Five Lessons for Church Planters From 14 Peaks

Five Lessons for Church Planters From 14 Peaks

By David Ramos

Five Lessons for Church Planters From 14 Peaks

By David Ramos

            In the documentary film 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible we encounter the inspiring life of Nimsdai “Nims” Purja who sets out to accomplish a seemingly impossible feat, that is to climb the 14 highest summits of the world in seven months.  This is quickly deemed as humanly impossible by most which only inspires him to dub is initiative as “Project Possible”. The fastest anyone has ever done it was in seven years, and the first climber to have ever done it, Reinhold Messner, took him 16 years to accomplish this stunning achievement.  Throughout the film we witness the courage, stamina, faith, compassion, and intrepid spirit of someone consumed by a mission.

Nims’ true goal isn’t merely summitting the peaks, but to leave a testament of inspiration for all of humanity to believe and struggle against all odds, to achieve worthwhile dreams thought of as impossible. What can we learn from Nims as Church Planters and leaders arduously working in the challenging field of ministry? 

  1. Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.

One must have unwavering faith in one’s calling, identity, and objectives.  There will be many people who will not be able to see what you see, misconstrue your motivations, or deem your precious dreams as a fool’s errand.  Throughout scripture we see that every major leader was confronted with doubters, naysayers, and haters.  Moses, Joseph, Nehemiah, Hannah, Jesus were all dismissed by family, friends, and colleagues, and competitors.  Jesus said that he did not come to do his own will but to do the will of his father.  Hannah’s passionate intercessory prayer we judged as being inebriated, Joseph’s own brothers attempted to extinguish his life, however, Joseph lived to see his dreams actualized after much suffering.  Holding on to God’s promise in dark times while excruciating difficult, may be what is necessary to climb towards to summit of our dreams. 

2. Know your Why

Nims’ motivation to climb was to honor the Nepalese Sherpa community who support all the international climbing teams but are not given due respect and acknowledgment for their work, courage, and achievement.  They are eclipsed in the press by European and American team leaders and are not properly seen as individuals but pooled as an amorphous group.  Nims’ endeavored to honor his country and to ignite the universal human spirit towards courageous grand endeavors.  Whenever he encountered threats, setbacks, obstacles, opposition, and challenges, he turned to his true north, his “why”, his motivation. When Jesus is questioned by his family, doubted by the religious leaders, and mocked by naysayers, he continuously returns to his mission.  Jesus reminded them, “I did not come to do my will, but to do the will of the Father who sent me.”

3. Knowing When to Push or to Pause

Anyone who is involved in endurance sports such as the grueling challenge of being an Ironman Triathlete or has participated in the Tour de France can attest to the necessity of pushing past one’s threshold of pain.  Part of the awe-inspiring greatness we see in these athletes is their ability to push past great difficulty and remain focused on the prize.  Many of us in ministry become stuck in our pain because of the depths of our wounds, or because we have not tended to longstanding injuries.  We must tend to our pain, our trauma, and our woundedness, and be mindful of the occupational hazards of ministry.  Like battlefield soldiers many leaders have not had the luxury to pause, find rest and sabbath, and are forced to fight on, even while wounded.  Just like the mountain can be unforgiving, ministry can also be unforgiving, Nims says “If you give up, you die.”  For some, remaining on the mountain or ministry may mean sure death, the depletion of one’s soul, a divorce brought on by the corrosive effect criticism and opposition can have upon a spouse or family.  The impact of spiritual attack, emotional weariness, and psychological fatigue can overwhelm us.  One of the most difficult decisions for either Alpinist or a minister is to discern when to push forward and when to pull back.  There are moments that we need to rest, repair, restore, rejuvenate, and reintegrate so that we can continue to move towards the mission God as called us to.  In scripture we read examples of both realities, the need to push past our pain, and the need to come away as Jesus did to rest.  We see that Jesus pushed past his pain to remain on his mission. Hebrews 12:2—3, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” However, we also read of the exhortation, and even rebuke, to find the necessary space, hearth, and time, to find rest.  Isaiah 30:15, 15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  As we develop more trauma informed best practices in ministry, we can have a better understanding of listening to our bodies, our souls, our families, and God’s Spirit, so that we can be better able to know when it is best to find shelter, and when we should push past our pain.

4. Find collaborators

Nims surrounded himself with the best climbers he can identify.  This was his dream team of climbers who together went on this daring mission.  He continuously inspired them and those around them through his contagious faith.  Nims also names them by name, and gives them credit for their labor, courage, and sacrifice.  He also understood that his mission needed the critical support of those who weren’t on the mountain, sponsors, politicians, his wife and family members, and his loyal followers.  He said that the more difficult task was having to do the necessary vision casting, raising support, and collaborating with a host of other partners to finally achieve his dream.  Towards the end of the film, he is one summit away from reaching his goal when he receives the news that the Chinese government will not grant him the permits necessary to summit the mountain.  He is already there; his dream is within reach and this technicality may dash his hopes.  However, as a leader, he does not give up and he continues to push his relational capital, summons the assistance of the Prime Minister of Nepal to intervene with the officials in China, and even marshals a social media campaign among his followers to petition the Chinese government on his behalf.  His efforts pay off and he summits the final mountain.  Nims breaks six climbing records and summits all 14 peaks in six months and six days.  He has done what others thought was impossible!  Nehemiah found sponsors, obtained the necessary permits for his project, overcame the political resistance among his own people, and thwarted the nefarious plans of evil men; he was able to do in 52 days what others could not accomplish in decades.  Great goals are accomplished through collaboration.  It takes a stalwart leader with emotional and cultural intelligence, to negotiate the morass of human interests, politics, agendas, and personalities.

5. Enjoy the Journey

One of the characteristics that stands out is that we witness that this ex-Special Forces, fearless and intrepid Alpinist is also a man of joy.  Through the film we see Nims dancing, drinking, celebrating with his men as they risk life and limb for this daring feat.  One sees and hears the laughter, the enthusiasm, the songs, the reveling of men embarking on a mission that they see will indelibly impact the human consciousness of what is humanly possible.  They are very much alive and fully understand the risks that they have embarked upon.  There is an exhilaration in their spirit as they live their lives moment by moment, step by step, as they move from perilously but determinatively from mountain to mountain, summit to summit and prove to the world the validity of their dreams, the greatness of their souls, and the indomitability of the human spirit.  Nims says that since we are born, we are moving towards the direction of our deaths.  We make the choices to move in the direction of our dreams, to pursue and develop the uniqueness of our calls, to climb our own mountains, ministries, or mole hills, and conquer the territories set before us as we endeavor to be faithful and help others.  It won’t be easy, but the view is beautiful from the top!

David Ramos, M.DIV, MSW, is the Director of Pastor/Leader Care for LEAD.NYC where he leads their Trauma Healing initiative called Restoring Hope.  He is the Pastor of Third Christian Church Disciples of Christ in NYC and is the Founder of the Latino Leadership Circle.

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