One moment can change a life either subtly or exultantly. While on a missions trip about an hour outside of Quito, Ecuador, my team and I stayed in a little camp called El Refugio. The church that I attend sponsors the camp coordinators, which is why myself and nine others were sent to work on certain projects, whether orchestrating a vacation Bible school for little children or renovating an abandoned shack infested with mold and termites. This trip changed my outlook on life and enabled me to appreciate nature and humankind. One particular instance exposed true beauty and innocence to me in a very dramatic way; by climbing a mountain just to see the sunrise. My experience went a little like this:
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Two puffs from my inhaler is all it takes to keep me going. Thorns prick my palms and roots snag my ankles, quietly pilfering little cotton threads from my long white Nike socks. My black Sketchers maneuver in vain to avoid the freshly baked manure piles hidden in the shrubbery, and yet what my feet miss my hands find. The seven hikers stumble along the terrain and impatiently struggle up the mountainside, while the denizens of such high altitude race up just to see the sun rise from the peak. The rest of us stragglers attempt to make it to the top without keeling over and rolling back down the mountain.
The last stretch, and the steepest, haunts us as we trudge along the circuitous trail. Another hiker with me tries to encourage me but the feat ahead quickly tunes out the useless efforts. Why did I do this to myself? I could have slept for another two hours, but sacrificing sleep seemed worth it at the time. Hiking the unfamiliar trail before the sunrise excited me. Now, as my reward, the acerbic wind jeers at my efforts to continue. Regardless of time and weather, we keep climbing.
The faint gray sky highlights the last two or three steps. Each one of us holds on to the other for sake of balance and encouragement. One slip and the summit would escort us the way we came, rapidly and rudely. First Santiago and then Jeff reach out to me and firmly tug me up to the landing. My shaky legs crumble beneath me like a rock transforming to a pillar of salt. The harsh grass chafes my legs and the wind chills my sweaty spine. Even the rigged rocks lay adamant beneath my fatigued body. Weak and limp, I question my purpose for enduring such a needless struggle.
Then, the world holds its breath and stops.
The sun touches the top of the mountain like a father’s kiss on the forehead of his little girl. The morning unfolds before my eyes as if I was the center of the universe. The golden arms stretch out to the valley below. To my left, clouds roll in the sky, a heavenly mirror of ocean waves billowing on the sand. The pink wool embraces the surrounding peaks and softens the stony surfaces. The grass bows and the wind reduces to a gentle touch in awe of the morning. My breath escapes my chest in a way not even a rescue inhaler could restore. I stand not alone on that mountain top, but in the presence of a thousand melodic hymns singing songs that only I can comprehend. Voices of majesty and truth bundle up as one in the uncontainable essence of life in its purest form. I breathe it in.
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