Into the Wilderness


If you had asked me last August to make a list of what I was excited for about OneLife, the trek would not have been close to the top. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have been on the list at all. I came into this year absolutely dreading the backpacking trip. I was intrigued by the trip to the Navajo Nations, pumped for the Philly Project, ecstatic for Israel, and entirely NOT any of those things for the trek. I didn’t even want to think about it. I put a mental block up and focused all of my excitement on Israel-which worked until the trip was over. Then my plan failed. The next big trip was exactly what I was avoiding. The trek.

I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma right before we left on our trip to the Navajo Nation, and learning how to manage it well has been a frustrating battle all year for me. With the new diagnosis came new fears. I already live with dyspraxia. Slipping, tripping, and running into random things are just a part of life for me. Because of that, I’ve always struggled in gym class and I’ve always hated doing anything physical activity-related with people my own age because of the way I was treated. I’ve been bullied at school for years, and although that hasn’t happened since coming to OneLife, the self esteem issue still remains. I knew going into the trek that I was taking my physical challenges with me. The last thing I wanted to be was a burden…and that’s what I felt I was going to be. With the trek approaching, anxiety set in. Questions arose inside of me. Why am I doing this? Can I do this? God, what am I doing?

Two days before we left, I, the graceful person that I am, walked out of my apartment, tripped over air, and twisted my ankle. I envisioned all the possible ways this trip could go wrong. The dyspraxic asthmatic with the twisted ankle…would she slip and fall down the side of a mountain or have an asthma attack first?

When we got to Three Springs and met our guides, I reluctantly gave mine, Paul, the rundown on medication and medical issues. He picked up on my anxiety and assured me things would be fine. He’d give me trekking poles and set me up in front of the group to set the pace so I wouldn’t fall behind. The little sarcastic voice in my head must have been thrilled. “Oh joy! You get to be up in the front so everyone can watch you struggle!” I hated the idea of stopping the group every time I needed to take a break to catch my breath. I hated telling everyone I really didn’t know what to expect with my asthma. I prayed to God to get me out of backpacking-multiple times.

Fast forward to the trek. Two hours in, and I was already struggling as we climbed up what I thought was a mountain. (I later came to realize it was a hill compared to some other mountains we climbed). I got to camp at the end of the day and, while journaling by headlamp, repeated the question I’d been asking myself all week. What in the world am I doing?

The next day, we climbed our first mountain. Honestly, I hated it the entire time. Every time I stopped (and had the rest of the group stop) I felt like I’d only gotten ten steps further from our last break. But we made it. As we reached the top of the hill and all collapsed dramatically on top of our packs, Paul came over to me. We talked briefly about the view at the top, then he looked over at me. “Amara, you did that well.”

I laughed and tried to shrug it off, but he made me repeat his words. I did that well.

I didn’t really believe those words until we climbed another mountain two days later. Once again, we got to the top and while we were taking a break, Paul made his way to the front to check in on me. “How’s the asthma, Amara?”

“It’s okay. Definitely better now that we’ve stopped.”

“What did you just do?”

“Climb a hill.”

“No, that was more than a hill. What did you just climb?”

“A mountain.”

“Uh huh. And what did I tell you the last time you climbed a mountain?”

“That I did it well.”

“Exactly. Amara, you can do this. Every time you needed to stop, you weren’t the only one that needed to. You’re not the weakest link in this group. Stop believing you are. You just climbed another mountain. You can do this. You need to be okay with taking more meaningful risks.”

That was the moment where something clicked in my brain. For all the fears I had going into the trek, I was doing exactly what I was scared about. I was scaling mountains-well. I could do it. And Paul wasn’t the only one saying that I was doing well. For the first time in my life, I had people my own age encouraging me and supporting me as I pushed myself big-time physically. There was no laughing. No snide comments. No eyerolls. No exclusion. There was just constant encouragement and the occasional, “If you need to take a break, just let me know.”

Later that day, at the top of our third and final mountain, I was able to look back and see how far we’d come. The realization that we’d crossed that distance together as a team hit me hard. I’d done it. I’d come farther than I ever thought I would. But it wasn’t just me. It was us, the entire orange team. We’d encouraged and supported each other, and we got through it by relying on God’s strength. Yes, we still had a ways to go, but it was through leaning into His strength that we-that I-found my own.

It’s funny, Zac loves to tell us in class that your body can teach your heart things your mind can’t. The trek was a perfect example of that. I took a meaningful risk and I found my own strength. I tapped into the authority God has given me in ways I never had before. I was reminded of God’s faithfulness and strength. He is trustworthy. He’s the God of the mountaintops and the valleys. He is the air I breathe. He’s given me a community that reflects his character in so many different ways, it’s extremely hard to not feel loved.

And as I processed this experienced, I realized something. I surprised myself. I said something (aloud) that I never would have ever imagined myself saying: While it’s hard to pick a favorite trip from OneLife, this is mine. God used something I was absolutely dreading to teach me lessons I needed to learn and remind me of things I needed to be reminded of. Isn’t it amazing that we have a God who chooses what’s best for us instead of leaving the choice up to us? He is so good! Our God is SO GOOD!

-Amara Sherman


(Pictures from Trek 2019)