By Gary Fallesen
Founding president, Climbing For Christ
- CLICK HERE to read Ace Concordia’s Trip Report, “Take five.”
Thursday, Jan. 21
Gary and Ace at an overlook on the trail to Tacadang.
Ace talks a lot about relationships and this trip centered on that topic. It was about reestablishing relationships strained by time and distance – both between Ace and me, C4C Philippines and Tacadang, and those He created but who have either been far from Him or did not yet know about Him in the mountains of Kibungan. At the end of the day, God is all about relationship. That’s why, at the end of this trip, I am happy to report: Mission accomplished!
Today is one of those travels days – crossing the International Date Line and multiple time zones – when 24 hours is stretched to 37. Sometimes it just takes time to get where you need to GO. The key is making the time.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12 (ESV)
Wednesday, Jan. 20
Mission: Philippines 2016 team photo: (left to right) Gutch, Arlene, Joel, Marvin, Asiel, Ace, Gary, and AA on a hill overlooking Tacadang Tuesday morning.
We returned to Manila in the early morning hours, having left Poblacion Tuesday night after trekking back from Tacadang – and following a dinner provided by brother Kolbel as a show of support for Climbing For Christ. A van ride and a bus ride put seven of the team members near their Metro Manila homes. Ace and I went to his house for some massage therapy (one of the perks of Mission: Philippines) and in the evening headed to one of the many local Starbucks for a C4C Philippines gathering. The special thing about this Starbucks: it’s where C4C Philippines began in October 2007.
From the C4C HIStorical archives: “On Oct. 19, 2007, the first meeting of Climbing For Christ Philippines was held at the Starbucks in Filinvest Festival Mall in Alabang Muntinlupa City. Seven people attended.”
Seven people attended tonight, too. They included four team members: Ace, AA, Arlene, and me. Mark Fer Castillo and AA’s husband Ernie and son Emmanuel joined the fellowship. We were blessed by the time together. It has been a blessing to share these past few days with my brothers and sisters in the Philippines. God enabled us to pack a great amount into a short time. This is good!
Tuesday, Jan. 19
Joel took the final steps leading up from the rice fields to the Jump Off point to complete the Tacadang trek. It was the end of a nearly nine-hour hike over Mount Tagpaya and down Mount Tabao, and a moment of “redemption” for Joel. It was a slow and sometimes painful walk, but it marked his successful comeback from a May 2013 rock climbing accident that broke in half the femur in his right leg.
“Thank You, Jesus,” he said as he made the final steps of this mission climb. “Thank You. Thank You.”
At the Jump Off, eight team members raised cups of orange soda and Ace made a toast. “To new beginnings for C4C Philippines,” he said. Everyone cheered.
“Welcome back, Sir Ace,” one member said.
During our time together Ace has agreed to carry on as coordinator of C4C Philippines, the chapter he started in 2008 and led through 2014 before taking last year off. In his absence the work of C4C Philippines stopped, which is why I came here and we carried out Mission: Philippines 2016. Ace and I will be working more closely together to raise up the next generation of leaders and carry on the work that was started during 18 Evangelic Expeditions from 2008-2014.
There is a church to build up in the mountains around the Philippines, churches to build, a Kankanaey Bible project to complete, and hundreds of Filipino members to get involved in the work God has given us. Work like the ministry this team carried out in Tacadang and among our members.
Joel was a symbol of the trip: something broken and redeemed. Welcome back, C4C Philippines. Thank You, Jesus!
Monday, Jan. 18
Early Monday morning in Tacadang.
Ace opened our day with a devotional based on Mark 11:12-14, where Jesus curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit. He spoke about our opportunities to bear fruit. Opportunities such as today. He encouraged the team, telling them we were only here for one day of ministry – “let's make it a special day.”
It was special in many ways:
We visited old friend Pastor Henry of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), where we first preached in 2008. Pastor Henry has been building a new church (adjoining the old) since 2010. He elicited the help of C4C Philippines in 2013. The church, home to about 15 families, remains unfinished. Ace prayed for Pastor Henry and will be praying about the opportunity to help with the completion of the building.
Next the team delivered medical supplies to nurses who operate the clinic and school supplies for the teachers in the elementary school. Because the nurses and teachers are new (the government rotates personnel every few years) Ace spent some time giving them the HIStory of Climbing For Christ in the Philippines. He told how God brought us to Tacadang, which was the original mission field for C4C Philippines because no others could or would come to this remote mountainous village.
Ace invited a couple of our mission veterans to speak. AA quoted one of our philosophies, saying: “It’s not about the peak, it’s about the people. We come here because we love you.”
Yes, Climbing For Christ is mission, not mountain; people, not peak; service, not summit.
Gutch, left, asks the schoolchildren who wants to know more about Jesus. He had just finished narrating the Zacchaeus drama, featuring Asiel, center, as Zacchaeus and Marvin as Jesus. The children then watched the Jesus film in Kankanaey.
Mountaineers don’t perform dramas about Zacchaeus, which our team did for the school. Gutch then explained the lesson to the more than 100 children. Mountaineers also don’t show the Jesus film in the local language (Kankanaey), which we also did.
But mountaineers who have been made missionaries do these things. That’s another facet of Climbing For Christ: teaching missionaries to climb and climbers how to evangelize. We have a solid C4C team in Tacadang.
After the film Ace talked about how Jesus loves everyone and how we are in danger if we are far from God. Jesus saves! He prayed for the children and, with heads and hearts bowed, he asked for a show of hands for those who wanted to know Jesus better. More than half the class raised their hands.
This was the planting of seeds for the next generation of Tacadang. We pray for hearts won and blessings upon them.
Sunday, Jan. 17
We made the long dayhike from the Tanap Jump Off beneath Poblacion to Tacadang under a hot sun, first climbing 2,100 vertical feet to go over Mount Tabao and then another 1,000 vertical feet to Mount Tagpaya before descending to Tacadang. The team took nine hours to reach Tacadang.
Kudos to brother Joel, who was making his first mission climb since severely breaking his leg in a rock climbing fall in 2013. It took months of therapy for Joel to walk again and this trek was a tribute to his determination. Saturday night he shared with the team how he once felt a strong mountaineer, but on the eve of this trek he was afraid.
Slow and steady: Joel making first 2,000-foot ascent of trek.
Joel went “slowly, slowly,” as he repeated to himself out loud numerous times, in the back of the pack with Ace, Gutch and me. Kolbel led the others up front. We were blessed to all arrive together before dark. We ate dinner with the three teachers who are allowing us to show the Jesus film in school on Monday – all part of the team’s ministry day. Everyone who has been here before was excited about returning to Tacadang.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10 (ESV)
Saturday, Jan. 16
Fly 27 hours and drive 12 hours in a 48-hour period and you can go from New York, USA to Poblacion Kibungan, Philippines. It’s as easy as that.
We arrived in Kibungan in the mountainous Benguet district of Luzon this morning. It was mostly a rest day to prepare for the trek to Tacadang on Sunday.
Climbing from right to left and around top and beyond to Tacadang.
Kolbel, who works for the government in Kibungan, joined us later in the day. He has been on most of the 18 missions with Ace. We also met Pastor Rasmin Comilles, who heads up one of the local churches.
After dinner we did devotionals, shared why God brought each of us here, and prayed. I talked about the Climbing For Christ prayer team, which is lifting this and all of C4C’s work, and shared the update I sent them last week called “This is good.” I then read to the team from the Charles Finney devo I’m studying called Spiritual Power. Today’s teaching was “The Believer’s Commission,” based on John 7:38.
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within them.” – John 7:38
Friday, Jan. 15
Landed in Manila this morning and hit the ground runing. Ace had to move up the transport time three hours for our overnight bus and van rides to Kibungan so we only had a few hours to pack, meet up with the team, and head for the hills of Luzon. We have an eight-person team GO-ing from Manila, including a few Mission: Philippines veterans (Ace, Gutch and AA). We’ll be reconnecting with old friend Kolbel in Kibungan for the trek to Tacadang.
It’s all systems GO!
Left to right: Gary, Asiel, Gutch, Ace, Arlene, AA, Marvin and Joel.
Wednesday, Jan. 13 - Thursday, Jan. 14
A scheduled 27 hours of air travel to a time zone 13 hours ahead. What day is it? As I’m traveling I think of the last visit to Manila. Three C4C Philippines members shared their stories at a gathering of 50 or more brothers and sisters in Christ. Two did not know me. They talked about the impact Climbing For Christ had had on their lives. I remembered being humbled to hear how God was using me to touch lives I’d never known about. Not just those who spoke, but those they’d spoken to as representatives of HIS ministry. Then, in my anonymity, I realized how blessed I was to be chosen by Him to do this. It’s ALL God...in everything we do.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30 (ESV)
I must confess I was a little embarrassed and deeply honored when brother Ace Concordia posted the “Return to Tacadang” poster (above) on Facebook. It made me think of World War II hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his famous “I shall return” promise to the Philippines. That’s out of my league.
But I’m excited to be GO-ing back to Tacadang. It is hard to believe it has been since 2010 that I have been in the Luzon mountains and that I have not visited the Philippines since 2012. To be honest, I was not needed there. Ace and the C4C Philippines crew were self-motivated and God-sufficient. They had it under control.
Last year, however, some things changed. Ace felt called to serve in a church-planting ministry in Manila and no one picked up where he had left off through 18 expeditions to Benguet. No short-term missions were carried out. Ace and I made plans for my return. (Read Ace’s “A new season
I GO seeking to encourage and inspire others to step up and step out, to prayerfully raise up new leadership among the many C4C Philippines members, and to see my old friend Ace and his family. I am praying for a successful return to Tacadang. May we fulfill God’s will for the mission in the Philippines, following Him where others are not GO-ing, and glorify His name in all that we do.
“Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” – Revelation 3:8