbing at Chancos and met a group of search-and-rescue police practicing the art of rappelling. It was another great opportunity to share the Gospel, and these were some of the first to receive the newly translated and printed Spanish Trekker Tracts. Anyway, they told us some Argentine climbers had just died in an avalanche on nearby Huascuran.
Changing landscapes and avalanches are a big problem down here, and a suitable route up a peak one year may not even exist the next. In the Himalaya, the routes don’t change much. People have been climbing the South Col Route up Everest since Hillary and Norgay did it in 1953, and aside from variations in the Khumbu Ice Fall, it has remained pretty reliable. Glaciers also seem to be retreating in places down here in Peru at incredible rates. Some locals who worship pachamama (i.e. Quechua for the earth) and Western tree-huggers make a big deal about it as they preach global warming and are ignorant of the fact that glaciers are actually growing in others places, including the Himalaya. As far as I am concerned, it’s a cycle combined with the birth pangs of the Messiah (Romans 8:22-23). Anyway . . .
. . . Let me share a bit about a couple of OUR mountaineering adventures from this season:
nevado pastoruri (17,075 ft.)
The “global warming” hype makes for an interesting situation these days at the Pastoruri Glacier inside Huascuran National Park. There, you can drive to 15,500 ft. up a pretty good dirt road and a beautiful valley, park, and hike a little over a mile to a glacier that terminates in a small lake. Back in 2000, there was no lake, and the glacier extended far beyond where it has now retreated. In fact, the differences I have noticed in the last three years are quite astounding. In 2017, there were no ice caves by the lake, last year there were a couple of really nice ones. This year, those caves had disappeared.
At the parking area, there are locals who sell trinkets and offer piggy-back rides or horseback rides to the lake, for a pretty price of course. There is also almost always a guy with a whistle who takes it upon himself to make sure tourists don’t touch the glacier or cross over some makeshift ropes. He also claims that the glacier closes at 3:30pm. LOL. The truth is, this guy doesn’t work for the national park service, and he has no real authority. We possess national park passes that allow us to enter the park and hike anywhere, so we don’t pay him much attention. Last year, he blew his whistle really, really loud and made a huge scene when he saw us exiting an ice cave on the other wide of his rope “boundary.” He claimed that people “touching” the glacier had made it retreat and would destroy it. As polite as I could, I let him know that he had no authority to tell me where I could or couldn’t go and that I would be circumnavigating the lake to explore up the far side of that glacier. He responded, “You can’t walk over there. It’s not allowed.” I said, “Watch me,” and began that long slog late in the afternoon. I wanted to see if there was a safe and suitable route to the top of the glacier where I could take future Team Yeshua volunteers to practice basic mountaineering techniques with ice axes, crampons, and a rope. I made it quite high that day, about 16,800ft., and summited El Muro Blanco (the White Wall) before bailing under threat of lengthening shadows. I didn’t make it to the top of the glacier but found it suitable to bring a team up there for an adventure and purposed to do so the next season.
Back on July 8th, that came to pass. Eric and I guided two team members to the top of the glacier and a rocky summit dubbed Nevado Pastoruri (17,075 ft.). It was amazing to see how much things had changed. A big chunk of ice the size of a house situated on the far side of the lake had provided good cover from the Whistle Man last year. That chunk had completely disappeared. Moreover, what had been a relatively easy ascent on moraine had become a steep mess. An incredible ice cave that I had photographed the year before had disappeared, and a path had opened up at El Muro Blanco that had been blocked.
By mid-afternoon, we reached a high pass, put on our crampons, and climbed onto the ice. As I had hoped, it proved a great environment to put into practice techniques we had taught the team members on my apartment roof. It was an incredible slog across the snow, each step a real chore at that altitude, and the ascent of the summit crag involved some scary and exposed Class 4 rock. At the 17,075 ft. summit, however, all the trial, tribulation, and effort was suddenly worth it, an incredible reminder of the Christian’s earthly pilgrimage and the joy that will one day make it all worthwhile. As we sat there, it was satisfying to think that there are only eight peaks in all of North America higher than that point. Moreover, we could look across a valley at a double-headed monster that my daughter and I had attempted to climb without success last year. The two team members we had dragged up that mountain, basking in the joy of an attained summit, said “Let’s do that one next.” I chuckled, and we then rappelled off that rock back down to the snow and eventually returned to the parking lot where Jamie and the rest of the team had been a little concerned and quite eager to descend to more manageable altitudes. We did so, but not without the joy that comes from the great object lesson that is climbing a mountain.
As for the Whistle Man from 2018, there is a funny ending to that story. When I arrived back at the parking lot at dusk that year, I crossed paths with him. He knew I had been up that glacier but didn’t say a word. As we made eye contact, he just gave me a nod of respect as if to say “You’re not the typical trifling tourist.”
Back in Huaraz, a friend of mine who rents out mountain gear told us that climbing the Pastoruri Glacier is illegal. Oh well, I never saw a sign.
Here’s a little photo collage from the ascent:
nevado cajap (17,323 ft.)
Cajap is a glaciated double-headed monster not far from Pastoruri. There is no information about that mountain at the local mountain guide office in Huaraz, and they told me it hadn’t been climbed in at least sixteen years. Last year, I studied Cajap while hiking with Charlotte in the area. That day, we climbed a 15,785 ft. rocky knob I dubbed Cerrito Chuck after my little girl who showed herself a workhorse at high altitude.
Bethany and I later determined to attempt Cajap from what looked like a relatively easy approach to a high saddle that I had discovered from atop Cerrito Chuck. We made it to the saddle at 16,256 ft., but getting onto the ice was steep and perilous. Moreover, the face was riddled with crevasses, and I knew Bethany wasn’t ready for all that. We explored for awhile and attempted to solve the labyrinth, but the day grew long, and we were forced to bail. We didn’t realize how far we truly were from the summit, and the whole venture had started far too late in the day. Notwithstanding, we had fun practicing glacier technique, checked out a few ice caves, and enjoyed a nice glissade back down to tierra firma.
For an entire year, we joked about Cajap while trying to disguise the fact that it was haunting us. After our success on Pastoruri and the acclimatization that outing provided, we determined to give it another try. Four days later, we characteristically got started far too late than should have been thanks to an apartment key fiasco early that morning in Huaraz. One of the volunteers started vomiting at the trailhead, and we thought to just call it off. But, we pressed on, knowing that you can’t just call off the Christian walk when IT gets a little difficult. So, we slogged past the tomato soup-colored lake along the way and encountered a shepherd woman grazing a large herd of sheep. I spoke to her of the Creator and of the Mediator that could make us right with Him. She gladly received a Spanish Scripture portion but then looked at me cock-eyed when I informed her that we were going to climb Cajap. It was as if she wanted to ask “Now why would you want to do that?” In my mind, I thought of the answer John Muir once gave when asked that same question: Because it’s there.
As we ascended to the saddle, I couldn’t help but notice how different the face looked from the year before. Ice caves had disappeared, a giant ice column that I had punched wasn’t there, and some rocks had become exposed in a way that actually made for higher and easier access to the summit ridge. The year before, that route had been impossible. Make no mistake, the steep ice was scary, but it wasn’t impossible, and this year, we had ice-screws and a 4-man rope team. One pitch after another, we ascended the snow, and a z-shaped crux I had seen the year before and had pondered over and over in my mind since as the only viable option, surprisingly became unnecessary as we rounded a bergschrund corner. At this point, I expected a maze a crevasses that I had noted and studied per Google Earth satellite photos. All day, I had anticipated privately that this would be the end of yet another failed attempt. But for once, and in answer to specific prayer, the landscape had changed from the previous year FOR THE BETTER. There was a wide-open path across a giant snow field with just a few small fissures and easily avoidable gaping crevasses. It was long and marred by a few false summits, but we pressed on. As the lead point, I felt myself time and time again pulling three other people behind me and growing exhausted. In those moments, I actually drew strength from thoughts of parallels in the Christian walk and the joy that awaits “the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The purposed turnaround time came and went, 3:30pm . . . one foot in front of another, one step at a time, breathe for a few seconds, then take one more step. Move ahead until the rope tightens, wait for slack, move ahead, wait for slack. Finally, we could go no higher. We were on the summit, and the late afternoon hues over the nearby peaks as well as the distant Cordillera Huayhuash, were indescribable, a true testimony to the majesty of the Creator God. But alas, it was after 5:00pm, and we had to get down. In those moments, I remembered what Sir Edmund Hillary had said: “Getting to the top is only half the job.” So, we took a few summit photos, praised the Lord together, and spent a few moments in prayer for a safe descent.
Going down late in the day required a few soft-rappel pitches, and the pitons and ice screws came in real handy. That last pitch, the first of our ascent, was the most dangerous, very steep and solid ice in which the crampons would barely bite. And by the time we started setting up the anchor, it was dark. By God’s grace, we all got back safely to the rocks, but for safety’s sake, we were forced to leave an expensive ice screw on that mountain. Who knows? Maybe someday I will go back and retrieve it. Even now, I think about some of the costly things and cherished relationships I have had to leave behind in my walk with the Lord over the years. Wow, the parallels are profound.
We eventually got back to the road and Fernando, our faithful driver. He had been very worried, and rightfully so. I don’t remember much about the 2.5-hour drive back to Huaraz, only the joy, while weaving in and out of sleep, of having silenced Cajap while pushing inexperienced young people to their limits and watching them succeed. We all reaped spiritual benefits. Again, some words of Sir Edmund Hillary come to mind “It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.” Jesus addressed this in the spiritual and on a far more important level: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Here’s a little collage from that climb:
Before Team Yeshua’s term in Huaraz expired, hitherto inexperienced young millennials tasted the joy of THREE MORE successful mountaineering exploits AND the famous 4-day Santa Cruz trek in the reverse direction. That trek yielded numerous great witnessing encounters and resulted in copies of God’s Word going into the hands of a young man from France and a young man from Germany. I was so proud of my wife who helped lead the team on that trek while I stayed back with Josiah and Charlotte to oversee the printing of the Spanish Trekker Tracts.
As for the big mountains, two more proved good practice for the last and most dangerous adventure of all. At the end of that one, three days before the team departed for home, we had all, by default, become experienced mountaineers. But alas, that’s a story that must wait for a place in the next post.
Back in North Carolina, things effectively ended where they began. On June 7th, when Team Yeshua rendezvoused in North Carolina for some orientation, Eric and I took them to visit our friend Yossi, a Jewish believer in Yeshua the Messiah and a disabled Israeli war veteran with incredible conviction and some incredible stories. He bluntly told our volunteers that the greatest thing they could ever do for a Jewish person is put a copy of God’s Word into their hands. Eric took them back down to see Yossi after some street evangelism in Charlotte, and they got to share with him how they had followed his advice and had put copies of God’s Word in the hands of lost sheep from the House of Israel, his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Yossi was greatly encouraged. The next day, Eric drove back to Charlotte, picked him up, and brought him to the Team Yeshua testimony service at New Testament Christian Fellowship in Claremont. He was so blessed. I, too, was blessed when I learned that my dad preached that morning and left the team with some sound exhortation: The true measure of the value of this summer in Huaraz is not in what has transpired, but in what you do with it going forward. Amen!
It’s great to be in Huaraz, to be close to the mountains, to be up on the mountains! But getting up, Team Yeshua’s 11-week mission trip, is only half the job. Now, they gotta get back down to the people in the valleys below. And those people, both Jew and Gentile, and those valleys dot their own backyards.
One thing is for sure, none of those young people are the same inexperienced youth that left the States back on June 11th. Things can never be the same for them, and that’s a good thing.
As for me and my family, there are still plenty of people and valleys below right here in Huaraz. Bethany and I will almost certainly test our mettle again before leaving this place. At this very moment, I pause to gaze out the den window at the amazing Andean panorama with sunset hues. I see 20,000+ ft. Copa peaking over the ridge that was Team Yeshua’s first hike here back in June. That was a good day, and some Gospel tracts went out. Anyway, for BB and I, Cajap is silenced. Now Copa calls. And as always, one arduous step after another to the top of the mountain serves to remind and compel me to take one spiritual step after another in this troubled world, to endure until the end. For the ultimate summit is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the World.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Every mountain, every storm, every tear we cry. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Just to hear him say ‘Well done’ will be worth any price.
Please pray for more opportunity with both Jew and Gentile here until we head home in about six weeks. Please pray for Eric and Mindy Trent as they make plans to return to the field and wait patiently for the Lord to provide the financial means to do so. Please pray for the Team Yeshua volunteers now back home as they seek to serve the Lord in their own spheres of influence. Pray for provision for FPGM so we can keep doing what we do. If the Lord should lay it upon your heart to help, it’s easy to do so: fpgm.org/donate OR paypal.me/zerayim.
Now, go climb a mountain!
“For lo, he that formeth the mountains . . . The LORD, The God of hosts is his name” (Amos 4:13).
Jesse Boyd, Colporter & Peakbagger