Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant and encouraging community support Laura Jensen’s Mount Kilimanjaro ascent

Pre-first teacher Laura Jensen loves to remind her students that “we can do hard things,” and that God is with us in the hills and valleys. Thanks to the Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant, Jensen spent part of her summer climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, and now she has fresh evidence of how God strengthens us to overcome challenges.
After dreaming of climbing Kilimanjaro for more than 20 years, in the fall of 2019, Jensen applied for and was selected as a recipient of the Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant. Due to COVID, Jensen’s trip was delayed until the summer of 2022, and with each passing season, her anticipation and excitement grew.
 
“I knew that an experience like this would change me forever,” shares Jensen. “I will always be able to confidently tell my students that when we rely on God’s strength and the community around us, we can do hard things.”
 
Jensen partnered with Beyond Adventures, a travel company committed to “taking you to the crossroads of adventure and rest- where distractions fade, time slows, and you feel most alive.” After arriving in Arusha, Tanzania, Jensen’s climb began at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro at the Machame Gate, 6,000 feet above sea level. After six days of climbing, the adventure culminated in what is coined “the longest day,” a day of nearly 4,000 feet of elevation change capped with a sunrise ascent to Uhuru Peak, 19,340 feet above sea level.
 
“My favorite part of this trip was experiencing all of it with the people on my team. We went from strangers to family on the mountain as we hiked together for hours each day,” reflects Jensen.
 
“Our days began with morning devotions and praying with our guides before heading out on the trail. We told stories, shared life experiences, and laughed so much.”
 
Before beginning the climb, Jensen also went on a safari to Tarangire National Park. Highlights of the safari included seeing mother elephants with their calves, watching a lion stalk zebras and wildebeests across a lake, and having a monkey join their lunch picnic. The monkey jumped on the table and stole Jensen’s banana!
 
“In pre-first we explore countries by learning about the animals, geography, people, and culture,” explains Jensen. “We kick off the year with Tanzania. Now, my understanding and perspective is so much richer. I can share my personal experiences with my class, instead of just relying on books and the experiences of others.”
 
The Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant encourages faculty to pursue a lifetime of learning. Grant recipients may apply their funds to study, volunteer work, Christian missions, research, or other scholarly activities. High school visual arts teacher Meagan Brooker also earned a 2022 Wesleyan Summer Sabbatical Grant, and she refined her painting and teaching skills on a plein air painting tour of Italy, France, and Spain. Brooker’s sabbatical story can be found here.
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