Tomorrow morning, I’ll board a plane in St. Louis bound for Atlanta and Amsterdam and finally Kigali, Rwanda. For four months, I’ve been preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of the One Million Thumbprints campaign.
In the last two weeks, I’ve gathered thumbprints, shopped online for necessities, and spoken to crowds about how sixteen dedicated people from around the U. S. are banding together to raise awareness and funds to help women in war zones.
I’ve been wearing my 1MT shirt around town, the back of which reads “Tell the truth, take a risk, make your mark.” Over and over again, people have asked me what this means.
There’s a cliche that I hear sometimes when we talk about these big concepts—genocide and rape as a weapon of war and extreme poverty—people talk of “unspeakable truths,” and that phrase rubs me the wrong way. I’m not satisfied with a life that denies the suffering of others. So, I am determined, compelled even, to speak these truths.
When my husband and I said yes to this venture, it was with the understanding that there are risks involved, and my agreeing to be part of the team guarantees that we will leave a mark and as Jeremy Courtney says, we are attempting to “unmake violence” in tangible, life-altering ways.
A couple of weeks ago, I was pulling into my garage when one of my sweet neighbors was walking by with his dog. He flagged me down and said, “My wife said she saw on Facebook that you’re going to Africa!”
After chatting for a few moments, this man who is about my dad’s age and who has been a fantastic neighbor and friend since we moved to this neighborhood said, “Well, I have to be honest. I’m worried about you. It’s so dangerous over there.”
I answered, “That’s why I’m going.”
I’m going to an area of the world that has been rife with violence for the last few decades. Some of the greatest human rights crises of my lifetime have happened in central and east Africa. Some of our friends in these places have begun to rebuild, and some are still living under daily threats to their bodies. I’m going to visit for two weeks and then return to the comfort of my charmed life, but the women for whom I’m raising money do not have that luxury.
I understand why people are questioning my sanity and worried about my safety. I do. One of our fellow climbers, Ruth Bell Olsson, reminded us of a quote from Ruth Messinger that we cannot “retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed.” Yes, I am overwhelmed by the gravity of this undertaking, but I will not retreat.
People have worried, but they have also been kind and gracious and enthusiastic in their support. Right after we have the “why?” conversation, they usually follow it up with “What can I do to help?” Here are some simple ways:
- Give your thumbprint—these thumbprints and names will form a petition that we will take before the UN showing solidarity with the women living through these atrocities. (You can also do this by texting the word THUMBPRINT to 51555.)
- Give your prayers—for our safety, for team unity, for physical and mental strength. (If you’d like to read along in the devotion we’ll be reading on the mountain, you can download it here.)
- Give a little of your time—share our story with your friends and family in person and on social media. Host a Love Club if you feel strongly about standing with us.
- Give your money—Somebody’s Mama has a goal of raising $19,341, a dollar for every foot of mountain I climb, and every penny will go to projects serving the women of South Sudan.
I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days because the adrenaline won’t shut off no matter what I try, but I am not anxious or worried or scared. I am at peace. I am prepared. And I am operating from a place of love where there is no room for fear. I am ready.