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Climbing Kilimanjaro to conquer malaria

April 19, 2012 04:42 PM


"Climb to The Top of the Highest Mountain" may be a romantic-sounding song, but the harsh physical realities of mountain climbing can stop some in their tracks. Somehow the freezing temperatures and threat of altitude sickness didn’t make it into the lyrics…and those potential discomforts aren’t fazing two pastors from our synod who are preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this July.

"I watched a travel show on TV and found out that Kilimanjaro was the highest mountain you can climb without it being a technical climb, without ropes," says Pastor Jack Horner, Assistant to the Bishop for Evangelical Mission. "That intrigued me and I kind of put it on a bucket list." As Pr. Horner began researching the possibilities of heading to Tanzania, he attended the Malaria Symposium hosted by Advent Lutheran Church in Manhattan last November. "At that forum, I really got a chance to see what a devastating disease malaria is, and also how preventable and treatable it is. That got me excited about the possibility of making the climb an opportunity to do some good." Climbing Kilimanjaro became not only a personal goal but a chance to raise $100,000 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign.

Pastor Carol Fryer, Director of Spiritual Care and Church Relations at The Wartburg Adult Care Community, heard Pr. Horner talking about his plans at a clergy meeting. "There was an IMAX film about Kilimanjaro at the Museum of Natural History almost 20 years ago―in the movie, I remember the oldest person who climbed the mountain was 70 years old and the youngest was 12. I thought, wow, maybe I could do that someday," says Pr. Fryer. "I have some arthritis now; I thought my knees might be too crummy. But I had been working with a physical therapist and sports doctor. I asked my sports doctor, ‘Can you get me ready to climb Kili in July?’ After looking at me like I had two heads, he said we could do this."

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa at 19,340 feet above sea level. It takes six days to summit and two days to come down. Both pastors began training right away, going on regular hikes outdoors, using elliptical trainers and treadmills, and doing a daily regimen of sit-ups and push-ups every morning while the coffee brews―all of which has led to significant weight loss for both of them. In addition, they have been busy acquiring the gear they need―special sleeping bags, jackets, gloves, and comfortable hiking shoes.


carolandfaith horner
Pastor Fryer and friend Faith from Tanzania Pastor Horner

The climb doesn’t take place until July 14-21, yet Prs. Fryer and Horner are already working to raise money to conquer malaria. The funds raised will distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets, train health care providers, provide medicine, and support water treatment programs. The money will go directly to support companion churches in their malaria prevention and treatment programs. Pr. Fryer, who has visited Tanzania twice before, knows the reality of the disease: "My friend Lermy has malaria. His kids get malaria. Everybody gets it, it’s everywhere. I saw a lot of it even among people using mosquito nets."

Still, the pastors are up for both fighting malaria and mountain-climbing. "I’m looking forward to the challenge, not just the physical challenge but the mental and spiritual challenge of pushing myself up the mountain," says Pr. Horner. "Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed or blue, I just think about the mountain," adds Pr. Fryer. "It’s been just a tremendous way to inspire my weight loss and discipline. I look at the pictures and think about going up there―it makes me very happy."

You can help! Give securely online here, designating your gift for "Kilimanjaro Climb," or make a check payable to Metropolitan New York Synod with "Kili Climb" in the memo. Consider donating a penny a foot: $193.40!



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