By Gary Fallesen
Founding President, Climbing For Christ
Monday, Sept. 22
We returned safely to family and homes, marking an end to this particular Evangelic Expedition. The mission to and in Nepal goes on.
Sunday, Sept. 21
Time for Dave and me to fly. An evening flight out of Kathmandu to Doha, Qatar, and then overseas to Philadelphia and finally back to Rochester, NY, on Monday morning. About 23 hours of scheduled flying.
Before leaving, however, Megh and I began planning for Mission: Nepal 2015, which will occur in March and mark our return to Humla in the Far West. We identified villages we will revisit and those we will enter for the first time. We prayed thanks for all God accomplished through us on this Evangelic Expedition and lifted preparations for the next trip.
In the meantime, the mission goes on - through C4C members like Megh and Pastor Tej, in churches we have helped build and support, in Tej's orphanage, and in the church (the body of Christ) throughout Nepal. We have been blessed over the years to encourage countless believers, which is part of the reason why we GO to places like Nepal. We continue to pray for our brothers and sisters as they boldly expand God's kingdom and push back the darkness.
"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light..." - Ephesians 5:8 (ESV)
Saturday, Sept. 20
We were asked to preach at brother Megh's Milap Church, which is home to 237 worshipers. I introduced them to Climbing For Christ and then told how God had redirected our steps on this mission, stopping us in Tashigaon so we could share with a Sherpa farmer and then reversing our course so we could reach a Sherpa village in the opposite direction we'd been trekking. If not for the Spirit's leading, steadfast prayer and His Word, we also would not have been blessed to visit Dapcha on Friday and encouraged the Milap church today - as neither was part of the original manmade itinerary.
I talked about Paul, whose Christ-focused teachings have been the subject of our team's daily devotionals, and how much the great apostle endured in the name of Jesus. Many Nepali Christians have faced similar persecution and, like Paul, recognize they "can do all things through Christ who strengthens" them (Philippians 4:13). I encouraged them to continue to lean into that truth, and also to be bold in their witness.
I told them how Paul's statement "woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16) had answered my prayer about what to do in Tashigaon, and that the answers to their questions in times of hardship or confusion can be found in God's Word, the Bible.
We know "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) and that the church must continue to shine His light in a dark nation that is more than 98 percent NON-Christian.
After I prayed for the church, Dave felt the Spirit's nudging and added further encouragement for our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. He pointed them to Psalm 16:8, which says (in the NIV): "I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." Then he added, "So don't be shaken!"
Megh's church is located next door to a brick-making factory in Kathmandu, where workers come from all over Nepal for temporary jobs. This has proved fertile ground for evangelism. For instance, the church at Rolpa, in Nepal's distant Mid-West, was born out of new believers introduced to Christ here.
The Milap church in prayer. About 120 attended worship on Saturday. Megh started this church 13 years ago.
The next best thing after worship was being taught to make C4C's favorite mission food in the world: momos. Megh's son, Subash, and two friends from the Milap worship band showed us how to make from scratch these amazing pockets of dough stuffed with meat (chicken or red meat) and steamed. They are spicy hot and delicious. So good I am bringing a momo steamer back to the States.
"My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips." - Psalm 63:5 (ESV)
Friday, Sept. 19
We visited the church at Dapcha for the first time since the January 2012 Mission: Nepal, which Dave was also a part of. Due to outside influences - and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12) - the Dapcha church had split from Pastor Tej's SARA (Savior Alone Reaches Asians) ministry.
But after two years of prayer we have experienced reconciliation. Tej, Dave, Megh and I went to see Krishna Lama, the church's founding elder, and were blessed beyond measure by the visit.
Krishna and Pastor Tej outside the church at Dapcha.
Dapcha, located about a two-hour drive east of Kathmandu, was the first of three churches Climbing For Christ has built in Nepal. We are currently working on funding a fourth, a C4C church in the Far West district of Humla.
Two of the churches (Dapcha and Tej's home building in Kathmandu) were completed in partnership with SARA and one (in the Mid-West district of Rolpa) was built with Megh's Milap church. Ironically, Milap means "reconciliation."
The Dapcha church was 3 years old this week. We learned they have planted a second church a two-hour walk away. The church at Phalame Sangu started four months ago and has about 20 members, including six new believers who were baptized last month.
Tej is excited about the plant, saying, "Whatever the problem (at Dapcha was) at least the church bore a baby."
Such are the labor pains of doing ministry in a country where Christianity is barely more than 60 years old and where the opposition is great. This former Hindu kingdom, where Hinduism and Buddhism are the dominant religions, remains in a great spiritual darkness. But the Light is coming - steadily. The birth of the church in Nepal is producing great fruit as we have witnessed firsthand.
The church at Dapcha has about 70 members, including our dear sister Sumitra. I first met Sumitra on Mission: Nepal 2011, when we were helping to build the church. Her testimony, like many we have heard on this trip, is one of God's healing hand bringing her to the foot of the cross. (CLICK HERE to watch our Mission: Nepal 2011 video and hear Sumitra's story.)
Krishna oversees both the church at Dapcha and its plant in Phalame Sangu. He often runs - literally - between churches on Saturday (the Sabbath here) to deliver the message. We would like to help him with his preaching by buying him a used motorbike for US$1,000. We'd also like to help with SARA's support of this brother. (You can help us! Click on the DONATE button on the menu bar above and donate to C4C's Mission: Nepal work.)
We prayed with Krishna, who may go to Bible college in India when Gopal (another brother from the church at Dapcha) finishes his studies next year. C4C has supported Gopal financially during his three years at Bible college.
I also told Krishna that my heart was filled with joy to see him again, to see the Dapcha church building again, and to hear what God is doing through our reconciled body.
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:18 (ESV)
Thursday, Sept. 18
We flew back to Kathmandu from Tumlingtar; back to bad traffic and bad air (much of which is caused by the congested roads). Our first stop was for lunch at the historic Rum Doodle, destination of many climbing and trekking parties upon returning from the Himalayas.
Dave Stoessel, a two-time Mission: Nepal participant, signing in at the Rum Doodle.
We continued the tradition of signing the Climbing For Christ foot that hangs on the wall amidst thousands of other signed feet. Our cut-out has hung since our first Mission: Nepal team trekked to Everest Base Camp in 2008.
This is our eighth Evangelic Expedition to Nepal and teams have spread the Gospel in many dark corners of this Hindu and Buddhist country: from Everest and Makalu areas to Kathmandu and Dapcha, and from the Mid-West district of Rolpa to the Far West district of Humla.
The work, however, is still in its infancy (even after the construction of three churches and the leading of countless lost souls to the Lord). Pray for what needs to be done: on this mission, after we are gone next week, and on future trips to Nepal.
"And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'" - Luke 10:2 (ESV)
Wednesday, Sept. 17
After 11 days of hard air, ground and foot travel, we had a day of rest. We drove (only 1 1/2 hours) in a Jeep - decked out for a Hindu holiday commemorating one of their 330 million gods - east over the hills to a village called Chainpur. Megh took us to see Newar artisans making brass plates, bowls and pots by hand.
Chainpur is a mixture of people from many tribes, including some Sherpa. We learned there was at least one church there, though we met no believers - only Hindus staring at strangers in a place that probably rarely sees foreigners. God did not open any doors and we returned by Jeep to Tumlingtar.
Tuesday, Sept. 16
We gave Pastor Utar Rai the three Nepali-language Bibles that Megh, Dave and I had been carrying in our backpacks for divine appointments. Meeting Utar and finding his church in Num was divinely orchestrated and we know part of the reason for God sending us here was to encourage this small local church.
Pastor Utar's church at Num.
Pastor Utar, who started the church at the end of the road leading into the Mount Makalu region seven years ago, has been blessed with an incredible tentmaking job. He is the area's toilet inspector, which gives him access to every home. Talk about God opening doors!
Utar told us he will follow up with the Sherpa families we witnessed to on Monday. We will continue to pray for him and the ministry opportunities he has among the Sherpa and other tribes living near Makalu. Megh will be C4C's go-between to stay in touch with and encourage the Makalu work being done.
Our Jeep driver looks for a way out of the mud one of the two times we got stuck on the road from Num.
After giving Utar our Bibles we hit the mud road for a four-hour Jeep ride - much of it in 4-wheel-drive low because the week of rain we experienced turned the route into a quagmire. We came out of the mountains and onto a paved road to return to Tumlingtar. This is our first opportunity to have cell phone coverage and to email a few photos from the past week; we've been limited to reporting in via the satellite phone.
Sherpa houses around the entry way to the Mount Makalu region.
Monday, Sept. 15
Another day, another direction. We had planned to hike from Num down the Arun river valley to Amrang. But then we went to visit the pastor we met Sunday. Pastor Utar invited us to go up the mountain with him to Rani Dhunga, a Sherpa village where no Christians live. We agreed, and made the 1,200 vertical foot ascent - climbing 1 1/2 hours - in a hard rain.
As we entered Rani Dhunga, a village of 12-15 houses spread out on a hilltop at 6,500 feet, I asked God to open doors and open hearts. But the first half dozen houses we stopped at were padlocked shut. Megh asked, "What to do?" Keep going, keep knocking.
At the next house we found 15 or 20 Sherpa men, women and children. DV Sherpa, one of the older men, invited us into their group. A door had been opened.
We spent time with this large extended family, sharing about Jesus. Pastor Utar gave out several copies of the book of John. DV and three of his nephews trekked back to Num with us, ate with us, received four audio Bibles, and allowed us to pray for them with thanksgiving. We pray that the opening afforded us takes root and begins to produce fruit. As Megh said, "Your vision to reach the Sherpa may be fullfilled here."
"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your rightousness." - 2 Corinthians 9:10 (ESV)
Sunday, Sept. 14
We made the steep 2,600 foot descent into and 2,500 foot ascent out of the Arun Valley to return to Num. Many, including the man and woman running our guest house in Seduwa last night and our two porters for the past five days, were told about Jesus and prayed for but remain unwilling to accept Christ as Savior.
We found a small church in Num, where 35 Ria and Tamang people (but zero Sherpa) worship. The pastor was encouraged to be visited by foreign Christians. The only foreigners seen here are trekkers who say nothing about walking with Jesus.
The pastor said most locals put off the idea of following Christ. Chasing the almighty rupee and drinking seem to be the primary distractions to the salvation question. Darkness has a deathgrip over much of this area.
Saturday, Sept. 13
We made a four hour jungle trek through the leech infested forest above 7,000 feet to get from Tashigaon to Namba Guan. It had rained hard for 12 hours straight overnight. Megh said he’d never seen such hard or sustained rain. We were praying against mudslides. As a result of the rain the forest was alive and crawling, and the trail was muddy and slick.
When we reached Namba Guan, we found most of the village had gone to care for livestock in the field or to porter for a French Makalu climbing expedition arriving in Num.
We did meet and share audio Bibles with two village lamas. One of the men, Temba Sherpa, received a Tibetan Bible in Kathmandu. We encouraged him to read it and we pray that God’s word would take root in his family and home.
We then continued on hiking another two hours down to Seduwa as the sun came out for the first time. We continue to pray for more Son-shine in these Sherpa villages.
Friday, Sept. 12
The Spirit moved in us to stay in Tashigaon. Megh told us that this was the last village on the Makalu trekking route; that the stops ahead of us were only guest houses for trekkers. "NO people," he said. No people? Why would we go there?
I prayed for God's direction. The answer was found in the Scripture verse for our daily devotional (prepared by Climbing For Christ's spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley): "...Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel." 1 Corinthians 9:16.
Woe is me indeed. I was reminded again of C4C's mandate: mission, not mountains; people, not peaks. We did not come here as tourist trekkers for pretty views of the Himalyas. We came to deliver the Good News of Jesus Christ.
By not going higher, it means staying in the forest with the leeches. That points us to another verse from our devotional booklet, Romans 8:18: "For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." In other words, what is a little blood shed to leeches in comparison to the blood Christ poured out on the cross? Instead of going up we headed back down the trail to a farmhouse outside the village. The man there had invited us in out of the rain on Thursday. We went to visit - again in the rain - and shared the Gospel with Psunurbu Sherpa, his wife Pasang Buti and three of their five children. They had never heard about Jesus. Woe is us if we failed to proclaim the Gospel to this family. Megh left them with an audio Bible. "This is seed," he said after we prayed with the family.
Then we visited the school and gave two of the teachers audio Bibles. One of the teachers is the brother of Pasang Buti and he will go with us to the next Shirpa village - Namba Guan - which is off the trekkers' trail. We had decided to head that way on Saturday; now we have a connection to the village. God is opening doors and we are walking in His way.
Thursday, Sept. 11
We hiked from Seduwa, the entry point of Makalu Barun National Park, up to Tashigaon. The weather conditions were similar as the previous day: torrential overnight rain followed by steamy daytime humidity. But as we made a gradual-but-constant ascent of roughly 1,900 vertical feet conditions changed: rain was followed by the onslaught of leeches. We had a minor blood letting on our way to Tashigaon (at about 7,200 feet). We also had a divine appointment, meeting a Sherpa woman with her 10-year-old son and a two-month old baby. She led us to the guest house she operates in Tashigaon.
"Money is the god to the Sherpa," brother Megh said after talking with the woman and our two Sherpa porters.
The woman, it turned out, had chased us down to be her customers. We are praying she gets more than she bargained for.
Wednesday, Sept. 10
Num is the end of the road for vehicles; it's all foot traffic from there on out. We hiked from Num to Seduwa, which on paper is only about 100 feet higher. Except in between the two villages is a river valley. We made a steep 2,500 vertical descent out of Num, crossed the Arun Nadi (river) on a suspension bridge and then ascended more than 2,600 feet to Sedua. What made the hike a little more challenging was eight hours of heavy rain overnight, which turned the trail to mud and running water. But we were blessed with good hiking weather.
After arriving in Sedua we visited a Christian woman and her husband, who follows a folk religion despite have many family and friends who believe in Jesus. There are two churches in a nearby village. But from this point, we are told, there are none and no Jesus - yet.
Tuesday, Sept. 9
We made the 27-mile drive from Tumlingtar to Num in about 5 1/2 hours in a 4-wheel drive vehicle along muddy (for a lack of a better word) roads. We did stop in one village on the way to meet a Christian brother and in another village for tea. Otherwise we bounced slowly along switchbacks also used by people on foot, monkeys, chickens, dogs and yaks. Recent rains have made travel in some parts of Nepal more difficult. We are praying for a break in the bad weather in the Makalu area so we may deliver the Good News.
Monday, Sept. 8
We were back in airports and in the air today, flying from Kathmandu east to Tumlingtar. We took the standard mode of transportation to the far reaches of Nepal: an 18-seat Twin Otter DHC-6/300.
Tumlingtar is the entry point for treks to Makalu. In years past, groups would set out on foot from here, taking at least three days to hike to Num. We will drive there by Jeep on Tuesday, and then start hiking Wednesday.
We know God has sent this team - Megh, Dave and me - for this time to be in this place. We know that losing a bag Sunday night when we arrived was just a momentary distraction and a reminder to us Who is in control and Who we need to lean into and call upon. The Lord God Almighty is His name.
Megh talked about how others go to the Everest area to deliver the Good News of Jesus. But He has sent Climbing For Christ to use our beautiful feet to proclaim His name among the Sherpa in the Makalu area. We humbly give Him thanks for calling us and I am thankful that Megh and Dave joined me in saying, "Here am I! Send me."
Sunday, Sept. 7
Dave and I arrived in Kathmandu late this afternoon. We were welcomed back to Nepal by mission teammate Megh Gurung and Pastor Tej Rokka of ministry partner SARA (Savior Alone Reaches Asians). Blurry-eyed from 23 hours of flying we did not notice that one of the three duffels a baggage handler tossed on our cart looked like but was not our bag. Dave discovered it when we were at Megh's house, where we are staying the night. We had to return to the airport, return the bag and retrieve our duffel - no easy task in a place like Nepal. But the process went smoother than we anticipated and we have all our baggage. We'll be back at the airport first thing Monday morning for a domestic flight to Tumlingtar. We hope to be less sleep deprived by then.
Saturday, Sept. 6
Dave Stoessel and I are en route to Nepal, flying today and Sunday from Rochester, NY to Philadelphia, PA to Doha, Qatar to Kathmandu. Dave and I were together on the first of two missions to Nepal in 2012. He didn't know then if he would be back, but God stirred in his heart a desire to GO and be part of the planting of seeds and growing of God's kingdom among the beautiful Nepali people he (and He) loves. It's no coincidence that Dave is an arborist by trade; so he knows about the business of planting. He's also a believer who knows we are called to share Jesus with the world, and he has told God he is willing. So here we GO!
On June 11, 2013, the Joshua Project’s “Unreached People Group of the Day” was the Sherpa. I read about unreached people nearly every day. There are 4,080 worldwide – or nearly 42 percent of the world’s population. As I read that day’s email I felt the Spirit again moving me/us. I immediately sent a staff update, which read in part: “Climbing For Christ is supposed to GO where others cannot or will not, which generally means the mountains (we are called CLIMBING For Christ after all). And God has put on my heart to focus on the unreached in unreached places. Makes sense. And today this unreached people group comes to me and it’s in a country where we are working and they are mountain people and … WE AREN’T DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Obviously, the Sherpa aren’t where others will not GO since climbers from around the world spend time with them every year. But aside from our 2008 team that trekked to Everest Base Camp, we have NOT spent any time or energy trying to reach these unreached people. Pray about this. Ask for God to give me the vision to reach these unreached. We have the resources to do so, especially with Megh [Gurung, a C4C Nepal member and guide]. Let’s see where the Spirit leads.”
Within days planning began for a trek in the Makalu area in Nepal’s East, not far from the more celebrated Mount Everest. We already were scheduled to return to Nepal’s Far West in 2013 and on the first of two Evangelic Expeditions in 2014. (We’ve been ministering in the Far West since November 2012 and will continue to do so in March 2015.)
Members of the Mission: Nepal 2008 team pray for a disabled Sherpa.
Now, we will attempt to do outreach among the Sherpa. There are about 184,000 Bhotia Sherpa in eastern Nepal. They are 94.5 percent Buddhist. Less than 1 percent (about 1,800 Sherpa) are considered Christian. We hope to meet and encourage some of these brothers and sisters in Christ while answering divine appointments among those who do not know Jesus Christ.
Megh Gurung (left to right), Gary Fallesen, Pastor Tej Rokka and Dave Stoessel on Mission: Nepal 2012. (Photo by Brandy Everts)
This is Climbing For Christ’s eighth Evangelic Expedition to Nepal and our 75th mission overall. I am GO-ing to Nepal for the sixth time in less than four years, and I am blessed to be leading my 40th C4C expedition. Dave Stoessel, a husband and father of two girls from my home church in Rochester, NY, USA, is making his second mission trip with C4C. He was a part of Mission: Nepal 2012 (January-February). We will again trek with our Nepali brother Megh Gurung, who is serving on his fifth C4C mission.
“…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9b (ESV)
Map from the Joshua Project showing location of Sherpa people in Nepal's Himalaya mountains.
CLICK HERE for the Mission: Nepal 2014 (Makalu) prayer sheet.