It’s dark, just after 5 A.M., as Kyoko begins her ascent up Camelback Mountain. Behind her is a group of men who hope they have what it takes to follow her. With each step, the rough terrain challenges their resolve to reach the top. They are led by a single headlamp, meant to symbolize the guiding light that God provides. It’s a test of endurance. Those who
eventually reach the summit will find a new sense of strength within themselves and tangible proof that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This is the Soldiers of Jesus Hiking Club. It’s a mentally and physically challenging, growthoriented hiking ministry started by Kyoko Hope two years ago to enrich the faith and spirit of those in our Men’s Recovery Program. The club’s purpose is not only to build perseverance, it’s the latest iteration of a promise Kyoko made to God 10 years ago. You’d never know it by her jubilant attitude, but Kyoko is a domestic violence survivor. In the midst of those dark days, she cried out to God for help, promising that if He would get her through, she would share the love of Christ in return.
God answered. Later, during the divorce hearings, a judge referred her to Phoenix Rescue Mission for help living out her promise. Kyoko has been ministering as a volunteer in our Men’s Chapel ever since. But in 2016, God inspired her to do more. “The more I ministered in the chapel, the more I gained a relationship with the brothers [men in our recovery program] there,” says Kyoko. “Then one day I felt it.” Kyoko had a vision. She saw a way to encourage our men by exposing them to their own physical limitations, to help them learn to rely on God’s strength when their own strength had run out.
She called it Soldiers of Jesus Hiking Club, after 2 Timothy 2:3: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” “Hiking is a journey like life,” says Kyoko. “Finding a way up the mountain helps to engrain in them a spirit to never give up.” In the past two years, over 200 “Soldiers” have already made it up Camelback Mountain to experience the sunrise, and celebrate their victory through worship and prayer at the summit. Although Kyoko will be taking a ‘safety break’ during the sweltering summer months, she hopes to increase that number to 300 when she resumes the hikes in September. “Camelback is tough, it’s very steep. I always tell them, ‘Don’t look at the top. Just follow the light and that will get you there.’” Whether you’re a hiker or not, there’s a lesson there for all