On our recent trip to East Africa with fellow Highlanders, I was looking forward to trekking with gorillas in the Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Despite having had a fever for a few days, I was feeling well enough and was motivated on gorilla day to give it a try. I did NOT want to miss this opportunity, but I was weak from not having eaten for three days.

In order to maintain a safe habitat for the gorillas, officials offer locals jobs as guides and porters for the tourists so they can make money to live on instead of poaching wild game from the forest. They called it, thoughtfully, “a symbiotic relationship.”

Porters carry people’s packs and offer help on the steep trails and through the wet tangle in the forest. They make $15-$20 for their hard day’s work.

Leanne and I weren’t planning to get porters initially, but when we heard how it stimulates the local economy we changed our minds and hired Ezra and Moses for the day.

What is hysterical for me in looking back is that the reason I hired porters was to help them out financially. In fact, I never, ever would have made it without their help at many points along the way because I was so weak. It was a hard two-hour hike in until they spotted the gorillas. While young and strong Adrian McClair flew up the trails, I was knocking on Heaven’s door every 100 yards!

In this photo, Ezra is behind me pushing my butt up the hill while Moses reached back with his hand to pull my carcass forward. We had a symbiotic relationship: I was weak and exhausted but had money, and they had tons of energy and needed work. I’m so deeply grateful because, without them, I wouldn’t have had one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.

And, being a pastor type, I get the additional benefit of a perfect metaphor for the body of Christ. Sometimes you’re the one who needs to have your butt pushed up the hill and sometimes you’re the butt-pusher to help someone else in their time of weakness get up the hill so you can all arrive together for the great adventures life holds.

Nothing but Love,

Mark