I wanted to do something for Race for Hope that would serve as a physical representation of the emotional, mental and spiritual battles residents of Vision of Hope (VOH) are faced with. A 7 peak challenge across Snowdonia National Park was the biggest physical challenge I could contemplate that would accurately represent the VOH experience. Before facing the challenge I had to consider if i was geared up for it. Much like committing to be at VOH, you can’t be half committed or you won’t last. You have to go all in.
Our Lord tells us this parable:
Luke 14:28 & 33.
“which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?… So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Having this in mind, the night before the race I had that familiar feeling of I can never be prepared enough. I had planned and rehearsed the route and although I had done all I could to ensure safety and success, mountains are not predictable places. I will never feel ready to step out into so many unknowns.
I felt the same way about preparing to go to Vision of Hope. I knew there would never be a time where I felt fully prepared to face the challenge, but I knew that God was pointing this was the way for me to go. To inflict my biggest fear upon myself: Life without anorexia and a life without control.
Before setting off on the race God blessed me with an amazing team of people who were supporting me in prayer and in presence around the route. I had my own support bus (‘the Yellow Peril): An old church bus driven and occupied by my friend Matthew who was ready and prepared with full safety kit and a portable radio so that we could communicate as I ran.
Two other friends Katherine and Nick were up walking on the mountains with extra supplies of food and water. And to my delight it just so happened my Dad and brothers had organised my brothers stag-do on the same weekend and them and a group of their friends would be waiting with a big feast in the village pub at the end!
It would have been intimidating to do such a big challenge where so much could have gone wrong on my own but this support gave me confidence! My parents and family provided the same encouragement and support as I applied to VOH. More over I had the assurance and security (whether I believed it or not) that God was watching over me even when my family couldn’t.
“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.”
So I was code named “Sky Runner” and radio, map, compass, energy gels and water on my back I was ready to face the challenge – running up and over 7 of Snowdonia’s mountains all in one go.
The first mountain I was feeling fresh and confident, I had plenty of energy and I radioed in to ‘Golden Leader’ (Matthew) who was awaiting my call in Yellow Peril. I made good time to the top of Tryfan (my first mountain peak) and even had time to make some friends and have a little fun!
This fun and lighthearted mountain top experience reminded me of my time as a resident of Vision of a Hope. While it is hard to be working through life altering sin issues with your daily activities being controlled and monitored 24/7: isn’t all hard. I learned, (like getting to the top of Tryfan) there was a lot of up hill, but you walk into that house and you will often hear the sound of laughter from the staff, interns and most likely the residents themselves! The counsellors, encouragers and friends I made there became like family; they are the biggest part of the blessing it is to be a resident at Vision of Hope
…PEAK 2 & 3
So one mountain down 6 to go…
Next I headed up Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. Beautiful views kept me distracted from the fact I was running. God did this so often in relieving and showing me who Jesus was as I gazed upon Him and Getting excited about learning more about His glory and His Kingdom.
“For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God-his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?-
the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”
The next peak consisted of a huge scree run down. it’s common knowledge in the mountain world that you are far more likely to injure yourself coming down off a mountain that going up. But never the less I tied my shoe laces tight and focused on what my good friend Pete had told me about running down scree – aim for the little rocks and plant on the sides of your feet. Simple. Cheers mate!
As I dry-skied my way down Glyder Fawr I had the words of Psalm 121 running through my mind: Psalm 121:3 says: “He will not let your foot slip”. Although I could not directly apply that promise to mean it was outside God will for me to have a humiliating face-plant experience at that moment, it did make me think of my experience again at VOH. So many times my footing felt uneven as I battled against my sinful heart and temptations enticed me; many times I did loose my footing and I felt like I would be falling, yet after two years of focused battle against my biggest, strongest temptations, I came through – not perfect, but definitely sanctified, still having the Lords grace holding me up by the scruff of my neck, and till this day I have again stumbled, yet without having falling from His grasp completely.
The Glyders are behind and I faced the brutal, unforgiving, upward ascent of Y Garn. I was so tired at this point I didn’t get a picture, but I’ll leave a space and your imagination can fill it in:
Things then got HARD! The last section of my run could be compared to my second year of Vision of Hope: long, painful, lacking in strength to go on. In both of these occasions I was just praying “God just get me round!!! Help me and give me strength!!”. In times when I am needing to endure, both physically and spiritually, I cannot help but think that these tough times are when I am most likely humble enough to admit that I need God’s help, and without His strength I can not go on.
“To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.”
The Lord heard my cry and I saw my two friends Katherine and Nick on top of my 5th peak, Foel Goch. They were placed ‘coincidentally’ on my journey when I was in most need of some water and encouragement. I can’t deny, this was strategic planning on the heavenly front.
I remember similar times of relief and encouragement in my Vision of Hope journey. The times when my family made it all the way over from the UK to visit me would refresh me and give me encouragement and strength to continue. My parents and siblings were my biggest supporters from afar, and they spurred me on with their visits – again strategically planned at just the right times by my loving Heavenly Father who knew I would need them. I can not thank them enough.
After that I still had 2 mountains to go. The climb up the next peak to Mynydd Perfedd was the hardest of all. I was slowed right down and every step felt like my legs were 50 tonnes!!!
Spiritually going through Vision of Hope can wear you out to the point you have nothing easy or comfortable going on to focus on so you must think of the joy set before you… The end! The end result of Gods discipline is always worth the climb. If long distance mountain running has taught me anything, it is when things get rough, complaining is a killer and joy blows wind in your sails. So, I dug deep, grimaced a smile, radioed into “Golden Leader” who told me: “DO NOT QUIT! You can do it!!!” and then dreamt of the big feast I knew was waiting for me alongside my Dad and brothers in the village pub moments after cross the finish line! So much of my spiritual life resounds with this experience: fixing my eyes on Jesus and keep putting one foot infant of the other, is sometimes all one can and must do!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Finally, I reached the top of Foel Goch. the thought of no more hard climbs was a wonderful feeling! I had reached up my 7th and final peak and it was all down hill from here on out! On the way down I passed by Llwyn Bedw, our familiar family holiday cottage nestled into the Welsh mountainside. After a fast paced downhill journey off of the mountains I felt relieved and so joyful that God had got me safetly up over and down 7 mountains all in one piece!
A similar feeling came over me when the VOH staff told me that they thought I was ready to go home. God did it!! He actually got me this far that I could see the finish line in sight!
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
…THE HOME STRAIGHT
Incredibly the last 5 min run back I was full of energy! Matthew was waiting at my stopping point encouraging me with singinging “Bless the LORD” as I ran down the street! It was like my VOH graduation day, which came 5 months after returning back to the UK – a big whirl of excitement celebration and amazement that God had been so good to me, and had strengthened me to the point I was experiencing unimaginable freedom and victory over life-dominating sin habits. In both cases all glory goes to Him!
L-R: Celebrating the finish in Yellowfins Peril; Graduation day at VOH; My Baptism day in the UK shortly after graduating VOH.