Taylor Tejada tackles Kilimanjaro
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Meet Taylor Tejada, a junior English major at Westmont who comes all the way from Carpinteria, CA. This summer, Taylor went on the trip of a lifetime and ended up at an elevation of 19,341 ft. at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
H: When did you decide you were going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
T: Well, my family decided at the end of last year, but because I like to put off decision-making until the least convenient time for everyone, I decided at the end of Spring semester. It was kinda like, if there was a plane ticket to get there, I’m gonna go, and there was, so I did.
H: How did you prepare to attempt such a huge feat?
T: I only went on one hike to train. Kilimanjaro is five days of long hikes and one really hard day. Because of that you are supposed to get used to extended periods of hiking. Then there’s the altitude... Kilimanjaro is about 19,300 ft. Pretty brutal! Eventually it was time to just to get up and do it. I went to church on a Sunday and from there immediately drove to LAX. We flew to Tanzania and spent a few days with the Russells, a missionary family whose outreach is focused on empowering leaders in the Maasai community in Tanzania.
H: Was there some greater purpose in climbing Kilimanjaro, other than just for the sake of climbing the tallest mountain in Africa?
T: We climbed Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Wild Hope International and to hear the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Tanzania, and then take those prayers up to the mountain.
We had this journal filled with all the prayers of the Maasai people and we wanted to make it to the top and say “God these are the prayers of your people. You love the Tanzanians and you love the Masai and here are their prayers. We know you hear prayers regardless, but here they are.”
H: How do you feel like this climb impacted you? What were your expectations going into the trip and how were they met?
T: We live in an Eat Pray Love, Wild kind of world where you do some crazy adventure and you’re supposed to come back 100% changed. I wouldn’t say that I came back a different person, but I would say that God reminded me of a lot of truths that I often forget. When we were summiting the mountain, I got this horrible sickness and kept praying that God would take it away from me. We started climbing and I felt so sick and just kept praying that God would give me strength, energy, and stamina, but actually didn’t get any of those.
At one point, I was hunched over because my bag was too heavy, and my guide Adam kept asking me to let him carry it. He asked me three times and every time I told him that I could do it myself. Finally, he just stopped me and took off my backpack and said, “I’ll hold this for you until you are ready to take it.” By this time, I was crying. My sister Valerie told me, “Taylor, I believe in you. You can do this,” which gave me so much energy. God didn’t seem to give me what I asked for, but instead gave me people along the way who loved me deeply. They are the reason I made it to the top. We reached the summit at sunrise and I was just stunned that we were there. My brother-in-law was crying and then I started crying and it was just a really beautiful, emotional moment.
H: How would you describe your overall experience and how did it shape your summer?
T: This trip was the cornerstone of my summer. Before the trip there was a lot of buildup and I had to work through some of my own stuff. For example, I hate planes, so that’s another way God showed up for me. I was terrified to fly on that plane for twenty hours, but God gave me so much peace and comfort.
H: If you had to pick one moment this summer that stood out to you most, what would it be?
T: A big theme this summer was being in awe of God. Before we reached the summit, it was dark and cold, and I felt so tired and sick but there were so many people encouraging me. I started praying for everyone I cared about and then started crying because I realized that there are so many people God has blessed me with who were praying for me— it felt like a huge community. There are so many people in my life who love me earnestly and there are so many people on this earth, all of whom God loves deeply. In his goodness, I get to meet some of them and, to me, that is amazing.