Justin Climbing Mountains
“I realized, the place I feel closest to God isn't in church. It's not when I go in for brain surgery and start praying like crazy. The place I feel closest to God is in his creation.”
By Abbey Kopan
(All artwork on this page created by Justin Anderson)
Twenty-seven years old. Diagnosed with brain cancer in June. And climbing Mount Everest in April. Justin Anderson is a remarkable young man with a truly inspiring story. Hailing from Iowa, he is currently studying Organizational Leadership at Waldorf College. He leads the camping trips at Rhythm Church in Mason City, IA, just finished his last week of chemo-radiation, got married on Saturday, and is looking to start getting his photography artwork out there. Justin found Restoring Eden through our recent article in Backpacker Magazine (which should soon be available online), and contacted us shortly after to find out how he could get involved. We’re so glad he did! This is his story...
It started when I was young. I have always maintained a deep love and appreciation for nature, and enjoying the outdoors - in particular, vast expanses of land with lots of trees and views, and less people and unnecessary stuff.
God knows that about me. He created me.
Now, for a little background here on my faith - I didn't have much. More particularly, I was really confused about everything. Then, a few weeks before I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to start going to church and learning more about my creator. Divine intervention? I think so. God knows me. He knows if I would have started going to church AFTER I was diagnosed, I would have questioned my own motives for going back to church. Don't get me wrong, it's okay to start following God at ANY time in your life. He's waiting for you. I'm just saying, he knows my thought process. He knows that I would have thought my faith was less genuine if I would have started going to church just because of brain cancer.
So now back to the nature stuff. I start following and really getting to know God, and I start seeing all of these wonderful things happening to me! For the first time in my life, I'm actually told that I am an inspiration to people! I've always had this gift to make people smile, but now I was using it for things that REALLY mattered. My relationships begin to change, for the better!
So God keeps blessing me.
In December of last year, my Dad surprised me with a trip to the Smoky Mountains. We did some hiking. We just got out there and really experienced creation at it's finest. When I got home from Tennessee, I found myself really starting to read more into nature. I started realizing how beautiful creation was. I started putting it all together.
"God saw all that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." -Genesis 1:31
A few weeks ago in the Critical Thinking class I take at Waldorf College, we were asked to watch the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary about global warming made by former Vice President Al Gore. We had a class discussion about the film, and I was very disappointed to hear many of the responses. It seemed people's perceptions about global warming were highly distorted by their personal political opinions of Al Gore. I realized that it's because of this fact alone that the film was met with such criticism. My question is, even if the data and consequences presented in "An Inconvenient Truth" aren't as dire as they seemed, what is so wrong with taking care of our environment?
So I started reading more, like I always do. I started digging into the Bible a little bit, and I'm starting to see that God left us as STEWARDS of the earth. As stewards of the Earth, it is our duty to take care of creation! It's only when you put these things ABOVE God that this is wrong. A couple verses to consider:
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." -Genesis 2:15-17
"I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable." -Jeremiah 2:7
"The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great and for destroying those who destroy the earth." -Revelation 11:18
Can we put our egos and politics aside and just see a need to take care of our Earth? Or will we choose to destroy it?
I kept reading and kept thinking. I realized, the place I feel closest to God isn't in church. It's not when I go in for brain surgery and start praying like crazy. The place I feel closest to God is in his creation. Nature. That's just me. It's as simple as looking up into the sky and just knowing. He's there.
So I kept digging, and reading more.
One morning, I woke up to a voicemail and email asking if I wanted to go on a trek to Mount Everest in Nepal, all expenses paid. I know deep in my heart that this opportunity is God's way of telling me that I'm on the right track with my thinking. I look forward to hiking up Mount Everest, looking around and just knowing...
Justin will trek to base camp at 18,000 feet on Mount Everest with a group of 20 cancer survivors, from ages 27 to 64 from April 6th to 26th. Keep him and the rest of the team in your prayers! Read more of Justin’s story and thoughts at his blog: www.justinclimbingmountains.com.