September 18th, 2014
When I set about to detail our most recent successful adventure with Trek4TEF I thought I would give a thorough and broad accounting of the entirety of the event, but I realized that I cannot speak for each person on the Team and that they have their own perspectives that I should honor their own telling. This post is honed in on my two children and my friend Nate. This trek was photographically and videographically covered by my friends and fellow Kili-trekkers, Benjamin Edwards, Bruce Meissner, and Eli Odegaard with the support of Nikon and XPro Heli. Benjamin has a documentary film project in the works about disability, titled Mountains.
Trekking the various trails in life both physically and figuratively pose various risks and involve certain difficulty. When we have set out to accomplish the Trek4TEF adventures, constant upon my heart is the desire to see those under my care come through the other side safely and with some degree of impact upon the persons they are. When those under my care include my own children there is an exponential increase in concern, worry, and anxiety as we traverse these rugged and rigorous trails. Prayer with every waking breath for God’s glory in each step and his provision of safety and energy to go along with the steps He establishes.
My heart could burst with the lessons learned, the emotions contained, the pride, the worry, and the blessing of having had my children involved in these Treks. I feel as though no words could properly weave the story of a father’s heart as trails are ascended and the parallel story of disabilities impact upon our lives, but I must try.
Successfully completing the Everest trek last year was a great boost to the work of TEF and to raising awareness about the abilities of those with disabilities around the world. Shortly after we returned home from Nepal and all of the media blitz, three friends approached us about planning the next Trek and heading to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As tired as I was at that point, I realized that we had been given a unique platform and opportunity to carry this momentum forward and to hopefully invite more people into this experience.
February of this year I was introduced to Nate Davis by my friend Adam at Waypoint Adventure. Nate is 23 years old, he suffered a cerebral brain hemorrhage at birth that has created certain challenges for him throughout his life, but it has also served to shape him and those around him in great ways. Nate is a very fit young man who loves the outdoors, dogs, and making lemonade where he works at a Chik-Fil-A restaurant in Matthews, NC. Nate is one of those people who is always excited and no matter how difficult a challenge may be he’ll tell you he’s “Great!”.
Tony Monaco, our trip coordinator and director of Himalayan Glacier Trekking, lives in Charlotte, North Carolina near to where Nate lives. We were able to connect them to begin training together for the Trek. Tony and Nate began to bond quickly and Tyler, Tony’s son, began to train with them and deep bonds were being formed. Bonds that will last a lifetime.
Enjoying the African jungle.
Tony, Tyler, and Nate...Team Charlotte!
Nate finally got his wish of meeting Eli when we arrived in Moshi, Tanzania. Nate had seen Eli’s Everest videos and held some inspiration from that. They hit it off right away! In the days before and after the trek at our hotel, it was a common sight to see Eli and Nate drinking soda chatting while they watched soccer on the TV in the lounge. Buddies!
Eli and Nate each with their favorite soda.
Nate and Eli hanging out at the hotel.
We spent two days in Moshi, Tanzania before we hit the trail and were able to spend time in an orphanage. This orphanage consisted primarily of children ages 0-5 years who are there until they are placed with a family. But this orphanage also had 6 young people with disabilities who were not adoptable. Our team loved and served these sweet kids! Eli and Nate know no strangers in life and the kids loved them.
Nate making friends at the orphanage.
Eli and Michael.
We finally board our bus for the long ride through the dry savannah then up into the green and heathery foothills to the Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park gates. Bumping along the dusty roads gave plenty of time for thought. My Everest Base Camp-conquering son is behind me at the back of the bus, just in front and to my right is Nate and his nonstop energy, in back sits Noelle the eldest of my sweet daughters, next to her is Rebecca who is our intern but more of a daughter, to my right is my nephew, and the rest of the bus is filled with 10 other adventurers sharing in our purpose. God is once again bringing together a diverse team of people to accomplish His purpose through a grueling effort alongside a mass of volcanic rock for the good of those impacted by disability.
Nate pondering what's next...
Checking in at the gates of Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park takes some time then we head off for the final stretch of road that takes us to the trailhead of the Lemosho Route. Trail life begins with great anticipation for everyone. It is an easy day with a bit of climb but a beautiful meandering through the forest before a final climb to Big Tree camp as the sun begins to set. Nate is doing well but begins to suffer some physical issues. Any signs of sickness up here has Tony and our guides keyed up to quickly treat and manage the situation.
Nate Day #1!
Nate continues to struggle with his illness through the night but in the morning would exclaim, “I’m doing great, Man! Great! Let’s do this!” We would here those words several times a day no matter how bad Nate was feeling. Tony and I would frequently meet off to the side to keep our egress plans up to date should we need to send Nate down the mountain for treatment.
Nate and Eli. "Trail Buddies"
Eli and Nate on the trail.
Nate and Eli quickly formed a deep bond and friendship. Tony and several of the Team headed up mountain for a short hike the afternoon of Day #3. I stayed back with Eli, Nate, and Tyler. We were hanging out in the “dinner tent” drinking tea and water. Eli and Nate started reading the Bible together, with each taking turns reading to the other. It was a very special and moving experience to see two young men sharing something with each other that they both love, and doing it of their own volition.
During the night of Day #3 sickness continued to dog Nate. Our Team rallied around him as we laid hands on him to pray for him. Tony gave Nate so much care during his struggles. Gary stepped up to help, our guides helped, and the Team constantly encouraged him as we settled in for the night.
The morning of Day #4 we awoke for the long day of hiking to Lava Tower. Nate had a rough night but was “Great!”. We set out with most of the Team plodding ahead while Tony, Jason, and a couple of our support crew paced the trail with Nate. After a couple of hours Nate reached his SUMMIT at just over 13,000 feet. It was time for him to turn back and recuperate his body.
Nate just below his summit.
We are notified of Nate’s summit and each of us is saddened by the news of his worsening sickness, but at the same time we are so excited that he was able to be with us as long as he could be. It is hard to be excited when you know that he had the strength to do it but his body wasn’t cooperating. We rest on the trail and pray for him and our loss of a dear team mate on the trail. Summit #1 came sooner than we had hoped…
There were many grueling, cold, dusty days on the trail and Eli was steadfast in his efforts each day. Nate was no longer on the mountain with us but Eli had the camaraderie of the remaining Team to boost him. The African guides stepped up and walked side by side with him during some of the more treacherous terrain, they took Eli on as their personal objective. One guide in particular, Urio was his name, was always there for Eli.
As a father these treks are very difficult as each day and night I prep Eli for the trail or for bed and each morning I pray that the Lord would give him strength. To see Urio take such a personal interest in Eli was humbling and relieving. Eli was in good hands. Noelle is rock steady both physically and emotionally.
Sister, helper, friend.
Urio and Eli
After 6 long days and having gained over 8,000 feet of elevation we reached base camp. We rested for a few short hours after a long day of hiking and then were awakened at 10PM to prep for our 11PM start to summit the mountain. We gathered as a Team for some hot tea (it was about 20 degrees out) and then Eli prayed for us all before we set out as a string of headlamps along a winding and steep trail for the final 4,000 feet of ascent to the peak.
The bobbing lights ahead of us on summit night.
The wind picked up considerably as we reached the 15,500 foot level putting the wind chill at about 0 degrees. It was a biting and cutting wind that seemed to treat us like we were only wearing t-shirts with its bone-chilling cold. Eli was at the head of the pack right behind the guides. He was keeping pace and pressing on though I know he was exhausted from the earlier trails of the day.
At 16,500 feet Eli began to take more frequent breaks but was pushing so hard. Each time he stopped I would talk to him and encourage him that it was all in his control whether he went up or went down. Finally, at 17,608 feet he slowed up and needed to stop. He sat down and I leaned in on him to see how he felt. I asked him, “Do you want to keep going to the summit or do you need to go down?” and I reiterated we would support him either way. He waited a few seconds then said, “Go down, Dad.”.
Eli stops to rest..."Go down, Dad." 17,608 feet ASL.
This was his summit! I announced it quickly to the Team so they could press on. We pulled out Eli’s summit flag and had a very brief celebration as a Team, with a lot of weeping. He managed a big “Eli Smile” for everyone before he gave his flag to Noelle to take to the summit and they embraced. It was such a poignant moment and one I will never forget.
Eli celebrates his summit at 4:15AM on July 25, 2014!
As the Team prepared to move on I noticed tears streaming down Eli’s face. I’ve never seen him so intent on an objective as he was that night. He wanted to press on so badly but had nothing left. It broke my heart and made me proud all at once. What an effort!
Urio was seen shedding tears that his trail buddy would be heading back down the mountain as the rest of the Team continued on. What an impact Eli’s life and successes were having once again. A guide and I took Eli down the long, cold, dark, lonely trail back to our camp. Those 2 hours were beautiful and tearful.
With each step down the mountain a new wave of emotion would hit me. If I could put Eli on my back and keep pressing on up the mountain I would have done it. But Eli’s effort was total, his summit perfect. The strength he exhibited humbles me. Eli has had his share of difficulty in life, difficulties he will have for the rest of his life, yet he pressed on. Our family is so blessed that God gave us the stewardship of Eli and the bounty of impact on lives that he has been and will continue to be.
We made it into Base Camp as the sun rose over the clouds. Camp was peaceful and cold. I tucked Eli into his sleeping bag as sleep took him in and I laid back and wept…for joy and gratitude.
Noelle’s story is the kind that often go untold. She represents the siblings of those with disabilities. Too often it is these special souls who bear the brunt of disabilities’ struggle – considerably less attention, mocking by peers, pain of seeing their brother or sisters struggle, and the list goes on. There is a certain strength and resilience that results from this upbringing, sometimes negative but often positively world changing. Yet we rarely hear their stories.
Eli’s life has had an enormously shaping influence on Noelle. I’d encourage you to read the support letter she wrote ahead of this Trek and you will understand how God has shaped her through Eli’s disability. With just 22 months between them, she has pushed Eli her whole life helping him grow and develop. We often say she is Eli’s at-home physical-occupational-speech therapist. She has done so willingly, but often with a sense of burden. Eli handing her his summit flag on the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro was a picture of their lives together. She would carry his burden to the Roof of Africa as she has carried many other sibling-burdens for him in her life. She does so with deep affection for Eli and with joy.
Noelle with Eli's flag at Mt. Kilimanjaro summit.
Noelle pushed on through the waining early morning darkness and reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with the remaining 10 Team members. She wept when she reached the summit with Eli’s flag. So much of her life was represented in this Trek and so much of her love for Eli was present in her accomplishment, but neither Eli nor Daddy were there with her. The strength and poise of my 15 year old “little girl” was beyond her years and certainly outside the scope of our raising of her. God’s grace in her life and her love for Jesus sustained her.
Upon returning home from Africa, Noelle shared these thoughts:
“When I was little, I remember the looks people gave us when they saw my brother. A pitying smile, harsh judgmental glares, or bewildered stares. When people see disability what do they think? Do they see a broken child and a hopeless family? An individual not fit for society? What would they say if they knew what I see in people like my brother?
Beauty, joy and perfection.
They are perfect in their brokenness, that’s how they were made. They’re beautiful when their faces are alight with a pure, special joy, that I have never seen or felt anywhere else.
Holding a twisted trembling hand, singing and whispering, “I love you.” to a child who is almost completely ignored, forgotten and unloved. That is when I see beauty and feel that untouchable joy. Each smile she gave and giggle were awe inspiring and and perfect, moments I will never forget.
It’s true that disability is like climbing mountain but this analogy can mean so much more.
When people look at mountains they see impeccable majesty, they don’t think about the pain and brokenness that they will most likely feel on the long arduous trail before them. Keeping their minds aimed for the summit and the pure joy of completion that awaits them at their journey’s end.
This is truly how people should see disability. Ignoring the outward pain and imperfections and see the true beauty and perfection by which they were made. And when people see that, they will find that untouchable, truest, pure joy. “
The 11 who reached the summit returned to Base Camp for a very exhausted and emotional reunion with Eli, Gary, Tyler, and myself. What rich experience to be bonded with this amazing group of people. Each person on this Team was deeply impacted by the adventure and came away with a better understanding of God’s good design in disability and His glory in all things. It was a truly humbling experience.
The stellar summit-ers. Trek4TEF: Mt. Kilimanjaro 2014
Nate and Eli reunited at the exit gates of Kili.
These 3 Summits are indelibly etched in my soul. Nate’s contagious joy, Eli’s perseverance, and Noelle’s picturesque accomplishment. These stories are just a piece of the puzzle of the BIG picture of all that these families and people impacted by disability need. You have been a HUGE part of Eli’s support and encouragement, THANK YOU!
Here is a LINK to one of our teammate/photographer’s photoblog of our adventure.
These adventures do have a purpose and we are all grateful to have a part in it!
Justin for all of my Trek4TEF Adventurers
December 1st, 2013
After showing a few photos and “teaser” clips of the Trek4TEF video about the Everest Base Camp trek, we are now ready to show the full 11 minute video. I hope it gives you some insight to what this adventure was and how powerfully this story has gone forth bearing amazing fruit.
Eli to Everest! wasn’t just about a young man with Down Syndrome setting a record of sorts. It was about the parallels of life with disability to that of treacherous mountain trails. We hope that this story encourages people, churches, and communities to engage those impacted by disability by pointing them to Jesus, the only hope we have in dark valleys of suffering and for summits of epic proportion.
Over the weeks following our return from Nepal we received numerous emails from folks all over the world who had heard, saw, or read about this adventure. We were given opportunities to open people’s eyes to the needs of the disabled and display God’s glory in the midst of disability. We estimate over 40 Million people all over the world encountered this story – in greater than 40 countries!
After much thought, discussion, and prayer Eli and a team of people will be attempting another trek to raise awareness about disability and to raise funds for TEF ministry projects. In June of 2014, Eli and our Team will set out for Tanzania, Africa and the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Eli desires to do this and do so with his eldest sister, Noelle, and any others who would like to team up with him. We pray and trust that the Lord will use this next adventure to impact the world for God’s glory and the good of the disabled. Join us!
Please take the time to watch the video. We trust it will be an encouragement to you!
We are so blessed by the work of Gary Christenson in acting as the Director of Photography while shooting amazing images as he supported Eli up the trail. This video is a result of Gary’s vision for the photographic and videographic journey of the Trek. Simpling an amazingly gifted man.
Nathan Strubhar captured the amazing video footage and endured much struggle and triumph along the trail. Nate captured stunning shot after stunning shot as we battled the elements together.
Elizabeth Fischer edited and produced this video throwing her creative prowess and story-telling eye to this adventure. Her amazing work shines through while also highlighting the skills of Gary and Nathan. She expertly choreographed the excellent music of Josh Garrels to complement this story. Credit to Josh Garrels for the music rights for this film.
Finally, a special thanks to Eli’s awesome Team who braved this trail with him and were his community of support along the way. Thank you Kevin, Lisa, Tim, Gary, Nate, Meghan, and Carly! We owe you a debt of gratitude.
Each of these friends sacrificed much to bring this together, for that we are deeply grateful. Thank you guys!
Please consider supporting the work of The Elisha Foundation as we pursue Christ-centered transformation in the lives of people impacted by disability. Thank you!
May 1st, 2013
When the Trek4TEF “Mt. Everest Base Camp” fundraiser was launched last year we began to put together a superb Team of people to join us in the adventure. With the Team assembled, our joint fundraising goal was $85,000. It seemed like a Mt. Everest of goals but we were confident that with God’s help in stirring the hearts of generous people we could accomplish it.
As the date of departure for Nepal approached we were sitting about $12,000 short of our goal. Two days before we departed we received an anonymous $15,000 donation. Goal achieved, praise God! But many of our Trek support team still wanted to give, so we decided that we would shoot for $100,000. Raising it seemed like another mountain but we were trusting in the ultimate outcome of Jesus’ love for the disabled being exercised through the work that the Lord is doing through TEF.
As of last week we were just a little over 94% of the way to the new goal. We officially “closed” the fundraiser this morning at 8AM PST. I am happy to report that through the generosity of faithful supporters and one last large gift we have hit the mark of $100,000!!!
We are so grateful and thankful for the 330+ donors who made it all possible. THANK YOU!!!!
Hitting this goal put us at 118% of the original Team goal. That is simply amazing. I can tell you that the rigors of the trail to Base Camp were endured and success was achieved by our Team giving at least 118% effort. Their tireless efforts in fundraising, awareness raising, and trekking are something that we at TEF owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.
We are grateful to God for His generous grace and care for this Trek and the His working through The Elisha Foundation.
Thank you (L to R) Kevin, Eli, Justin, Nate, Meghan, Carly, Tim, Lisa, and Gary!!!
April 22nd, 2013
On March 14th Eli Reimer reached Mt. Everest Base Camp at 17,592 feet, deep in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. A little over one week later this feat is covered by local media in Los Angeles then proceeds to expand to a vast number of domestic and international media outlets. All of this coverage came as a complete surprise to all of us. But we are grateful!
Over the last four weeks since our return to America we have received numerous emails from people across the globe congratulating Eli, thanking us for the example, thanking us for the work of TEF, and encouraged that our Team gave God the glory in the accomplishment.
This “Story” has now reached over 40 other countries in addition to the statewide coverage here in America. While it was overwhelming it was also rewarding. The reward being that TEF, although often edited, received a lot of free exposure. We pray that the exposure doesn’t entirely evaporate and that it would be used to continue to grow outreach to the disabled through TEF and others.
The Trek was a resounding success in every aspect. We had prayed that this adventure would be a platform for the gospel and to show God’s good design in disability. In the months leading up to our departure our Team’s efforts were producing opportunities to share about God’s grace and goodness in disability. Many of the friends who stepped up to support the Trek were being exposed to the heart of disability and the Christian faith. What an amazing opportunity for our Team! From the Trek launch last year, through our time on the trail, and, now, with all of the thousands who have been touched with this “story” God has faithfully made His name known through His purpose in this adventure.
Prior to the broader media coverage of this event there was already a great response by people from varying backgrounds as they were exposed to the needs of those experiencing disability and how TEF works to mobilize God’s people to engage those needs. We were and are excited about the people who caught the vision and want to help whether in their own “backyards” or in investing their skills and talents with a Reach team in the future. Through the Trek many more people are now aware of TEF.
Fundraising went very well as our Team expended themselves to mobilize their friend’s and family’s generosity towards TEF. We have already exceeded the initial fundraising goal of $85,000 and are currently at $94,000. During the Trek the goal was raised to $100,000 and we will officially “close” the fundraiser May 1st. These funds are being utilized to provide for continued pursuit of making the needs of the disabled known, providing more Retreats, and growing the cross-cultural Reach program.
Thank you all for your prayers, love, and support. There were so many points on the trail for each of us where we were carried by those prayers. We have wrestled with the right words to use to adequately describe the entire experience. Pain, feeble, struggle, weak, surreal, magnificent, breathtaking, inspiring, worshipful, and the list could go on. But in the end the most adequate words for us as we think through every aspect of what went into and came out of this Trek are humble gratitude.
We are deeply humbled by all that the Lord has done through the Trek, the Team, Eli, and all of our supporters. We are humbled at how God so graciously lifted our feet to reach Base Camp and in that He made much of Himself. We are humbled by the generosity of over 300 people who gave towards the Trek but ultimately, towards TEF’s pursuit of Christ-centered transformation in the lives of those impacted by disability. We are humbled.
Our gratitude extends to so many. We are grateful for this amazing Team that God assembled to help lead Eli into the Himalayas and to rally support for the disabled. We are grateful that Kevin Padgett brought the Trek concept to us and carried it out. We are grateful that TEF was given so much press and that more people are aware of the work of TEF. We are grateful for the army of supporters that rallied around this event and so faithfully encouraged us and prayed for us along the way. But we are enormously grateful that God has been glorified, that His goodness has been proclaimed, that His purpose in disability has been shown, and that He used this trail through high mountains to encourage and uplift those impacted by disability.
Many people have asked, “What is next for Eli?!”. What is next for Eli is coming alongside those with disabilities who are navigaging treacherous trails of their own in places where they are scorned. Eli will be helping the Reimer family reach out to the disabled of Ukraine once again this summer. That is our next “mountain” to climb. The mountain of bringing the gospel and hope to those living without. By God’s grace we will be guiding people to harrowing ascents of God’s goodness and love in Christ. Pray for Eli and the Reimer family in this important “trek”. Pray for TEF.
The TEF Team
February 28th, 2013
In just a few hours our Team of 9 will begin the Trek4TEF adventure. We have asked our dear friend John Knight to “guest post” for us as we prepare to depart. Thank you, John!
Today our friends leave for their much-anticipated adventure as they seek to trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp. Lord willing, they will be in Nepal in two days. I’m excited for them!
From the beginning, Justin Reimer, Executive Director of The Elisha Foundation, has made it clear that this trek is much more than a clever way to raise money or to get attention for his ministry:
We believe that those with disabilities have been created in the image of God, just as those without. . . What a testament of the infinite value of those with disabilities to the cultures of the world who find little to no worth in the disabled!
Do you see what Justin and his team is doing in that statement of their mission?
They are making their stand to defend the lives and families of those who live with disabilities, to affirm the dignity of all God’s human creation, and to remind us that everyone is created in Christ Jesus for good works.
They are saying to this culture:
The ones who seem to be weaker are indispensable to Christ’s church (1 Corinthians 12:22).
God intentionally made some to be disabled for his glory and for our good (Exodus 4:11, John 9:3).
We know that disability is hard on families, and God is good in all his ways.
You may not quietly destroy boys and girls like Elisha Reimer, whose only ‘crime’ is an extra chromosome.
We have not forgotten those who have been institutionalized in orphanages because of their disabilities.
This is not just a romantic, once-in-a-lifetime adventure for the people taking this trek. They are symbolically showing that life with disability in this world has many hardships, but God has a great purpose. And they are reminding us that we experience joy when we join together in supporting, preparing and launching every person made in God’s image for the good works God has prepared for them.
This is a great opportunity for all of us! The trek allows us to make much of God and his kindness to us by telling others about the God-centered purpose and mission of The Elisha Foundation and this trek.
And we must pray for them diligently while they are away and for their families who will be missing them. This is not an easy thing they are doing, and God will be with them and ahead of them:
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)
I can’t wait to hear all their stories about what God was pleased to do. Until then, let us stand with them and fight for them with everything we’ve got, for God’s glory, for the good of his church, and for the sake of people with disabilities all over the world.
– John Knight
John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.
February 22nd, 2013
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
To the Jewish people in Jesus day, a mountain was a metaphor for anything that seemed impossible. For the disciples in the context of Matthew 17, that mountain happened to be a demon possession they could not cast out.
When Jesus says faith, “as small as a grain of mustard seed” would bring power to the disciples to move this “mountain”, he is implying that He is the actual mountain mover and the smallest amount of faith in Him will result in “nothing being impossible for you.”
The focus in Matthew 17 is not the size of the mountain, but the smallness of the mustard seed. Even the smallest faith in Jesus is HUGE because it is not our faith that makes the ultimate difference—it is the object of our faith that makes all the difference!
In just ONE WEEK nine adventurers will support The Elisha Foundation (TEF) by trekking from Lukla, Nepal to Mt. Everest Base Camp at the foot of the highest mountain in the world. This team, including my buddy Eli Reimer who has Down Syndrome, will push themselves to trek 16 days to more than 18,000 feet to raise money for TEF’s ministry to the disabled community and presents itself as a tremendous platform for God’s good design in disability.
Sometimes there is a mountain in front of us that needs to be moved (financial burdens of operating a ministry for disabled children and their families) and sometimes there is a mountain in front of us that needs to be climbed (Everest base camp). Either way, Jesus is key to success and He is pleased by our faith. (Hebrews 11:6)
This will be a difficult journey to say the least. Sixteen days of high altitude trekking is excruciating for the most experienced of climbers, let alone those struggling with disabilities. This team will need to be in excellent physical and mental shape. They will need to overcome fear, freezing temperatures, and fatigue. But more than that, they will need to walk in faith beside the One who both created and climbs mountains, and, if necessary, moves them.
Will you support them and pray for them daily? You will be able to follow their progress each day (or as they have signal in the craggy peaks of the Himalayas) at Trek4TEF.com or here on the Elisha Foundation site.
In the end God will receive the glory as TEF continues to bring hope to parents and families in a global culture of disability neglect. That is the real mountain before us, and with deep faith in the One who created the mountains; this trek will be a success!
Trekking with my friends on the Trek4TEF in prayer,
Husband, Father, TEF Advisor, blogger, and Author of Wrestling with and Angel
December 19th, 2012
Click HERE to read out Year-End Update.
We are grateful for your love and support. You helped make 2012 another amazing year for TEF! Thank you!
Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year!
-JDR and the Board of Directors
September 25th, 2012
Earlier in the summer, Matt Mooney, the founder of 99 Balloons contacted us and asked if we would contribute to their blog series titled “Imperfect Vessels”. 99 Balloons is a disability ministry focused on providing respite for families of children with special needs and global outreach to the disabled.We are grateful for the Mooneys, their love of Jesus, and their passion to reach those impacted by disability worldwide.
Please read our post on “The Common Mark of Imperfection”.
September 3rd, 2012
THREE months from now Eli and I, along with an amazing Team of people, will be bedding down for the night in the village of Phakding having completed Day 1 of our Trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp. I am sure that we will be excited and full of adrenaline the early days of the trek – who wouldn’t be! But I know that as the ascent begins and we are faced with the side effects of trekking at high altitude we will have some challenges. Even now my thoughts turn towards my son, Eli, and where his physical limitations may come into play.
Eli has not had the various severe heart conditions that can often accompany Down Syndrome, but there are other physical hindrances that are present such as low muscle tone, orthopedic issues, etc. He has been faithful in his preparations as we train together. His stamina is improving and we are able to add mileage to his workouts. He is really looking forward to this adventure!
Each day of the Trek I will be praying for his heart to be strong, for his body to produce the needed extra oxygen carrying red blood cells, for him to stay hydrated, and for him to enjoy the experience. I realize that his body may not allow him to make it all the way to Base Camp. We may have to turn back to lower elevations and wait for our Team’s return, but that does not diminish the significance of Eli’s adventure. The Trek is a success for Eli in other ways that have little do with his presence with the Team standing at the foot of the highest mountain in the world. Don’t misunderstand me, Tamara and I would love to see Eli accomplish such an amazing thing, but we see so much more of what this Trek means.
We live in a world that by and large struggles to treat those with disabilities as equal and human. Our family has seen this firsthand serving in orphanages for the disabled. We have seen the neglect, low expectations, and resource restriction. By contrast we have expectations that our son is not only physically fit enough to hike down the road, but that he could trek the lofty Himalayas. What a tremendous occasion it is when a teenage boy with Down Syndrome can be thought, and even expected, to be able to participate in one of the prize treks on earth when so many millions around the world are thought to be worthless and incapable. It is sobering and humbling, while all at once inspiring.
Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp is a big deal and one that I never dreamed we would be a part of. Yet we have been given this amazing opportunity to highlight the needs of those impacted by disability and to promote how uniquely God is using The Elisha Foundation to meet these needs one family, child, and orphan at a time. It is our prayer and desire to see this Trek be used to awaken more people to the needs of the disabled around them, in their own churches, in their own communities, and throughout the world. However, of primary importance is that the only all-suffering remedy that can supply all that is needed for the disabled is the Gospel of Christ. Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and rose again to save us from the hell demanding payment of our sin. In doing this Jesus secured for us a forever with Him where these broken, sin-cursed carcasses will be made new with His resurrection power. This is a hope that lasts and a hope that cannot come through therapies, doctors, medicines, or anything else but through Christ alone. The purpose of this adventure is to see Jesus, this “Mover of Mountains”, be made known among the world’s disabled.
The next 3 months will go by so quickly and we have so much to do in preparation for this Trek for TEF. We are excited!
We are building our Team which today stands at 8 amazing people, but we have room for a few more. We have raised nearly $30,000 of our $80,000 goal for the ongoing ministry of TEF – we like to climb mountains and our fundraising goal is one of them.
Help us in this adventure with a purpose!
Justin and Tamara
July 23rd, 2012
The Blog has been silent for the past couple of weeks due to a packed schedule of home visits with our specialists and other activities with the families and orphans we have been serving. Now that we are three days from departing Ukraine we have time to collect a couple of thoughts.
We were blessed to have Eileene Payne and Brad Franklin join us for three weeks of ministry. Eileene has been a special education teacher for 27 years, primarily focused on children from 0 to 6 years of age. Brad is a special education teacher for high school students and completed his Masters in Special Education last year. With their collective experience covering a broad age group and with the specialized training each has received God clearly brought this team together to serve the disabled population of Chernigov.
Eileene Payne, Eli Reimer, Brad Franklin, and Vlada Boute meeting with families at the seminar on “Disability and the Christian Faith”.
Over 21 days our Team was able to meet with over 20 families to give them counsel and encouragement on ways to effectively aid their child’s development. In the mix of those 20 visits were several trips for our regularly scheduled work in the orphanages. Even with the packed schedule they were able to spend valuable time building relationships with their hosts. Each of their hosts are part of the church and very gracious friends. Their unique hosting experiences were part of the cultural immersion that we and they hoped would aid in their understanding of life in Ukraine and, indeed, it was very helpful.
As our Team was meeting with these families we were so blessed to see the resource that Brad and Eileene were. At times what they shared with the families, though remedial, was like a new day dawning with their eyes opened to see that regardless of lack of resources outside their home they could help their child significantly themselves. But more striking was the light shining in the dark corners of people’s hearts. On a few occasions the conversations would turn towards family or parenting or the like, and the doors were thrown open to share how the gospel is to shape our lives. Often Brad and Eileene were able to emphasize that we can’t put our hope in doctors, therapy, or treatments but in God alone. Granted, sometimes these words seemed to fall limply on cold hearts, but we know that God is faithful and will cultivate these sown seeds as He sees fit.
The last family the Team visited in Chernigov was one we had never met and came through contact with one of our neighbors in the apartment complex we live in. Hopelessness would characterize the disposition of the mother of the sweet child with disabilities. Over two years after disability touched their family she cannot find acceptance of her child’s multiple and severe challenges. Her heart is cold and deeply pained. The grandmother, also living in the home, was somewhat less melancholy but broken. They have withdrawn from life in many ways and almost hide their child away. It is understood by those still somewhat in contact with them that they are not to ask about the child. Isolation.
Due to the severity of their child’s disability there is little that can be done to make any significant developmental progress. The Team discussed a few different concepts to help utilize present abilities. But how do you tell an already hopeless family that they really can’t expect much progress for their child when they desperately want that and it means everything to them? After a spell the grandmother spoke up and rather despairingly said, “Isn’t there anything you can do to help this child?”. Brad and Eileene were truthful and forthright with her that, “No, but you can improve the quality of the child’s life.”. As the air of their hope was sucked out of the sweltering room Tamara, Brad, Eileene, and Vlada were praying for how to bring true Hope into the room. Over the next several minutes they were able to share the gospel with this mother and grandmother. Light shining in darkness.
We pray earnestly that these words will not return void and that their hearts would ponder Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin-disabled lives and that the Spirit’s torturous chiseling of their hard hearts would be accomplished by God’s matchless grace being poured out on them and washing away the shards of doubt, fear, and self that they would be made new creations in Christ. Since that time they were invited to church for our last Sunday in Ukraine (yesterday) and they said they would come. They didn’t show up but the fact that they responded and showed interest in being further connected is HUGE in our book. Pray that the efforts of the church to continue to reach them will be fruitful.
That is a brief snapshot of the last four weeks. It is hard to detail the many other blessings and challenges that have made up a months worth of ministry. Praise God for bringing us Brad and Eileene to serve with their unique giftedness and skill set, they were used powerfully.
We want you to know that God has faithfully ministered to the disabled in Chernigov, Nyezhin, and Zomhlai through the gospel and for His infinite glory. Thank you for praying with us, for us, and for the gospel to be proclaimed.
In Christ Alone,
Justin and Tamara