To say that hiking through the Himalayas was a challenge for me would be one of the grossest understatements of my life. In fact, the sheer determination and focus it took to get me up and down those mountains was impressive, if I do say so myself. The sole motivating factor for me came in the form of faces – the faces of the people living in the villages scattered along the path we were traveling. The hike to the highest point on our route would take us was about 4 days in and many thousands of feet high. I realized that using myself as a point of reference for the fact that these people hike this path all the time was part of the reason I was often in disbelief, but really?! The isolation they live in is not only peace evoking, but a bit scary as well. What if something was to happen to one of the children, and they had to make the journey down in order to find aid that met the need? What if their crops were destroyed and the livelihood of this entire village rested on their ability and capacity to get down to lower lands and find what they needed? It was a challenge to wrap my head around the distance between this village and all the things that I was familiar with and assumed they would need too. Though they could see what appeared to be the whole world from their perch on the side of this massive mountain, they were indistinguishable from its base.
I could easily fill this post with stories confirming my claim of sheer physical difficulty, but I would rather share with you one small story about perspective. It is a story that I would have missed had I not been in that exact place at that exact moment, and the foundation of my life would be missing a vital stone.
It took some time for my senses to regain perception after having been suffocated by the pounding of my heart and the laser-like focus it took to get my body to the last village. The welcome that we received was unlike any of the others; there seemed to be an excitement poured out on us that had been stored away for years. It was like a finely aged wine, saved for a special occasion. Of course, the almost transparent white skin that we were wearing was the primary contributor to the wow factor. We spent that evening visiting with the local mayor and his family. They cooked us an extravagant meal, a meal that left us bent backwards and holding our stomachs for fear they might explode. The next day we took a tour around the village and spent the morning at the primary school. We sat with the children, attempting to sing songs in their language. We proved to be a source of great laughter and a reason for finger pointing. (I am sure we would have laughed at us, too.)
As we were leaving to pack up and make the long hike down, an old woman grabbed my hand. I had seen her earlier and assumed she was uninterested in us and our program, but now she seemed eager, with urgency written on her face. As I turned around, she grabbed my face and cupped my cheeks in her hands. She looked me in the eye and told me to never forget the mountain air. My face must have betrayed me and told her that I was confused, because she tightened her grip and started speaking again. By the end of it, through the shaking translation, this is what I gleaned: “Don’t forget the mountain air, you are far from earth up here and you can see everything. When you go down you will no longer be able to see so far east and west as you can from this home. You must remember the things you can see from up above. Living here lets me see the world.”
I am not sure what sparked her to tell me this. I am even less sure of why she felt she needed to tell me, but I am grateful. I had the whole walk down to the base to ponder. I realized that her words to me fit like the last piece of a puzzle into a picture I needed to let canvas my heart. This woman who had spent her life on the top of the world had come to realize that, no matter what etched itself into the timeline of her life, she had to keep perspective. She had learned that no matter what is happening when you look close up, the hustle at the base of the mountain, it cannot be the whole picture. You must lift yourself up and see the world and your circumstances from above. You must always let your perspective be one similar to the Lord’s, one this woman had adopted, a perspective of broad grandeur. A perspective not flooded with the intricacies and details, but smoothed by the vastness that surrounds. Our perspective must not be on today alone, but let today be shaped by the hope of tomorrow. A hope both this woman and I share: Hope in Christ.
(Based in Merritt Island, Florida, Jen Dorrough recruits, trains, sends, and sustains workers among the world’s least-reached peoples.)