Pushing Themselves to the Limit—For a Good Cause

August 19, 2022 • United States
The Cooks reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, highest peak in Africa.
The Cooks, with their guides, celebrate at the top of Africa!

Missouri father and daughter climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, raise support for Samaritan’s Purse.

Matt and Jessica Cook stood satisfied at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro staring out at a carpet of clouds hovering nearly two miles below them. The father-daughter duo from Cuba, Missouri, had reached Africa’s highest peak—19,341 feet above sea level—after an almost weeklong test of strength and endurance.

With a love for Samaritan’s Purse and our Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry, the Cooks were glad their expedition had raised support and spread the word about our ongoing relief efforts in Jesus’ Name.

A Dormant Dream Awakens

The dream to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro first crossed Matt’s mind 18 years ago when his church was putting on a Vacation Bible School called “Serengeti Trek” and the famous peak was featured in the week’s activities. For more than a decade the dream lay dormant, just like the volcanic mountain he would one day summit.

Matt Cook and his daughter, Jessica, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and raised support for Samaritan's Purse.

Matt Cook and his daughter, Jessica, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and raised support for Samaritan’s Purse.

But then, Matt decided it was time to see if his dream could become a reality. After convincing his daughter Jessica to join him on his quest, the two began training. Intending to train with hiking, calisthenics, and weightlifting for a little over a year, the Cooks planned their trip for February 2022.

Unfortunately, plans changed at the last minute and the trip was postponed until summer 2022. But on Father’s Day 2022, the father-daughter pair stood together on the top of Africa after completing the strenuous climb.

Toward Higher Ground

But the climb wasn’t easy.

“There were times where we would see the trail ahead and be a little intimidated or wonder how we were going to get there,” Jessica said.

In the end, it was worth it. After six-plus grueling days of uphill climbing, they reached Uhuru Peak and celebrated before heading back down the mountain.

Jessica Cook and her father, Matt, climbed to the top of Africa and learned a lot about following Jesus.

Jessica Cook and her father, Matt, climbed to the top of Africa and learned a lot about following Jesus.

“I kept looking ahead of me because I wanted to see where the summit was and get there because we realized that for the last two years, we’ve been committing ourselves to this goal,” Matt said. “And we were about to reach it. And I think the closer we got to it, the more excited we got. But there was some beautiful scenery on the way. And I just kept thinking about the verse [Philippians 3:13] where Paul says, ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead,’ and that word actually really meant a lot to me because I was straining.”

The entire journey took eight days—more than six days of steep climbing and acclimation to the elevation changes, and then a day and a half back down to the trailhead. Before Matt began the journey, he prayed that God would speak to him on the mountain and the Lord was faithful, teaching Matt about patience and following the Lord’s leading.

Throughout the entire expedition, Matt sensed God’s presence as the hymn “Higher Ground” came to mind.

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Jessica learned similar lessons. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t really know what God’s doing in my life. So, I would say it’s OK to be in the dark, you know, you just got to trust your guide, who would be Jesus, and walk in His steps, and you’ll make it to the top and see the sunrise,” Jessica said.

More than a Hike

Matt, who serves as a bi-vocational pastor, knew from the start of his preparation that he wanted to use the expedition to raise funds for Samaritan’s Purse.

Matt’s church, Center Point Baptist Church, is a yearly participant in Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing. His wife, Sharon, coordinates the church’s year-round efforts as the small church of 65 attendees regularly packs 200 shoebox gifts.

The Cooks said they love knowing that children are filled with joy as they receive shoebox gifts. Even more important, they are thrilled that the Gospel message is presented at each shoebox outreach event. Children and their parents all learn about the Greatest Gift—Jesus Christ.

Matt and his senior guide, Meckson, hiked Kilimanjaro. Meckson, a bivocational pastor himself, was quite familiar with Samaritan's Purse, including Operation Christmas Child.

Matt and his senior guide, Meckson, hiked Kilimanjaro together. Meckson, a bivocational pastor himself, was quite familiar with Samaritan’s Purse, including Operation Christmas Child.

Beyond Operation Christmas Child, the Cooks are also passionate about Samaritan’s Purse’s current work in Ukraine. Matt, a former flight engineer himself, is particularly enthusiastic about the doors opened for the Gospel through aviation.

Since the conflict in Ukraine and the surrounding region, we have completed 27 airlift missions to transport relief supplies, and we have distributed more than 21,160 metric tons of food within Ukraine in partnership with local churches and organizations.

“Because of our love for the ministries of Samaritan’s Purse, and specifically Operation Christmas Child, we wanted to do something that would benefit them,” Matt said.

Some friends supported the Cooks by donating per milestone markers along the trip. Others made a simple donation in honor of the Cooks’ climb. Even Matt’s company contributed funds and Matt was able to share with them about the critical relief efforts of Samaritan’s Purse.

For a Greater Purpose

Pushing their bodies to the limit over a 16,000-ft. climb to reach the top of Africa, the Cooks learned much about their relationship with Jesus Christ. They also got to support work that is important to them: helping people in need with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you’re interested in using your unique talents and interests to support what God is doing through the worldwide work of Samaritan’s Purse, visit our fundraising resource page.

Where Most Needed Your gift to "Where Most Needed" equips Samaritan's Purse with the resources—including personnel, materials, supporting services, buildings, and equipment—to fulfill our mission of relief and evangelism worldwide.

Where Most Needed 012000