Sunrise over Lake Yamanaka
Our missionary friends, had planned a trip up the mountain last year. They have
3 kids, about the same ages as ours. Gordon thought he would go with them and
take Matt, but it didn't work out. Dwight and his eldest boy (about the same
age as Naomi) went. They hiked after "hiking season," past prime
hiking weather, on a holiday. Mt.
Fuji is the most hiked
mountain in the world. They didn't expect that the normally 5.5 hour
up and 3.5 hour down hike would stretch to 14 hours due to a "traffic
jam" on the trail!
God saved Gordon from that experience. But the idea of climbing Fuji didn't leave his mind. Off and on, for the next year he researched and planned for a trip up the mountain. He bought numerous aides (collapsible hiking stick, head lamps) and brushed off old camping gear. He printed lists of things to bring and tips for nearly every conceivable contingency. He even arranged to get a can of oxygen (but didn't take it).
Gordon planned to hike with Matt. Then Naomi decided to join them. About a week before the scheduled climb, Matt got grounded. The hiking party was down to 2 climbers.
The day of the hike, the weather forecast called for rain. But it wasn't raining in Yokohama when they got on the bus at 12:30 pm. The plan was to get to the trail head at Station 5 about 3 pm, hike until 8 or 9 and stop over at one of the "huts" on the mountain (Station 8) to get some sleep. Then they would continue the hike about 3 am to reach the summit at sunrise.
Gordon called at 5 pm. He told me that they had just reached the trail head, Station 5. With all his planning, he didn't realize that there was a second bus they had to take!
While they were waiting for the second bus, they went into a store to purchase a few things. They found the Mt. Fuji hiking staffs for 700 yen each ($8.67 US). What a bargain! The lady at the store told them 2 hikers had been struck by lightning the day before on the trail! She warned them not to go if there is lightning. Gordon and Naomi prayed! It was raining heavily and there was lightning during the bus ride. But, as they neared their destination, they could see the summit and the weather was clear when they got to the trail head.
At the same store, they met an IVCF staffer from Chicago. He, his 10 year old son (same age as Matt), his 70-some year old mother and aunt had just come back from climbing Fuji. Gordon thought, "If they can do it, I can do it too."
The weather was beautiful on Mt. Fuji. They enjoyed a gorgeous sunset about 7 pm. Then they hiked using their headlamps. Gordon told us later that his legs began cramping about 10 pm. Naomi hiked ahead and gave her Dad encouragement: "It's just a little farther, Dad. You can make it!" "Look! There's the hut. We can make it." To which Gordon thought, "I don't think so!" But, he kept going.
All evening I was wondering how they were doing. I got
another call at 11:24 pm. They made it to a hut near Station 8, not as
high as they hoped. Climbing was taking a lot longer than planned.
They stayed over in a ski chalet type building. Futons are lined up, head toward the center isle, feet in the roof slant, in the loft. At 3 am they got up to continue the climb to the top. Gordon hit his head on the ceiling beam to add to his altitude induced headache.
Wearily they climb away in the dark. At the next hut, Gordon noticed that he had lost his cell phone! Naomi volunteered to go back to search for the cell phone. After she leaves, he looks under the bench he's sitting on and by God's grace finds the black encased cell phone in the dark! As Gordon is sitting on a bench, he realizes that he has broken a basic hiking rule--always stay together! The next problem is finding Naomi. He tries calling down the mountain and then wiggles his head lamp to try to attract attention. Naomi miraculously sees it and comes back.
Because of this adventure, they are not able to make the summit for sunrise, but have a fabulous view at Station 8.5. The sunrise is a vibrant red. The view is clear all the way down to the lake at the bottom of the mountain! Gordon wanted to see part of God's glory--and he did!
It's 5 am when they start out again. The climb now is much steeper. Gordon said he could barely move his legs. He almost gave up but then he remembered Grandpa Kiyo. Gordon used to call Dad every day and encourage him to do his exercises. Some days Dad would say his legs felt like cement. Gordon would urge him to lift his legs. He could hear his own words in his mind. Also, God reminded Gordon of a Bible verse, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:13) Gordon prayed for strength.
They reached the summit at 8 am. Naomi reached the summit first and calls back encouragement to her Dad. At the summit they get the 10th stamp on their walking sticks! Naomi went to mail the postcards they had prepared while Gordon rests. Unfortunately for Naomi, she has to make the trip twice as the postcards Gordon had were still in his backpack when Naomi made her first trip to the post office.
They finished the water and tea they had taken and ate the snacks they had packed. So, they were required to buy a few bottles of water at 500 yen each ($6.20 US) and pay to use the toilet at 100 yen a person ($1.24 US).
At 11 am they head back down the mountain. Gordon said this was the hardest part. Gordon's knees were in pain. With an MP3 player full of praise music, the beginning of the descent was marked by the presence of God and His joy and the absence of pain (briefly).
But as they got further, the pain in Gordon's knees grew. He said that Naomi pointed out that there were 26 switch-backs on the way down and they were on 19. She was trying to encourage him, but Gordon didn't quite see it that way. As Gordon was praying, God showed him another hiker "skiing" down the mountain. So Gordon sees how to use the 2 hiking sticks he has to crutch (& stem turn) down the mountain. It takes practice, but the pain in his left knee is reduced as he learns to crutch.
Finally, Naomi is getting tired. Gordon gets a second wind
listening to praise music and is able to lead the hike for the last half hour
back to the 5th Station.
They had reservations on the bus to get back to Yokohama. But at the rate they were going, they weren't going to make the bus. Naomi had to call twice to change the reservations. With about an hour to go, they had to hurry to make the last bus. Naomi was praying hard. Miraculously, they got the last 2 seats on the bus!
Matt, Miki and I picked them up (yeah! I can drive!!) about 9 pm. They were beaming and eager to show us their trophies!
Gordon recovered from the hike. His muscles ached and his knees were bad for a few days after but Naomi didn't seem any worse for the wear. Gordon learned two important lessons: "God inhabits the praises of His people." When we praise God, the other things in life seem to fade away. Secondly, God still answers prayer. Gordon and Naomi will always have great memories of God answering their prayers on Mt. Fuji!
Gordon’s experience on Fuji is like our experience in ministry. We need partners to share the love of Jesus in Japan. We are in Japan because of your prayers and generous donations. Would you consider supporting missionaries like us this year through World Mission Offering (WMO)? As you give in this WMO window through October, please know that your part in the body of Christ is extremely valuable. Please donate at your local American Baptist church or visit www.internationalministries.org, and help touch lives all over the world!
With God’s Love,
Gordon and Lee Ann Hwang