By John Zielinski '17
This summer I had a special opportunity to serve on a mission trip in Tanzania, Africa, along with my father, John. We went with a Christian outreach group called Young Life whose mission is to reach adolescents for Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith. Young Life has a ministry in Tanzania, and we served the ministry by investing in the local youths and assisting their community with infrastructure needs.
A Maasai village about five hours from the nearest city was home for several days for the 30 of us on the mission. We pitched tents, set-up showers, and dug holes for toilets. The children from the village were amazing, greeting us with hugs and high fives. Their joy from seeing us was incredible.
Our project was to build a concrete floor for a classroom. The majority of us knew nothing about making floors, and we were working with limited supplies. It seemed like we couldn’t succeed. However, I saw God's helping hand guide us to complete the classroom floor they desperately needed.
The project took us three days. For the most part, the men worked building the floor while the women played with the children and engaged the community. At one point when we were building the floor, we faced what seemed an insurmountable problem. Our project wasn't going to be finished because we had run out of rocks. However, with the ring of the school bell and the grace of God, all the school children set out to help us. Somehow, they found enough rocks to allow us to complete the project.
Our mission work was done, but we still had a daunting task ahead of us: We set out to climb famed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. Each day ascending this colossal mountain brought new challenges as we faced the rocky terrain, freezing temperatures, and altitude sickness. Both my father and I felt the effects of all of these. We prayed each day that we would have the strength to make it to the next camp.
After looking at the top of Kilimanjaro for almost a week, and getting closer and closer, it was time to summit. We set out at 10:30pm in the freezing weather to make our final ascent. We needed to take many breaks, but if we sat too long our hands and feet would start to freeze. There were hours of silent hiking with instances of throwing up, passing out, crying, and a lot of delusional people babbling away.
After about eight hours of hiking, we finally made it to the top. I can truly say that it was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I learned that you can do anything if you put your trust in God.
During my time in Africa I would often think of how blessed I am. I would think of how I always desire the newest things while these children are happy playing with a ball made out of plastic bags. I also got to connect with my father. We had a lot of time together on the mountain when were just able to talk.
Often in the village and on the mountain our group would have time to reflect on the day. We talked about the things we experienced and how it made us better people. Also, being able to serve with my dad was a great experience. Seeing him play with the kids was priceless. Together, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro made the bond between us a lot stronger.
The conditions in Africa really had me questioning our values in America. People in the U.S. will line up to buy a new pair of shoes that cost $500 while in Africa people wore shoes made from an old tire. We also demand the best houses and living conditions while these people sleep in mud huts on the hard floor. And they are happier. It is really something to think about.
The common view of Africa is that everyone is poor, and yes I did see the poverty first hand. But what most don't know is that the African people are actually rich. They are rich in faith. It seemed that wherever we went people were happy because they knew they had God. I will never forget the smiles of those kids in the village, how they were so happy despite seemingly having virtually nothing.
Please view a video and a photo slideshow below of Zielinski's mission trip and his climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
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