Mission: Kilimanjaro 2016
By Gary Fallesen
Climbing For Christ
- CLICK HERE to read the Mission: Kilimanjaro 2016 Trip Report: Feeding needs and hungering souls
Wednesday, Aug. 31
Damson, second from right, with the rest of our team and guides (left to right) Saidi, Jim, Yusuf, Gary and Joe on top of Barranco Wall (about 14,000 feet).
Our team was at the Mweka Huts on Kilimanjaro, the last of six camps during our seven-day trek, doing daily devotionals together. We were on our way down from the mountaintop. The lesson from a new study written by Climbing For Christ spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley, called “Walking Worthy,” focused on wisdom and being wise enough to use our time well for the Lord.
“May you and I walk in such a way that we will seize every moment for God’s eternal purposes,” Jordan wrote, “so that fruit will remain and perhaps even multiply long after we’re gone.”
As I read this aloud I had the revelation that the fruit was sitting across from me. Jim, Joe and I returned to our homes in the States today, but Damson Samson remained in Tanzania.
I am thankful for the short-term investments made by Jim and Joe, confident that their efforts will bear fruit in the future. That is because Damson, C4C’s missionary to East Africa, was encouraged and perhaps edified in some way by our team, and he is only beginning the multiplying that I am certain will continue long after this expedition is a distant memory.
Before leaving Tanzania Tuesday night, I cautioned Damson to walk humbly (especially after making a rare ascent for a Malawian of 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro) and guard himself against “the flaming darts of the evil one” that are sure to come (Ephesians 6:16). I ask the C4C family to pray for Damson and for the work he will be blessed by God to do among the guides and porters of Kilimanjaro.
I believe, by the grace of God, we are to see a wonderful harvest on and around Mount Kilimanjaro. Pray on!
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” – Colossians 4:5 (ESV)
Tuesday, Aug. 30
Damson and I met to plan the next several months of Mission: Kilimanjaro (as well as the work in Malawi). He will spend the next few days following up with many of our friends here and begin preparing them for the Kilimanjaro Chapter evangelism conference held annually in November.
We also discussed and began praying into a chicken project that will help our chapter guides and porters. Climbing For Christ seeks to serve the physical and spiritual needs of those living in the mountains. Guides and porters make their meager livelihood working on Kilimanjaro about half of the year. During rainy seasons they have little or no means of income.
Watch for updates on this project, which will address physical needs to prayerfully encourage an increase in spiritual growth.
“The porters and guides are like our seedlings,” Damson said. “They need watering and nurturing. When you transfer them from the nursery to the [mission] field and they grow up, they will be more vibrant.”
Jim, who celebrated his 57th birthday today, donated $200 toward the purchase of Swahili Bibles for chapter members. Damson purchased 25 Bibles with Jim’s gift.
As Jim, Joe and I begin our flights back to the States this evening, we are excited about the growth we will see here among those working on the mountain.
Monday, Aug. 29
We descended slick trails more than 4,000 vertical feet from Mweka Hut to the Mweka Gate and off the mountain. Our seven-day trek on Kilimanjaro was complete.
Our support team.
We met our support team later at the hotel in Moshi to say “asante sana” (thanks) at the traditional tipping ceremony (where we give each man a tip for their hard work). We told them none of us would have made it to the summit without their tireless effort: from Yusuf, Saidi and Hemed guiding to Riziki cooking and Rasheed waiting on us to all the porters who set up and break camps day in and day out. Over the years we have become like a semi-nomadic family, wandering the trails of Mount Kilimanjaro.
It is our prayer that one day we will all be brothers.
Damson invited the guides and porters to join Climbing For Christ’s Kilimanjaro Chapter. He gathered contact information and will reach out to them in the week he stays on in Tanzania after Jim, Joe and I have left. The work C4C is doing here extends far beyond the short-term teams sent to minister and encourage.
In the evening we kept another tradition, visiting Yusuf’s home for dinner to see his family and eat the food Tanzanians eat. We always are made to feel welcome here. We have developed relationships that have continued to grow deeper and deeper through the years.
Sunday, Aug. 28
Joe, Damson and Jim raise the banner high on top of Africa.
Jim, Joe and Damson reached the summit with Yusuf and Saidi at 7:15 a.m. It was a different journey for each man, although perseverance and mental fortitude were required for all. But probably the most unusual journey was for the African, who had never seen the tops of clouds before we began our ascent of Kilimanjaro six days ago.
“It was most wonderful,” Damson said, describing the glaciers at the top of the mountain. “I have never seen ice like that. It was so fantastic. I looked around and I thought I was not on this world. I saw the clouds and the ice and it was so beautiful; I thought it might be heaven.”
Damson will have many stories to tell after we come off the mountain on Monday. We began our descent this afternoon, dropping down from Barafu Huts to Mweka Huts at 10,200 feet. Damson, who is in his second year as Climbing For Christ’s missionary to East Africa, has seen something unique that many from this part of the continent will never see.
“An African would ask, ‘why climb this mountain?’” said Yusuf, our guide. “They don’t believe you come from America, pay to be punished, take a picture (on the summit) and go home. They think you have to be making money for this.”
But our team was standing in breathless (literally) awe of our God, who created this 19,340-foot mountain — and everything on and around it. We have prayed for those around us who do not have a relationship with our Creator and His Son, Jesus. We continue to share His love.
(Editor’s note: Gary turned back from the summit with Hemed above 16,000 feet after he experienced some breathing problems in the cold air.)
Saturday, Aug. 27
We climbed from Karanga Camp up to Barafu Huts, the high camp on this route at 15,360 feet. Barafu means “ice,” but not today. It is sunny and warm.
The temperature will be much different when we make an alpine start for the summit at 1 a.m. We are praying for a continuation of the beautiful weather that has blessed us the first five days on the mountain.
Yusuf is excited to go back to the summit. He has not climbed since March 2015. After 15 years of mountain guiding he has turned to being a safari guide. He only climbs now for a few friends.
One of our team asked if Tanzanians, other than those who work on Kilimanjaro, ever climb the peak. “No,” Yusuf said. “Life itself is an adventure. Someone has to walk two miles to get a bucket of water. Why pay for torture?”
Mostly only those from the First World have the luxury of suffering to reach the rooftop of Africa. We “suffer” for a different reason: focused on sharing the love of Jesus with our friends here and strangers alike.
Friday, Aug. 26
A mate from Australia who is on the same seven-day trekking schedule as our team, allowing us to meet him on the trail each of the first four days, heard Yusuf talking as we climbed. “Your guide likes to talk,” he commented.
“Talking is my Diamox,” Yusuf said, referring to the medicine that helps some climbers acclimatize.
We ascended out of Barranco Huts with hundreds of others into gridlock on the Barranco Wall. The Wall, which looms nearly 1,000 feet above camp, is the highpoint of day four. From there it’s a rolling traverse across the mountain to Karanga Camp at 13,255 feet. Home for the night.
We prayed for God to take this land after which Damson visited with Yusuf and Saidi, another guide and old friend, in their tent. He showed them videos from his church in Malawi and answered some questions. As an African, Damson can connect in ways we never could, which is why God called him to serve as our missionary to East Africa.
“And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.” — Ezekiel 2:7
Thursday, Aug. 25
It was a beautiful day on the trail as we ascended from New Shira Camp to the Lava Tower at 15,200 feet for lunch and acclimatization and then descended to Barranco Huts at 13,070 feet. We started to see casualties of altitude and offered encouragement and in one case headache medicine to those who were suffering.
Wednesday, Aug. 24
During a time of prayer I realized this was becoming just another mountain climb. What would be the point? We preach mission, not mountain. So I was convicted to have our team start doing some in-camp outreach today after we ascended from Machame Hut at 10,000 feet to New Shira Camp at 12,600 feet.
We prayed together and then went out two by two (Jim and Joe together and Damson with me) to walk around the sprawling camp and answer divine appointments. We met trekkers from England, Netherlands, France, Australia and the United States. There are more than 100 in this this camp, and several hundred more guides and porters supporting them. The task seemed daunting to Joe, who found himself reading about the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6. Joshua didn’t bring down the walls; God did. We can’t bring down spiritual walls opposing us; God will.
Just as Joe prayed tonight, we are to keep walking in obedience and speak, as the Israelites did, when the time is right. That is what we hope to do on Day 3 of the trek as we seek to share His love, especially with at least one of the 18 guides and porters supporting our team, who has begun asking questions about Christianity.
Tuesday, Aug. 23
I remembered making the slow, hard ascent up to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier 20 years ago today. It was my first mountain climb. I thought of the many mountains in so many places I’ve been blessed to visit since that day as we started our trek up to Machame Camp at 10,000 feet on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro was first put on my radar immediately after Rainier in 1996. I climbed it in February 1998. This is, in a way, the birth place of Climbing For Christ. While training to come here the first time God directed me to start C4C. But I couldn’t have imagined making seven treks on Kilimanjaro.
Jim is here for the third time, while Joe and Damson are making their first Kili treks. In fact, every day is a summit day for Damson, who had probably never been higher than the Machame Gate at about 6,000 feet before today. He joined our team in making the 4,000-vertical-foot climb to the first of six camps on the expansive mountain. He spent a good deal of time working on his Swahili, talking to Yusuf and some of the porters on the trail. He is becoming quite proficient in communicating with Tanzanians in his role at our missionary to East Africa.
We are reunited with many of the guides and porters who have been with us on previous missions to Kilimanjaro. Only God would have thought 20 years ago that that first climb would lead to this.
“I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.” — Psalm 121:1-2
Monday, Aug. 22
As we drove out of Moshi, a friend shouted at Yusuf: “Who are taking on safari?” Yusuf told him he wasn’t going on safari. “I am going to teach religion,” he shouted back, laughing.
With that we were off to day two of evangelism training with guides and porters who are part of the Kilimanjaro Chapter.
Pastor Joe, left, teaches with Yusuf translating.
Pastor Joe led off with a teaching on growing in the faith, translated by Yusuf. Joe started by inviting anyone who hadn’t accepted Jesus to come forward and receive Christ. Eight men chose to do so.
His lesson focused on how God grows us through tests: Problems, commands, money, and waiting (see Deut. 8:2).
Jim spoke about suffering, leading the men through Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Suffering is referred to 70 times in the New Testament, he explained, citing a few examples. He told the story of Mission: Denali 2007 and being caught in a storm high on the mountain, and how a team member remembered the disciples calling out to Jesus in a storm on a sea in Mark 6. Jesus is with us and He can calm the storms if we cry out to Him.
He also taught the men that they are loved by God. Our identity is found in the Lord. He pointed them to many verses speaking about our “sonship,” including Galatians 3:26 and Hebrews 12:7.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God...” — 1 John 3:1(a)
Damson, right, with one of the Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders.
Damson followed by talking about the “condition” to becoming a son of God. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, who gave the right to become children of God ”(John 1:12). We must receive Jesus.
He wanted to confirm that these men believed in Jesus. Because if we call ourselves Christians we must do as Christ did. We have to be like our Father, who showed us the true meaning of love.
The chapter members then held hands and formed a big circle. Joe, Jim, Pastor Mosha and I prayed over each of the 30 in attendance. Pastor Mosha has been a key player in the formation and growth of the chapter dating back to Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007. This was the first we had seen him this year because of his busy schedule as a leader of more than 80 Lutheran churches.
We then addressed the leaders of the chapter, thanking and encouraging them for the roles they play in God's work here.
Jim, near right, and Joe, far left, praying over those who attended evangelism training.
Sunday, Aug. 21
We opened our Kilimanjaro Chapter’s 2016 evangelism training with greetings, a song in Swahili, and introductions of the nearly three dozen participants, including our four-man team and friend Yusuf, who agreed to translate for us.
I began with a teaching on what it means to be a disciple, starting with how Jesus called the first disciples, who didn’t question the calling but “immediately” followed (Matthew 4:20). I talked about following the Lord and what it takes to grow as a disciple — being in the Word, prayer, worship, producing fruit, and loving each other. We discussed the cost and the challenges of discipleship, particularly for these guides and porters.
We know nothing can compare to being a disciple of Christ.
Jim spoke about the mountains of the Bible. “All throughout HIStory God has been working with His people on mountains. Mountains matter to God,” he said, pointing them to Abraham, Moses and Jesus. “Here’s the best part: God is still working on the mountains.”
Jim then told how he came to faith in Christ while climbing Mount Hood in Oregon. He encouraged them to allow God to use them as they worked on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Joe, who grew up a missionary kid and served in mountainous Bolivia before becoming a pastor in Missouri, taught about putting on the full armor of God. He asked what we wear on summit day on Kilimanjaro. “You have to be dressed properly,” Joe said before explaining how Christians need to put on the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes on our feet, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17). “We can be more than conquerors through Christ.”
We weaved prayer, song, food and fellowship into these lessons on the first of two days of training.
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” — 2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV)
Saturday, Aug. 20
The team came together at Kilimanjaro International Airport tonight after the three Americans landed following 15 hours of flying from the States to Europe to Africa. Damson was waiting for us with our old friend and guide Yusuf after we cleared customs and successfully collected our baggage. Always good to be back in Tanzania. We prayed together to give thanks for being sent here and lifted the work He has prepared for us to do.
Friday, Aug. 19
The team members from Colorado, Missouri and New York met up at Newark International this afternoon to travel overseas to where brother Damson is waiting for us. Damson reached Marangu today after several days of bus travel from his home in Malawi to Tanzania.
“Praise God for this wonderful favor,” Damson said about his safe travel. “A vote of thanks to all members who opened their mouth praying for this trip. Let’s keep on praying for those who are flying.”
We are expected to be together by Saturday night, Tanzania time. While Jim, Joe and I are flying, Damson will be making final arrangements for our Kilimanjaro Chapter evangelism training on Sunday and Monday.
“I just discovered something very important, that God is in need of men who can bring down heavens for other men.,” Damson said. “Praise God for every effort C4C is doing to bring the Gospel to people who couldn’t have heard.
“Thanks to all members who are committed to make sure all these are happening through their support. That’s very great. For it says, ‘I have come that you may have life, more abundantly.’ The example of Jesus bringing heaven to the whole world.”
May heaven come down during this trip as we share Jesus and encourage those who follow Him to share His love in their workplace: Mount Kilimanjaro.
The sun rising on Mount Kilimanjaro. (Photo by Shawn Dowd, Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007)
While our American teammates were still packing their bags at their respective homes, our missionary to East Africa was beginning his travels to Tanzania. Damson Samson was boarding the first of several buses that carry him for many days from southern Malawi to the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania.
“My prayer (for Mission: Kilimanjaro 2016) is to have a very productive trip in the sight of the LORD,” Damson said. “I am praying for a nice travel and protection from the powers of darkness.”
Damson began serving with Climbing For Christ on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2014. Two years later, he is making his ninth trip to Tanzania, where he has been discipling guides and porters in C4C’s Kilimanjaro Chapter.
Two days of evangelism training are again scheduled with our team (Jim Doenges of Littleton, CO; Joe Trussell of El Dorado Springs, MO; Damson and me) teaching lessons suggested by Damson.
“I am just looking forward to see His greatness toward our brothers in Tanzania,” Damson said. “I am looking at having them develop the spirit of working as into the Lord, not men.”
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
“I am expecting to see more of their spiritual growth and maturity during our visit,” Damson added, asking prayer warriors to lift him as he traveled 3-to-4 days to Moshi, Tanzania.
“I am also very excited to have an excellent time climbing Kilimanjaro for the first time in my life,” he said. “I thank heaven for such an opportunity.”
The American team members, who come together to fly overseas on Friday for the Aug. 19-31 Evangelic Expedition, also give thanks for this opportunity. It will be the first climb on Kilimanjaro for Pastor Joe, who was a Mission: Ararat 2013 participant, while Jim is making his third ascent. The former C4C staff member was with us on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 and 2008, when we first surveyed the work the LORD had for us in East Africa and then established the Kilimanjaro Chapter. This is my ninth trip to Tanzania and my seventh chance to climb spectacular Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet (5,895 meters).
to read “Living to tell the tale of Jesus” about my 20th anniversary of mountaineering.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10