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The man who climbed Kilimanjaro on his hands

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Spencer West and his team at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro expressing their thanks to their supporters (Credit: Free the Children)

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, standing 19,341 feet above sea level.  Spencer West climbed to the summit this week on his hands.  He was born with sacral agenesis, a genetic disorder that led to the amputation of his lower body at the age of five.  His mother says, “Doctors told us when he was a baby that he would never do much with his life.”  But his parents wouldn’t listen, and neither has their son.

Spencer used his hands for 80 percent of the climb, resorting to a wheelchair on rare occasions when the terrain allowed.  His hands were battered and bloodied despite the gloves and flip-flops he wore to protect them.  He made his climb to raise money for Free The Children, a charity that brings sustainable water programming to 20,000 Kenyans experiencing drought.  His climb has raised $500,000 and counting for this critical cause.

He also climbed the mountain “not only to redefine what’s possible for me, but to inspire others to overcome obstacles and challenges of their own.”  He added, “Reaching the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, but in doing so, it reinforced the powerful message behind believing in yourself, and believing in others.”

His climb is part of his life mission, a passion he discovered in a single, life-changing moment: “I was struggling to find my way when I was encouraged to go to Kenya with Me to We to build a school.  Upon my arrival I was surrounded by swarms of school kids, who bombarded me with questions about my life.  A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘I didn’t know this sort of thing happened to white people, too.’  Suddenly, I understood that I was different for a reason.  I was different because I needed to show others that it doesn’t matter what your abilities are or where you come from in the world.  If you work hard, never give up and laugh a lot, you can achieve anything.”

Like Spencer West, you are “different for a reason.”  God has given you abilities and opportunities as unique as your fingerprints and DNA.  He has a purpose for your life that no one else can fulfill.  Think how different the world would be without Paul the Apostle; but there would have been no Paul without Barnabas.

Christians are each part of the “body of Christ.”  Some are feet, others are hands; some are eyes, others are ears (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).  One of the greatest challenges of my life is defining myself not by the culture’s expectations but by God’s daily call and purpose.  Whether society believes that your life matters is inconsequential, for the King of the realm has already decreed it so.

What God-given mountain inspires you this morning?  The best way to begin your climb is not on your hands, but your knees.