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‘An Uphill Battle’

Seventy-Year-Old Turner Ashby Grad Shares Story Of Climbing Kilimanjaro

By CANDACE SIPOS

Climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the continent of Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world, is quite a feat in and of itself.

Making the seven-day trek at age 70, however, is another matter.

That’s exactly what Mark Logan did the first week of March, and he has the pictures to prove it. He has been blogging about the whole journey at blogging4peace. org.

He will discuss his trip at Blue Ridge Community College’s Fine Arts Center, Room 209, from noon- 1 p. m. April 22.

Who Is Mark Logan?

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Logan, an Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate who grew up in Bridgewater and lives just outside the town now, has always been a proponent of peace. In the 60s, he was one of the guitar players who strummed peace songs.

“ I’ve hated war all my life,” he said, sitting in the warm sun outside Greenberry’s, sporting a simple white short- sleeve shirt and a salt- and- pepper beard.

It’s warmer at this altitude, no doubt, and easier to breathe.

After a career dedicated to mission trips all over the world reached a hiatus and Logan returned to Rockingham County, he decided to not let himself get old. “You don’t grow old; you get old when you stop growing,” he likes to say.

Logan talked about his uncle, the Rev. M. R. Zigler, a central Valley Brethren minister, who moved to a retirement home in Florida. Soon, however, Zigler realized he was getting old and left the home, pastored a church and started advocacy group On Earth Peace.

Logan comes from a long line of influential people: Libby Custer, a 101- year- old Hinton resident who served as a nurse in WWII, is Logan’s aunt, and Charlie Wampler Jr. is his uncle, making that man’s namesake and father — a staple of the local poultry industry and first president of the Rockingham County Fair — Logan’s grandfather.

“ When I was 19, I thought I’d probably be a turkey farmer all my life,” Logan remembers now.

But his life simply did not turn out that way.

The 1962 Turner Ashby High School graduate married his French wife of 44 years, Chantal, in Spain, and the couple has a home in France. The Logan family — with three children, Rebecca, John Mark and Lawrence — speaks five languages between the bunch.

Logan has spent several years in Argentina, 13 years in Colombia and seven years in east Africa, including time spent in Djibouti, Somali, and Nairobi, Kenya.

“ I’ve probably lived more out of Virginia than in,” Logan quipped.

It was during those years in Africa that he got his first glimpse of Kilimanjaro; its peak, reaching almost 20,000 feet and shrouded in clouds, seems to touch the heavens.

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“ We were up somewhere high in Kenya and somebody pointed it out,” he remembers. “ I knew people [ climbed] it; it’s kind of a bucket list-type thing.”

But that was about as far as his knowledge of Kilimanjaro, or mountain climbing for that matter, went.

Did he conquer any mountains before his March trek?

“I climbed some rocks one time,” he said, smiling.

But, still, he had this nagging idea to hike to the tip of the summit in Tanzania, along with some friends and family, and pray for peace along the way.

“I invited everybody I could think of,” he said; he was able to get six people on board, including his daughter, Rebecca.

She hurt her leg shortly before the journey up Kilimanjaro was scheduled to start. She decided to stick it out, however, and on that Monday morning, the group started to climb and her pain seemed to miraculously go away.

That’s just one example Logan relays of the power of prayer.

Here’s another: While he and his family were at home in Colombia, preparing to go to church, Logan received a phone call that the Colombian mafia was going to kill 100 American missionaries that day.

“ We prayed,” he said quickly, adding that no one followed through with the threat. “A huge amount of people in the U.S. pray for missionaries.”

Before the group got to the base of Kilimanjaro, the members prayed that they’d have Christian guides for the trek.

The name of their head guide, they soon learned, was “God Listens.”

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The 60- mile journey was anything but easy — Logan was out of breath the whole time, and lightheaded. But the group prayed the entire way, while also raising more than $800 in donations for worldwide peace groups through Logan’s blog.

Although he acknowledges that you certainly don’t have to be on top of a mountain to pray, the experience of doing so is surreal.

“It’s quiet; you get away from the hustle and bustle,” he said.

Born into a Brethren family during WWII, Logan has always been interested in peace, and believes prayer is integral to achieving it.

“I was born in 1943; the world was at war,” he said, explaining that the Nazis were massacring people in what was then Poland that year.

“Two years later, they dropped atomic bombs in Japan, where my [grandkids] live,” he said. “They were killing civilians for the first time. It’s the war that invented the word ‘genocide.’ ” He has learned that people can’t be forced to make peace with one another, he said, and that it will only come when people have peace inside of themselves.

“Peace is not a given,” he said. “It seems to be a goal that everybody wants to achieve, but it doesn’t just happen. It’s a struggle. It’s an uphill battle.”

Contact Candace Sipos at 574 6275 or csipos@dnronline.com

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Copyright © 2014 Daily News-Record 04/18/2014

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