In September 2015, I had the amazing opportunity to work on a creative film project for Rockford Fist Church that took climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I’ve climbed a few larger mountains in Colorado that were “Fourteeners” (mountains with a summit elevation of 14,000 feet or greater) but Kilimanjaro was a different beast!  This was bucket-list material!  Mt. Kilimanjaro is the worlds tallest free standing mountain, towering at 19,341 feet above sea level, and I was stoked for it!  Should be a walk in the park, right?  You know… with all the practice we get climbing mountains in the Midwest.

There were four of us on the team that would ultimately be trying to make it to the top.  Jeremy DeWeerdt, the lead pastor at Rockford First.  Taka Iguchi, who helped organize a lot of the trip details, and then Matt Sandberg and myself as the cameramen for the trip.

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Rockford First annually creates two creative teaching series for the small groups that we have in our church that are called “life group series”.  I have been blessed to be a part of every teaching series that Rockford First has created since the beginning dating back to 2007.  For this series, we decided to do it a little differently and film it like a documentary.  We didn’t want to force anything, we wanted to see what we, as the crew, would experience personally on the mountain and bring those lessons to the life groups at Rockford First.  This meant we had to film almost everything.  Which was much more work than past series, however, what we were able to capture was totally worth it.

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Each team member had our “big thing” that we learned on the mountain and those lessons are illustrated in the four week series starting this February 28th.  I’ve always felt closest to God when I’m in the element of His creation.  There’s just something about being in the Mountains.  Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Way harder than I would like to admit.  I just couldn’t get use to the thin mountain air.  There where times when I was leaning against my trekking poles swaying back and forth trying not to pass out.  In those moments one thing kept coming to mind, “I am bigger than this mountain.”  I was determined to get to the top.  I had a job to do, but at the same time, I was also on a very personal journey.  Part of that journey was coming to the realization that “I am more capable than I know.”   If I could conquer this physical mountain how much easier mentally for me it is to conquer the smaller “mountains” in my life.  Everyone has mountains in there life and climbing Kili inspired me to conquer mine back home.

For those who don’t know my wife and I’s story, starting a family has been difficult for us.  We have had three miscarriages and that had led us down this path to adopt.  A little over a month before our trip , we had been selected by a birth mother for an adoption placement, needless to say we were thrilled (aka freaking out excited!!) … the nursery was ready, the house was baby proofed and we were ready for our son to come home.  We finally received the call that she was going into labor and we made our way to the hospital with the anticipation of leaving with the child we had been waiting and praying for in our arms… We left that night instead with empty arms and a heavy heart.   The journey has been a roller coaster to say the least, and honestly, at that point we had wanted to throw in the towel and quit. So climbing Kilimanjaro had taken on a much more personal journey for me in regards to struggle. It was hard, but the biggest lesson I had taken away from our filming adventure is that we are bigger than the struggles we have in our life and we are more capable than we know, because God is with us.   So we’ve decided to stay the course and are excited about it!  In fact you can even check out our adoption profile HERE.

The point is this… You’re more capable than you know.  What are the mountains in your life that  you think are too big for you?  What is something you need to step into that feels uncomfortable, scary or too hard?  It’s easier to just leave sleeping dogs lay, but there’s something powerful with moving past struggle.  In order to grow in anything that’s worth while you have to go through some conflict.

This was the biggest lesson I learned on the mountain, and everyone had a different moment or lesson that they learned.   I’m excited to bring that experience to the life groups at Rockford First through this series.   This video series is going to be unlike any we’ve done so far. The footage is amazing, the lessons are life changing and the scenery on the side of that mountain was unlike any I’ve ever seen.  The four part series, “Above the Clouds” premieres February 28 at Rockford First.  And if you’re in the Rockford, IL area, you’re not gonna wanna miss getting involved!  If you’re unable to make it, check out the series online at rockfordfirst.com/abovetheclouds

Stay tuned for more posts about the trip.  I’ll dive in more after the series as started.

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Photo Cred: Matt Sandberg
Check out more of his awesome pics from the trip HERE.