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  • Writer's pictureSylvia St. Cyr

Hills and Valleys: Looking Back at the Freedom Challenge

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

One year ago today, I got up to hike the Grand Canyon over four days. Here is a small account of that journey.

On October 12, 2018, I participated in my first ever Freedom Challenge. There were 29 women in total for this challenge and collectively we raised $130,000 to help fight and prevent human trafficking around the world, along with agreeing to hike the Grand Canyon.

On the first day, we met each other and had “pack school”. This meant we were learning how to put everything into our backpacks that we’d need for the next four days. As I looked around at all these courageous, freedom fighting women, I was in awe.

All of our fundraising and 16 weeks of training had led to this moment. For some reason, the reality and weight of what we were about to do didn’t hit me until the next morning.

As I sat in the hotel holding coffee at 4:30 am the first morning, waiting for our van to leave for the hike, I was overwhelmed with emotion and tears began to pour down my cheeks. It wasn’t a scared or tired cry, but rather the full realization of what we were about to embark on emulated through tears.

I felt the incredible task that lay ahead, the thoughts and prayers of all those who supported me in this journey to this point, and thought of all the women and children whose lives could change through this. As these feelings exploded in the form of tears, the prayer teams arms around me, I knew they could bring healing; for myself and potentially many others.

Embarking on our journey into the Canyon, I realized we carried more than just the weight of our packs. In our group, the seven of us carried titles like:

  1. Nervous

  2. Excited

  3. Scared

  4. Strangers

With every step and story shared, as we descended 3,000 feet, the gap of the unknown decreased. Normally, relationships take time to grow, but I learned they can be fast tracked when you’re hiking and surviving in the wilderness for four days.

You see, it didn’t matter who we were. In fact, half our team was American, the other half Canadian, ranging from 24-59 years old. We had this fantastic group of unique women that became connected no matter what our age, race, origin, or occupations were. All of those things fell away when my cousin tripped on the way down, stopping herself with a big boulder. All of us surrounded her as she wept, realizing what could have happened and we grew closer.

We surrounded each other, both physically and spiritually. On the second day I woke to a blinding migraine. As I lay flat on the rock, after throwing up from the intense pain, I didn’t know how I was going to continue on, but the Lord did.

These women, warriors really, placed me on a mat, covered me with blankets, and then laid hands on me, praying for a miracle. (Normally, migraines take me out for the whole day)

Initially I couldn’t move, but within two hours, I was able to keep water down, and then breakfast.

As I was in this pain, our group had an hour of T.A.G (time alone with God). I sat there, wrapped in a blanket, and memorized this verse.

Don’t panic. I’m with you.

There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.

I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.

I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” – Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Strength returned, pain slowly decreased, and we were all hiking again by noon! We are truly never alone and God gave me the strength to carry my 57 lb backpack and walk to our next campsite that afternoon!

Over those four days in the Grand Canyon we hiked down, climbed up, and pushed our bodies to the limit. We also laughed, cried, told our stories, spent time with God, and took many steps toward freedom!

Each morning, an incredible woman named Blair (who had participated in two other freedom challenges before) read about the women and children that were being rescued and restored through Operation Mobilization (OM) from the money that was raised.

This gave us meaning and strength with each step. I also couldn’t help but stop at least ten times a day and revel in the astonishing beauty that encompassed us while we were down there. Feeling of intense gratitude filled me.

The women I was surrounded by had come from all over North America, but it was God who brought us together. There is nothing God cannot do when we give Him our “Yes”, including set the captives free!

Emerging from the Canyon back to civilization on the last day, we carried new titles:

  1. Warriors

  2. Sisters

  3. Friends

Taking part in the Freedom Challenge Grand Canyon has been surreal, intense, and life-changing. Perhaps God is calling you to something similar.

And you can be sure that if He calls you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I am living proof!

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