Climbing Mount Dinara

March 6, 2019

By Irena Zabickova

It was a long, busy summer with many projects and activities, coordination of the volunteers, and keeping our Croatian volunteer center functioning smoothly. My husband Paolo and I were looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation.

As we set out on the trip, we felt led to go down the Croatian coast. The warm weather continued, even though summer was officially coming to an end, and so we decided to combine some beach time as well as some hiking in the nearby mountains. The Croatian coast has both these options right next to each other, so it makes for a convenient mixture of relaxation by the sea and enjoying nature while hiking in the mountains.

While traveling along the coast, we realized we were not too far away from the highest mountain of Croatia, which is called Dinara. This was our opportunity to conquer this peak, which is otherwise too distant for us to reach. We gathered maps, information, tips from the locals, anything that would help prepare us for the day of the climb. We were anticipating this day with great expectation, looking forward to this unique opportunity.

And then it happened. The day before our hike, Paolo bent down to pick up an empty plastic water bottle when he felt a strange pull in his back. He didn’t think too much of it at the time, and managed to come inside the house and lay on the bed to rest a little. Within a couple of hours, he couldn’t move due to the excruciating pain in his back. We prayed, asking Jesus to send His healing touch, and waited for the pain to pass.

As the situation didn’t seem to change much, the next morning I went to a pharmacy to get some medicine. It helped to alleviate the strongest pain, but it wasn’t sufficient to help him move out of bed. We got a glimpse into the lives of people that are bedridden or in need of assistance, perhaps for an extended period of time or even for life, due to sickness or injury. We work with several people in such a condition and we very much feel for them. We were experiencing a small touch of what it actually would be like to be in their place.

Instead of climbing Dinara, we were facing this medical emergency with various ups and downs during the next few days.

During one of the hard times of struggling with pain, Paolo looked at me and said, “We were going to climb Dinara, and now we are climbing a different type of Dinara. Compared to this health issue, climbing the real Dinara would have been a walk in the park. This Dinara is stretching us to the limits physically and spiritually, but it’s strengthening our faith. It’s a tough climb, but we will make it to the top. When I hit a low spot and it seems that there is no improvement, and it seems like the end is nowhere in sight, it’s similar to climbing a physical mountain. Sometimes you think you are almost at the top, but instead you are seeing a false summit, and the real one is still far away and out of sight. This can be quite discouraging, but we must keep reminding ourselves that as long as we keep moving our feet forward, eventually we will see and reach the top.”

These words were a great encouragement for both of us. This parallel was with us as we struggled through the next days, needing to call an ambulance, receiving some injections and medications, dealing with more doctors, and eventually figuring out how to return home. It was a challenging time, full of surprises, but our Lord came through as always. His presence was constant and His guidance was impeccable, just as it is every time.

Some might say, “That was probably not a very happy vacation.” But for us it was what it was supposed to be. We returned home content. We went with the intention to swim and climb mountains. And that’s what we did! We climbed a different type of mountain, and with God’s help we reached the top.

Everyone faces mountains in their lives at one time or another. It might be with health issues, possibly much more serious or long-lasting than we experienced. Perhaps it’s your relationship with your loved ones, your job situation, or financial problems. Maybe you feel alone and depressed. No matter what type of mountain it is, as you start climbing, remember that you might not know how high it is or how long it will take to get to the top. But if you put your hand in the hand of God and let Him be your mountain guide, He will get you there. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how small the steps might be. As you keep your eyes on Jesus, eventually you will reach the summit and be able to say, “I have been climbing a very high mountain in my life, and with God’s help I have just reached the top!”

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