Johann Peiris, together with his partner Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, have become household names for being the first Sri Lankans to climb Mount Everest. Getting the opportunity to sit with him one on one was a huge honour, his presence was calming and he was such a gracious and inspirational person.
Johann has not held back on any details of his journey, being open and honest about how this was more than just a physical challenge, but a spiritual one too. Johann attributes his and Jayanthi’s success all to God, and says that without Him, none of this would be possible.
Attempting to climb Everest, the tallest peak in the world is no small feat, and coming from the world of hairdressing, it seems like an unlikely task to undertake. “Hair dressing and mountain climbing are two opposite ends of the spectrum, and there is the notion of hairdressers not wanting to get their fingers dirty or do anything out of the box!” he laughs, “But mountain climbing was instilled in me at an early age by my father, he used to taking me climbing when I was in school and from there on I developed a passion for it.” This was where the seed was planted, and Johann broke all stereotypes and pursued both his passions.
In terms of faith, that too was something that was always there. He grew up Catholic, and from his school days through his adult years, he had a close relationship with God. “On my way to work every morning I would drop in to church, pray for a little while, so I have always had faith in me.” He says.
He confesses that Everest was never a childhood dream for him, because it seemed impossible. “Being Sri Lankan, there was no one before us who had attempted it, and especially because we’re an island at sea level and we don’t have high altitude mountains, so it made it that much harder for us to do this.” He explains.
Johann’s perspective changed on a visit to Everest’s base camp in 2010, and he saw her for the first time. He was struck by the idea that people could climb it because it seemed almost impossible, this lead him to research on Everest and the people who have climbed her. Then, in 2012 he went back to climb another mountain, called Island Peak, together with his partner Jayanthi. They came across her again, and they looked at each other and asked the simple question, “Do you think we can do this?” and that’s how the Everest dream was born.
From that time on, Johann and Jayanthi started preparations for their climb. For four years they worked at making this dream a reality. “There was a lot of work that went into it.” He says, “There’s a very scientific side to doing a climb like this, for example, we had to do a lot of research on how our bodies would react, what equipment we needed so we did climatisation climbs to prepare. We also spoke to people who had done the climb before to get their advice. So all in all it was a very interesting process.”
Faith was always the deciding factor for Johann, as he explains, “There’s a 50/50 chance when you climb Everest. You are at the hand of nature and people believe that there some elements that are beyond your control. But a when I heard the message of life being preached at my church, WOW, headed by Pastor Kirby and Fiona De Lanerolle, I decided that I was going to do the climb. I realised that I have ‘life’ within me, and nothing can stop me. If I believe it, believe that I can do this, then it has to happen. From that time onwards I knew that He would be by my side.”
Johann’s faith was put to the test before he had even begun the climb. “There were moments even before we went where we thought that we wouldn’t be able to go.” He explains, “We almost cancelled the trip because by our deadline was December 2014 and by February the funding had not come and we were leaving at the end of March! But when I spoke to my pastor, Kirby he said that God showed you that this is definitely something that you need to do, He’s not going not to provide you with all the facilities you need if he showed it to you. He said this is where your faith really comes into play; will you stand on the word and wait? Or give up? I remember sharing this with Jay immediately and I said that I have the faith to believe that we will get the funding and that Kirby gave me a word saying that the funding would come in the last 10 days before we left. That was really tough for us. When I told Jay she said ‘No way, I can’t do this! You go, I’ll stay.’ I remember telling her ‘You stand on my faith. Stand behind me. That’s all I’m asking you to do. ‘Faith as small as a mustard seed’, that’s all you need.”
With that Johann took a loan from the bank, and he said once he did that there was a huge breakthrough. “It literally happened overnight, as soon as I took the loan, the next day people started calling us and everything started pouring in. And just like Kirby prophesied, within that last week, everything fell into place. Every cent accounted for. That was when I knew that God was going to go with me on this journey and He was going to be right with me and we would get back safe.”
Johann’s faith was put to the test again many times on the mountain, especially through the countless life threatening moments he experienced. From avalanches to seeing death happen right in front of his eyes, Johann stood firm, “I knew that these were just tests and nothing was going to harm me.”
He admits that his human side got to him at some points, “There were many instances where I was frightened, depressed, but I was able to overcome those feelings because of the strength of the Spirit in me. Without that, I know those feelings would have got the better of me. When things got really difficult I always managed to keep going. Jayanthi asked me how I managed to push on and I just said it was the word. I would mediate on it and I drew strength from it. To me this climb was a real spiritual journey.”
On some of the words and verses he mediated on he said 1 John 4:4 “ You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” And Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
The more he meditated on these verses and words, the more they manifested within him, and as a result he was able to build up his strength and go on.
One of the greatest revelations Johann had on the mountain was that your expectations of how things are going to turn out are not always in line with God’s plan for you. “I had visions and words that God was going to take me up the mountain and I expected to have a one on one encounter and what happened was completely different and negative!”
Pages: 1 2