The life-changing part was not the safari…

I was in a class called the Quest for Authentic Manhood. Towards the end of this three-year course he said it's time to do something, guys. I have always loved the mountains and being outdoors. That opportunity came up to go to Kenya, and the life-changing part was not the safari.


So on that first mission trip, we went to these two different churches in these two slums in Nairobi and really built some strong relationships with the people there. We drove east towards the Indian Ocean. We were driving over a dry riverbed, and there were all these people down there in the dry riverbed that I was trying to figure out what are they doing down there in the sand? And so I asked our host in the car.

I said what's going on, and he said well they're digging for water. So I said stop the car, I've got to see this. Sure enough, they had dug a big hole that was maybe 10 feet across and four or five feet deep, and they were scooping out water with their orange juice containers and putting into five gallon jerrycans and strapping them to their donkeys and walking off into the bush. So I thought this is just unbelievable. Is this, you know, is this anyway to live?

So I thought this is just unbelievable. Is this anyway to live?

The moment we touched down in Houston I wanted to go back. I had an opportunity to go back to Kenya, and also the person that told me about it said why don't you take a side trip down to Malawi with your wife and your friends. We went out to this well. I asked one of the crewmen that was telling them about Jesus I said can I share a Bible story that I learned from my South Sudan trip, and he said sure.

At the end of the story my heart started beating very fast because I knew God wanted me to ask these villagers if they wanted to receive Christ. The next thing I knew he said something to them, and 40 people get up and they completely surrounded me. I was like in the middle of 40 people. I said to them okay, I'm gonna say the prayer one sentence at a time. You translate it into Chichewa and have them say it back. I want to hear them say the prayer. And so we did that and 40 people accepted Christ that day or rededicated their lives to Christ that day. That was probably, that's in the top five most impactful moments of my life, and it was incredible.

The flight from Nairobi to London I sat down on and the guy that sat next to me right after I sat down said what were you doing in Africa? And I told him my experiences on these four trips. After 10 minutes of talking I finally said well what were you doing in Africa? And he said well me and 34 of my friends just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a hospital in England.

And so that got the wheels turning, but kind of like the safari was the hook on the first mission trip, my selfish nature rose up inside of me and I said to him well I'm gonna be 60 next year. Maybe I can get somebody to go with me and climb Kilimanjaro on my 60th birthday. So I approached Child Legacy and I said how would you like to do Kilimanjaro with me on my birthday and it will be a fundraiser for you guys? And they loved it.

But then I was doing my BSF study, we were studying Isaiah that year, and during the homework lesson there were some questions and it made me think of the question are my plans God's plans or are they just Mike's plans? So I was wrecked 'cause it was all about me climbing a mountain on my birthday, and I couldn't do that. And I just decided to just forget the whole idea. But then God started working on me, bringing back memories of the people digging holes in dry riverbeds and all that sort of thing and sharing Christ with the villagers in Malawi. And I thought well, I could still do it, but I couldn't do it on my birthday. I didn't want it to be about me.

I didn’t want it to be about me.

We moved it off my birthday, and we went and made the first climb of Kilimanjaro in 2011, and since that time I've taken a total of 11 teams. We've raised $2.5 million and impacted 4.5 million people. So it's pretty staggering. I mean, God lined everything up right, one step after another leading to another step. You know, when opportunities come before you unless there's some compelling reason not to do them, God wants you to do those things because He's leading you on a path for something, for that thing or maybe it's just a stepping stone to another thing and another thing. And finally, He takes you and brings you to what He's called you to do, and I see my whole life as that.

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Matt Shepperd

Mike Navolio

on-location video


Mike Navolio