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Climbers conquer Kilimanjaro, help A/G

The air was thin and freezing, but the climbers persevered. Early, on the fourth day of their climb, 14 of the team’s 21 climbers made it to Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit where they celebrated by singing "Amazing Grace." Not only had they conquered Africa’s tallest mountain, the team had raised more than $110,000 for A/G ministries.

Members of the team standing in front of the peak. The climb raised more than $110,000 for A/G ministries.

"We wanted to raise money for people who are really hurting or in need," says John Bongiorno, executive vice president of A/G Financial Services Group and organizer of the climb, which is known as Compassion Climb 2000.

Each climber obtained sponsors, and Bongiorno says the donations have been distributed between the Convoy of Hope and the Africa Division of Foreign Missions, which used the money to help Assist International provide coronary medical intensive care units for countries in Africa.

The climb to Uhuru Peak, Kilimanjaro’s summit at 19,340 feet, is a non-technical climb, meaning ropes and climbing expertise are not required. But climbers had to be in top physical condition because each day they hiked 15 to 20 miles. As they ascended the mountain the temperature dropped from 85 degrees at the base to below zero near the summit. The air also became thinner, causing some to stop short of the peak because of acute mountain sickness, which causes nausea and light-headedness.

"It was fun and rewarding but very tough," says Bongiorno. "Every step we took we were gasping for air."

Wil Balch, a businessman from Bethel Church in San Jose, Calif., was the oldest climber at 76 years old. Balch says spending five days getting to know other believers while climbing was the highlight of the trip.

"We all came from varied backgrounds and hardly knew each other," he says. "But we had two things in common — we love the Lord and want to help people."

Plans are afoot to take 35 climbers to Kilimanjaro’s summit next February to raise funds for HealthCare Ministries and WorldServ.

— Kirk Noonan



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