By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
2 And the LORD answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end – it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.”
– Habakkuk 2:2-3 (ESV)
“All God-ordained visions are shared visions,” Andy Stanley wrote in his book Visoneering
. “Nobody goes it alone. But God generally raises up a point person to paint a compelling verbal picture. A picture that captures the hearts and imaginations of those whom God is calling to embrace the task at hand.”
It is my job to paint this picture. I believe you – and others – have been (and will be) called by God to carry out the work He has blessed us with.
In Mission Drift
, required reading for Climbing For Christ staff and board members, authors Peter Greer and Chris Horst shared the Henry Crowell story. Crowell was the man behind Quaker Oats – a company he took from bankruptcy to a $250 million business. That alone would be a “success story” by worldly North American standards. But by higher standards he achieved even more. He helped close the red-light district in Chicago in the early 1900s and he started a Trust that still doles out millions of dollars to evangelic Christian ministries. As I read Crowell’s story I saw a bit of my own life – not in his achievements, but in his resolve.
A long bout with life-threatening tuberculosis in his youth forged his resolve. “The health battles strengthened his character,” the authors of Mission Drift
say. My lung disease (asthma) probably has done the same. Like Paul, who was given a thorn in the flesh and three times “pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me
,” I – as it says in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – should “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Like Paul, I was once a Saul. I was blind to Christ. I was a persecutor. But God opened my eyes and altered my eternal direction (from hell to salvation) as well as my earthly path (from journalist to missionary).
My story, in this instance, is not what’s important. What IS important is the story HE has written called Climbing For Christ.
CLICK HERE to watch the video “Where it all began.”
As we enter the second 10 years of the rest of His story for C4C, we cannot forget the past. We are going to focus on that while looking to the future – while staying the course that He has prepared for us.
The authors of Mission Drift
quote Marty Caldwell, the senior vice president for Young Life, when they write:
“The founder has a clear calling and vision. No one is more passionate about the cause. ‘The mission keeps founders awake at night, and it drives them during the day,’ Caldwell said. BUT the founder’s passion rarely translates to subsequent generations of leadership. Too often, the passions of the first generation become the preferences of the second generation and are irrelevant to the third generation.”
We know this is true based on the stumblings of God’s people. Let’s turn to the Book of Judges…
“And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:7 (ESV)
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.” – Judges 2:10-12 (ESV)
“Just one generation before, the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land,” Mission Drift
points out. “But how quickly they turned their backs on God.
“Within only one generation after incredible miracles, the people of Israel were functional atheists. They forgot the God who led them into the Promised Land.”
As I enter the next season of my walk and ministry I have been convicted that a stronger foundation needs to be put in place for Climbing For Christ to survive and outlive me – and all the rest of us. That’s why I spent 2½ months seeking the Lord and preparing this 2014 vision for C4C.
We must answer the questions: “Why does Climbing For Christ exist?” And “Where is Climbing For Christ called?”
And we must answer those questions again and again and again. The keeper of the flame that guides C4C through the darkness – currently me – has the unenviable (but blessed) responsibility of paying constant attention to the vision of HIS ministry.
, Andy Stanley uses the story of Nehemiah to illustrate what it means to live for a vision that God has entrusted you with. According to the ESV Global Study Bible, Nehemiah became an extraordinary leader through his:
- diligence in prayer (vs. 1:5-11, 2:4, 4:9 and 6:9);
- great faith in God (2:8, 20 and 4:14, 20);
- and skill in organizing and managing people (chapters 3 and 5).
The Old Testament Book of Nehemiah and Andy Stanley’s teaching has provided me with insight and encouragement. Toward the end of Andy’s study, he tells how Nehemiah “underestimated the significance of his presence” among the people in Jerusalem. He has been away and in his absence the people have fallen back into old (bad) habits. “He was a catalyst for sustained change,” Stanley writes. “With him out of the picture, the spiritual and social climate deteriorated.” I have seen this in our ministry. Mission Drift
says “cooling is inevitable unless leaders regularly infuse heat and energy into fueling and safeguarding their missions.” This is true with everyone from our Board of Directors to those co-laboring with us in the mission field.
I have asked our staff and board (both the main Board and C4C Canada’s Board) – as front-line participants in Climbing For Christ – to also remain diligent. I pray that you also have caught (or will catch) this vision and you will run with it all the days of your life.
QUESTION #1: WHY DOES C4C EXIST?
Go and deliver the Gospel in the mountains, where others cannot or will not.
While on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2014, my daughter Hayley shared with a British trekker living in Dubai this very succinct mission statement. He asked what Climbing For Christ was and she answered: “We GO where others cannot or will not.” This is what we do.
It is important to note: C4C emphasizes serving spiritual needs ahead of physical needs. We address physical needs to open doors to the spiritual and also because Jesus told us what we do for the least of these we do for Him. But we must never allow serving physical needs to supersede the spiritual. As we have seen, relief that addresses the secular side of life is “just that – relief; it does not and cannot address those issues that are most fundamental to the human condition.” It is a Band-Aid applied to a terminally ill body. But it might
be a stepping stone to eternal cure. “Throughout His life, Jesus did numerous other miracles to give glimpses of His kingdom,” the authors of Mission Drift
write. “In the Kingdom of Heaven, there won’t be any sickness. So Jesus healed the sick. In the Kingdom of Heaven, there won’t be any hunger. So Jesus fed the 5,000. In the Kingdom of Heaven, there won’t be any death. So Jesus raised Lazarus and a little girl from the dead. Christ regularly pointed to His divinity by acts that give a taste of what the Kingdom will be like. Yes, Jesus did good works – but there was a bigger reason behind them.”
“Leaders often first ask what, then move to how, and finally transition to why. That’s a natural progression,” it says in Mission Drift
. “But great innovators, according to Simon Sinek, a globally renowned consultant and author, start with why
. This leads to how
and, finally, what
. The ordering really matters. … Everything flows from why
. Not only does it motivate others to join you, it also guides what you do – and often more important – what you don’t
do. … ‘Crystal clear vision is the starting point for avoiding Mission Drift.”
Using this why-how-what formula, I want to identify C4C’s purpose for what we do and how and why we do it:
- WHY? The world needs Jesus and the people in the mountains of the world have no one to deliver Him to them except Climbing For Christ.
- HOW? By GO-ing where others cannot or will not.
- WHAT? Climb for Christ.
“If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there,” Greer and Horst write. This is the thinking of those who do not recognize the narrow door we must enter. We have been told by Muslim friends in the countries where we serve that many trails lead to the summit. But we know a GPS (or God Positioning System) is required.
Andy Stanley says: “Without vision, good things will hinder you from achieving the best things.” On his list of 20 “Building Blocks,” No. 15 is “Don’t get distracted.” In other words, good things will hinder you from the best things. There are needs everywhere in the world; Jesus told us the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11). We must discern which needs He is directing us to provide for. As it is written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What’s in a name? In Mission Drift
we are given many examples of those who stayed true to their calling, and those who did not. There’s the story of the YMCA, which was formed in the late 1800s as a missionary-recruiting organization. Today, it’s a health club. As the authors said: “In 2010, the YMCA had dropped everything but the ‘Y.’” On the other side, there’s InterVarsity, which acknowledged from the start “we have a LORD we have to obey. … Over 130 years later, Intervarsity stands ‘Mission True.’”
What is Mission True? “Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.”
Mission True leaders stand “unwaveringly upon the Truth of the Gospel. In all areas, they have demonstrated intentionality and clarity in retaining Christian distinctiveness. They are committed to Christ, first and foremost.”
Climbing For Christ is committed to being:
1. God glorifying
2. Christ centered
3. Spirit driven
When I helped start drama ministry at my home church, we said: “Everything we do is done with excellence. We perform for the ‘Audience of One.’” That is mission true of C4C as well. We will always attempt to do it with excellence for HIM.
Who gets the credit? “I planted the seed … but God has been making it grow,
” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV). We must submit that God does the work. Growth and any success we achieve should simply fill us with gratitude for what God is doing. God is “making it grow.” As Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing
Now back to our name. What’s in a name? In the case of Climbing For Christ it is a description of HIS ministry in a nutshell. We are CLIMBING For Christ. We are not Driving For Christ, or anything less than what He called us to be and do. “Climbing” is not a metaphor. It is not a euphemism. It is a function of what and who we are. In the future, we want to be mentioned alongside the InterVarsitys of the ministry world, not the YMCAs.
To ensure that this MISSION, PURPOSE and VISION continue without compromise, both the main Board and the C4C Canada Board have resolved to begin every Board Meeting by reading aloud a Proclamation of Climbing For Christ’s Resolution. That is:
THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF CLIMBING FOR CHRIST IS TO GO AND DELIVER THE GOSPEL IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE WORLD, WHERE OTHER MISSIONARIES CANNOT OR WILL NOT GO.
We want to keep this simple and easy to understand. The C4C way is NOT complicated. Theologians need not apply. While on Mission: Peru 2014, my daughter Hayley provided a posterized C4C moment. A village woman had asked us, “How do I pray?” This resulted in a tedious, overblown conversation. Finally, Hayley told the woman something in her language that was easily comprehended and cut to the essence of the woman’s need. Hayley said: “Talk to God like you talk to your best friend because Jesus is
your best friend.” Amen. Too often Christians try to make mission work more than it needs to be. This is evangelism, not rocket science. Be a beacon, share God’s love, and get over yourself. The goal is simple: Namely the glory of God and the salvation of men and women.
QUESTION #2: WHERE ARE WE CALLED?
In 2004, shortly after C4C was incorporated in the United States, I spent some time in prayer and research and wrote our original Mission: Vision
. Ten years later, we have reached a half-dozen of the nations originally listed.
Be mindful that Mission True organizations “change to reinforce their core mission.” They don’t grow stagnant; “instead they pursue change when it will help them become more true to their values and purpose.” Examples: We know we are called to Nepal, Peru, and Turkey – to name a few. But some are not as clear. Doing good things can hinder us from achieving the best things that He has intended for this ministry.
Through prayer we have identified His direction for us in the following countries:
- Ethiopia – 32 unreached people groups (20.5 of 97.4 million people are unreached). Country is 59.8% Christian. A possible future survey.
- Malawi – Only 4 unreached people groups (63,000 of 16.9 million people). Country is 74.1% Christian. We have carried out three missions to Malawi and provide ongoing support. See Project 1:27 below.
- Morocco – 27 of 31 people groups unreached (33.2 of 33.4 million people). Country is 99.6% Muslim (0.2% Christian). Expeditions: One to date (in 2013).
- Nigeria – 112 unreached people groups (59.7 of 177.9 million people are unreached; 33.7% of population unreached). Country is 50.4% Christian, mostly in the south. Islam largest religion in north. Expeditions: One to date (in 2011) with another planned for 2015. C4C supports ministry partner Pastor Chris Joseph.
- Other West Africa nations? Possibly Cameroon.
- Tanzania – 25 unreached people groups (9.2 of 50.8 million people are unreached). Country is 46.1% Christian. Expeditions: Seven in eight years, including July-August 2014 and an evangelism training conference in November 2014. We have established Damson Samson of Malawi as our missionary to the Kilimanjaro area.
- Uganda – 4 unreached people groups (433,000 of 39 million people are unreached). Country is 86.1% Christian. We have supported – through prayer and giving – the crusades by Pastor Rich Friday to reach people in Rwenzori mountains. Expeditions: Are we called here? Does this place match our vision criteria? A survey is planned for 2015.
- Bhutan – 29 of 36 people groups are unreached (648,000 of 761,000 people). Country is 64.9% Buddhist (1.4% Christian). Future survey.
- Nepal – 328 of 337 people groups are unreached (28.7 of 28.9 million people considered unreached by Joshua Project). Country is 82.2% Hindu (0.6% Christian). Expeditions: September 2014 was our eighth mission (the fifth in three years). Nepal has been a focal point for C4C in recent years, including ongoing support of Pastor Tej Rokka’s Kathmandu-based ministry (Savior Alone Reaches Asians), Project 1:27 orphan support (see below), and building of three churches (Dapcha, Rolpa and Kathmandu). In September 2014 we went with Nepali C4C member Megh Gurung to do outreach among the mostly unsaved Sherpa people in the Mount Makalu area. We’ll be returning in March 2015 to Humla (our fourth trip there since November 2012). We are raising funds for the construction of the first church in Humla. A possible orphanage team also may be sent in 2015.
- Pakistan – 435 of 447 people groups are unreached (184.6 of 188.7 million people are unreached). Country is 98.9% Muslim (0.7% Christian). Expeditions: Planning our first trek.
- China – 456 of 550 people groups are unreached (184.7 million of the 1.4 billion people are unreached). Expeditions: Six trips, but none since May 2011. Waiting for door to open to return.
- Indonesia – 227 of 779 people groups are unreached (153.8 of 254.1 million people are unreached). Country is 80% Muslim (12.9% Christian). Expeditions: Four to date. Planning 2015 mission. This field must be an annual expedition.
- Philippines – 33 unreached people groups (5 of 101.1 million people are unreached). Country is 90.2% Christian. Expeditions: There have been 18 very short-term missions into Kibungan in north since 2008. Currently main focus is on finishing translation, printing and delivering Bibles in Kankanaey language to this area.
- Turkey – 42 of 60 people groups are unreached (74.9 of 75.6 million people are unreached). Country is 96.4% Muslim (0.5% Christian). Expeditions: Completed our third mission in six years in June-July 2-14. Planning Mission: Ararat 2015 for June 2015. Goal continues to be outreach among Kurdish people in eastern Turkey.
- Other Central Asia nations? Uzbekistan, where 37 of 63 people groups are unreached (28.1 of 29.6 million people), is one. Country is 82.8% Muslim (2.1% Christian). We have an opportunity to send a worker to serve there full-time.
- Bolivia – 2 unreached people groups (only 2,800 of 11 million people are unreached). Country is 92.8% Christian! Expeditions: Possible future survey. Does this place match our vision criteria? Possible future survey.
- Peru – 9 unreached people groups (164,000 of 31.1 million people are unreached). Country is 94.6% Christian. Expeditions: Completed fourth mission in as many years in May. Ongoing support of missionary Jaime Servat. Next trip scheduled for July 2015.
- Canada – 47 unreached people groups (2.1 of 34.5 million people are unreached). Country is 72.3% Christian. C4C Canada established here in 2013; first Annual Meeting held Nov. 1, 2014.
- Haiti – Country is 94.8% Christian. We know that figure is inflated and many still practice voodoo. Expeditions: There have been 12 short-term missions here since 2005 and continuously supported/ongoing work since 2006. We estimate that more than $350,000 has been spent on Mission: Haiti, including funding to build three churches (along with one “temporary structure” and one unfinished project), and to carry out a monthly seminary, agricultural projects, education, water and sanitation efforts, medical assistance (including the rescue of at least four potentially terminal cases). However, the sharpened vision of C4C’s purpose (TO GO AND DELIVER THE GOSPEL IN THE MOUNTAINS OF THE WORLD, WHERE OTHER MISSIONARIES CANNOT OR WILL NOT GO) and God’s provision of medical clinics and missionaries near villages where we have ministered made it clear that a hard decision needed to be made. In September 2014 we began a 16-month exit strategy.
- United States – The home base for Climbing For Christ, where a majority of our membership, fundraising efforts, and sent workers are found. We hope to expand this base beyond the U.S. and Canada to Australia and the United Kingdom in the year(s) ahead.
- Established in 2010 to minister to orphans. This initiative began after a prayer flare was sent up by Pastor Duncan Nyozani, a C4C member in southern Malawi, after a thief stole $500 worth of food from Duncan’s orphanage in October 2009. God provided through C4C and a relationship developed. Project 1:27 was later expanded to Nepal. At this writing, 16 orphans in Malawi and 17 orphans in Nepal are fed, clothed and cared for through sponsor parents. But many orphans remain unsponsored.
In closing, I want us all to be mindful of the work God has begun in Climbing For Christ – first in me and then in His time in each of you.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10