Journey to the Top

A Once-in-a-lifetime Volcanic Adventure

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“Do you want to climb up a volcano on a two-hour hike, or go swim in the volcanic lake and take a boat tour?” our youth leaders asked us. A group of us teenagers were at the end of a week-long mission trip to Honduras. After doing Vacation Bible School and building a church, we were taking a mini vacation in Antigua, Guatemala. My two younger brothers, Nick and Martin, were a part of our group, as were my best friend, Tati, and her older brother Larry. 

“Tati! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!” I told her, “When are we ever going to climb a volcano again?” Tati and Nick seemed a bit reluctant, but I convinced them to join the larger group. We began our great adventure, while Martin and Larry chose to go swimming instead.

What we were told would be a two-hour hike turned into a gruesome feat. Our out-of-shape couch potato bodies couldn’t handle the climb as efficiently as our guide. During a break, a friend offered to carry our sack lunches in his backpack. We’d been awkwardly hauling them along and it seemed like a great idea. We kept hiking. The steeper it got, the slower we went.

Tati, Nick, and I started to lag behind with our friend, Claudette, and pretty soon they were out of sight. The oldest of the four, she encouraged us to keep moving. We took short breaks, reminding ourselves we’d come this far––we just needed to push a little more. But two hours turned into three and three turned into four. We were tired and hungry. Only the thought of our delicious sandwiches kept us going. 

Five hours after beginning our trek we reached the top of the volcano! The rest of our group had arrived more than an hour before. They had eaten lunch and were resting comfortably with full bellies. When they saw us, their eyes widened. “We thought you guys had turned around!” they said. It wasn’t exactly the reception we were expecting, but we were too tired to be offended. 

“Can we have our lunches?” we asked our backpack-toting friend. “Well, we thought you guys had changed your minds. We were really hungry and didn’t want your food to go to waste… so we ate it,” he said. “I’m sorry.” 

Hours of excruciating hiking in the humid jungles of Central America, only to make it 12,000 feet above sea level to end up with no food! We were angry and felt betrayed. How could they do that to us? We trusted them! 

Then, Claudette stepped in to save the day. She had kept her lunch in her backpack and she was willing to share it with us. One sandwich, two pieces of fruit, and two granola bars. It was nowhere near enough, but it was food. We split the meager items four ways and ate quietly away from the others.

If that whole ordeal wasn’t enough, 30 minutes later we heard our leaders say, “Time to go, get your things together. We need to start heading down.” Lamenting the fact that we had barely rested, we joined our group for the hour-and-a-half descent.

We laugh about that trip now, but I learned something very important that day. Just as Claudette was there to encourage us along the way and not give up on us, Jesus walks beside us every day, climbing the volcanoes of life with us. Although we needed our sack lunches, Claudette’s lunch was just enough to keep the four of us nourished and energized to finish the hike. Jesus is like that. He may not give us everything we want, even when we think we deserve it, but He will give us just what we need to keep going.

P.S. When we returned to our hotel, Martin and Larry, who had chosen to go swimming instead of climbing the volcano, told us that they had the time of their lives. Tati has never let me forget that I forced her into that “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, although that has not kept her from going on new adventures across the world. As for me, four years ago I did make it to the top of yet another volcano, Haleakala, in Hawaii! Wherever life takes you, just remember to take Jesus on your adventure.

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