By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Saturday, Dec. 8
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” – John 15:4 (ESV)
We were abiding in the LORD on this, Climbing For Christ’s 100th Evangelic Expedition. We felt in lock-step with God as the Holy Spirit led us through a “Spirit Walk,” a climb of Kilimanjaro, and a Kilimanjaro Chapter training of disciples making disciples. There was not even a hint of a stumble; no stubbing our toes. God was with us, and we were with Him, ever fruitful.
I have such a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude as we wrap up Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018 and all prepare to return to our respective earthly homes. Most of us are on evening flights out of Tanzania.
At dinner Friday night, our friend Yusuf asked each of us for our highlight of the trip. To a man it was about the people we met, fellowshipped with, served and were served by. When we arrived the discussion was about the peak, about Mount Kilimanjaro, about the summit. But as the days unfolded it became about the people, about the mission, about the service – just as God intended. I was proud of my guys as I listened to them speak. They had lived out Ephesians 2:10. Well done, good and faithful servants!
It has been two very busy weeks and time has flown past. Yusuf always gets a little sad when he must say goodbye. Likewise, the conclusion of this short-term mission is bittersweet. This moment in time was once in a lifetime for this team, but the moments shared will be remembered for the rest of their lives. We praise and thank God for all He has done.
Friday, Dec. 7
Kilimanjaro Chapter graduates: 28 guides and porters received diplomas certifying their completion of a year-long study on disciples making disciples. They are photographed with our team, including Climbing For Christ’s missionary to East Africa, Damson Samson (far left). (Photo by Pastor Winford Mosha)
Jesse told the 28 guides and porters who would graduate at the end of Day 3 of our Kilimanjaro Chapter training: “You are writing HIStory right now.” He was teaching them about Church History from Chapter 9 of our disciple-making book from The Timothy Initiative.
“What happened in the past affects us now,” said Jesse, a pastor from Wisconsin, USA. “What we do now affects the future. Stand strong for Jesus.”
Jesse took the group through a “Joshua stones” exercise, distributing a stone to every person to place on a large rock at the front of our classroom in Himo “as a remembrance of what God has done for you.” He then prayed for the group.
Jesse, above right, prays over the ‘Joshua stones’ left by the men, while Kilimanjaro Chapter co-leader Dauson Chonjo translates. The exercise was based on Joshua 3:9-4:9. Below, Adam (right) and Frode do dramatic readings about the martyrs Polycarp and Justin, respectively. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
In sharing about some great Christians who had been martyred, Jesse asked if any of the men in the Kilimanjaro Chapter had faced persecution. One, a Muslim background believer, told how former friends tried to kill him after he converted. “But God protected me,” he said.
We continued in the final chapter of the book with a lesson on spiritual warfare. This was the conclusion of the study, and I told how the victory has been won through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the battle rages on. We must equip ourselves for this fight. The best weapons: the Word of God and the power of prayer.
We turned to Ephesians 6:12-18 and spoke about putting on the whole armor of God to face the father of lies and his hell-bound demons.
Gary speaking about being victorious in the spiritual war. (Photo by Jordan Rowley)
Many times throughout the day, our students made presentations showing how they have learned to interpret Scripture, so they can share with others. This continued during the graduation ceremony that followed.
Nine of the 28 men had their wives in attendance as we shared one last time and awarded them certificates. “You make disciples by GO-ing, by reaching out to those without Jesus Christ,” I read from the text of our TTI book.
John Mullen, one of our translators, encouraged his fellow graduates by saying, “Let’s go share with them (clients who come to Tanzania to trek)!” Dauson Chonjo, a Kilimanjaro Chapter co-leader, in thanking Climbing For Christ, added: “We have knowledge and wisdom. Now we need to stand up and keep beating the devil and praising the LORD.”
While this study was one year in length for the students, it was many years in the making for Climbing For Christ. The graduation of 28 disciple-making disciples began on the inaugural Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 when we first met Pastor Winford Mosha and shared a vision to reach guides and porters working on the mountain. It continued in 2008 when the Kilimanjaro Chapter formed and once-a-year evangelism training was offered. It accelerated in 2014 when Damson Samson of neighboring Malawi accepted the call to serve as Climbing For Christ’s missionary to East Africa and began visiting the Kilimanjaro area four-to-five times a year.
I was blessed to address this group after seeing all that has happened here through the years. I was honored to share this God moment with an excellent team and a cloud of witnesses, including the late Jim Doenges, a former staff member who was with me when Mission: Kilimanjaro began.
“In heaven, we will be together for the parade of nations at His throne,” I told the graduates before pausing to speak about Jim, the role he played and how he was originally on this team. “I think I can speak for Jim when I say, ‘We look forward to being there in heaven with you to celebrate His name, His activity, and His power.’
“We will smile and rejoice in the Spirit when we see so many that will come into His kingdom because of you.”
Thursday, Dec. 6
Day 2 of our three-day Kilimanjaro Chapter training began in worship and prayer. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We spent a good part of the day discussing world religions with the guides and porters in the Kilimanjaro Chapter. I told them when we began: “We are learning with you; students just like you. That’s what a disciple is – a student of Jesus who is always learning.”
The bulk of Chapter 8 in our disciples-making-disciples book focuses on “Understanding Worldviews and Cultures.” We explained that it is important to understand where the other person is coming from before sharing our faith. We can’t argue anyone into believing in Jesus, but must show them the love of the One, True God.
Our team then unpacked Islam, Hinduism, the Prosperity Gospel, Hare Krishna, Buddhism, animism, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Oneness Theology, Baha’i, Sikhism, the New Age Movement (Yoga), and Christian Science. Many of these had never been heard of by our chapter members, and some were new to our team members as well. We were learning together.
The bottom line remains: Truth vs. false religions (deceptions or lies). Share Who Jesus is and what He has done. “He who has hears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).
When we addressed animism – or folk religions – we asked if the guides and porters had seen any practices in their villages. Most nodded yes. We were told of several examples. In one village, when something bad like flooding occurs and the people want to stop the rain, old men tie a cow or goat to a big tree and run around it seven times, naked, with only a knife to sacrifice the animal. Each of the five examples we heard involved slaughtering an animal.
We told them that their witness to an animist should focus on the sacrifice Jesus made once and for all for all mankind, offering us eternal salvation and hope. “‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).
After several hours of teaching on world religions and cults, I asked everyone to think of at least one person they know who follows another religion. We wrote down their names and then prayed collectively for those family members and friends.
When the second of the three days of training was complete our team went with chapter co-leader Dauson Chonjo to check on the chapter’s chicken project. In November 2016, our own Damson Samson delivered 225 chickens to 25 members of the Kilimanjaro Chapter. In December 2017, 10 of those members handed down chickens to the second generation of recipients.
Jon and Dauson discuss feeding and caring for chickens at Dauson’s home in Marangu. Jon, from Montana, works in the livestock feeding business.
We stopped at the home of Ashery Tibu, who expressed thanks for the project through which he was able to sell 10 chickens to buy bus fare to go to his grandmother’s funeral far from Kilimanjaro. Without the chickens he would not have been able to attend the funeral.
Dauson also gave thanks for the blessing of the chicken project. He said it has been a great thing for the guides and porters. As a sign of gratitude, he asked us to pick out a chicken for our lunch on Friday. He said, “Pick the best because God tells us to always give our best first.” We were honored by this gesture by Dauson, who already has served us well as one of our two translators during the training sessions.
Wednesday, Dec. 5
Damson, right, sings about Jesus coming around the corner (“Are you ready?”) while chapter members dance during a time of praise and worship. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
Jordan was teaching three-dozen members of the Kilimanjaro Chapter about Bible doctrine, when he paused and said: “We need to know the truth so we know what is false.”
It was day one of a three-day evangelism training that will conclude our year-long study in disciples making disciples. Several of the guides and porters we have been meeting with quarterly since Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017 last December will be graduating from this introductory level study based on a book by The Timothy Initiative (TTI).
Jordan took them through Chapter 7 in their TTI book, “Important Bible Doctrines,” on a very warm day in Himo (a town located between Moshi and Marangu, one of the Kilimanjaro gateways). He emphasized how studying God “will cause you to know God better, trust Him more fully, and proclaim Him more boldly.”
That’s the goal of Kilimanjaro Chapter training. Since we first came here on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 and formed the chapter in 2008, we have sought to prepare guides and porters for evangelism on and off the mountain.
Now, on our 11th Mission: Kilimanjaro and 100th overall Evangelic Expedition, we have grown more and more intentional in our training. These three days of worship, prayer, and teaching will lead to more kingdom building for God’s glory. Thirty-to-50 men have been learning what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.
“Since 2007, I have seen a difference in the porters, little by little,” said Pastor Winford Mosha, with whom we connected and shared a vision on that first mission trip to Tanzania.
Chapter members in the Word during the first of three days of study.
After lunch, which Climbing For Christ provides (along with breakfast and transportation) during training sessions, Damson started teaching Chapter 8: “How to Defend Your Faith.” The team will again work together on Thursday to finish this interesting chapter.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21 (NKJV)
Tuesday, Dec. 4
We came off the mountain this morning, completing a seven-day trek with a 5 ½ -mile hike down another 4,600 vertical feet through the rain forest. We exited at the Mweka Gate and returned to our hotel for long-awaited showers.
The team with our guys: 15 porters, a cook (“stomach engineer” Riziki) and assistant cook, waiter, camp manager, toilet “doctor” (who cares for the portable toilet), three guides, and Yusuf (seated to the right of Gary in the front row).
The traditional “tipping ceremony” was held next to our hotel’s pool. We thanked all of the men (with us in the photo above) for their hard and joy-filled work. “Your strength made us stronger,” Adam told them. Each man received a tip for work well done. This support goes with their salary for laboring on the mountain. Yusuf thanked us for giving them work to support their families in a country where unemployment is 60 percent.
Yusuf and Tom took us for lunch and coffee in Moshi. Later was dinner at Yusuf’s house, another special tradition for our mission teams.
All of this leads to the third phase of this trip: Kilimanjaro Chapter training. The next three days will be spent with guides and porters who are members of Climbing For Christ and who have been going through a year-long instruction in disciples making disciples.
Monday, Dec. 3 (8 p.m. Kilimanjaro time)
We descended back to the rain forest, hiking nearly five miles down more than 5,000 vertical feet. After blessed good weather for the summit team, we found ourselves in rain and sleet as we down-climbed. It is the end of a very long Day 6 for those who went to the summit: about 11 miles with an elevation change of more than 13,000 feet. But everyone is well and praising the Lord as we spend our final night on the mountain at muddy Mweka Camp (10,170 feet/3,100 meters).
Monday, Dec. 3 (10:05 a.m. Kilimanjaro time)
Our team on the rooftop of Africa: (left to right) Jon, Jordan, Jesse, Frode and Adam. (Photo by guide Mohamed)
The team reached the 19,341-foot summit at 6:30 a.m. and all five returned safely to High Camp by mid-morning, ending a grueling and successful 10-to-11-hour push. “Epic” was one word used. “Long” was another as they went pole-pole (slowly slowly) to the extreme. All five were fatigued, some more than others. “Altitude does not like me,” Jon said after returning to Barafu.
“It was not the highlight of the trip for me,” Frode said.
But it is a memory they will have for the rest of their lives. Jordan said the sunrise from the highest point on the continent was “so rich in colors.” God’s majestic creation unfolding before them. Jordan also said prayers were felt by the team, especially during some of the difficult moments.
Yusuf, who along with Tom, Hemedi and Mohamed led the men up and down, said God was with them. It was not as cold or as windy as we have often seen.
After a couple hours rest and lunch, we begin our descent off the mountain.
Sunday, Dec. 2
The view this morning as we left Karanga Camp. (Cross by Jordan; photo by Gary)
A short day on the trail (barely 2.5 miles, ascending 2,200 vertical feet) because it is a very short night in High Camp. The team will rise after only a few hours of restless sleep at 15,331 feet (4,673 meters) to make a summit bid. All of the team members are feeling good as Day 5 on Kilimanjaro winds down. Day 6 began at 11 p.m. with an alpine ascent.
Barafu (Swahili for “Ice”) Camp is my summit. After Mission: Kilimanjaro 2016, my seventh time on Africa’s tallest mountain, Yusuf and I agreed there was no need for me to make another summit attempt. “Kilimanjaro is not a punishment,” Yusuf likes to say. So I will stay in High Camp and pray for my brothers as they all try for personal highs and their first time on the rooftop of Africa.
Saturday, Dec. 1
Our team on the trail between Baranco and Karanga: (left to right) Gary, Adam, Yusuf, Jon, Hemedi, Jordan, Jesse, and Frode. (Photo by guide Mohamed)
We ascended the 900-foot Baranco Wall just outside camp and then continued to hike through the alpine desert on the way to Karanga Camp. The 3.25-mile hike was in the clouds with no views of Kibo above or the valleys below. We sit at 13,106 feet after our fourth day of seven on the mountain.
After dinner, our team ate all the food that Riziki cooked, which is unusual at higher altitudes, where appetites sometimes vanish. As Jon took the last of the rice and vegetables, I told him the rule we have in our family: if everything gets eaten, you have to kiss the cook. When Raziki came to see how we liked our dinner, I told him about this – and Jon jumped up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. The always grinning Riziki laughed at our show of appreciation, and I’m sure he was honored by love for his cooking.
Friday, Nov. 30
Kibo from Baranco Camp. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The weather turned unpleasant (colder and rainy) as we ascended in the clouds to Lava Tower at nearly 15,100 feet (4,600 meters). This was the highpoint of the day and personal high for Montana Jon. We ate a hot lunch, prepared by our long-time cook Riziki and served to us in a mess tent erected by the porters below the Tower. Such is life on Kilimanjaro. Our team then descended to Baranco Camp (12,795 feet/3,900 meters), completing a 6.6-mile hike. The guys were a little tired at the end of the day.
Thursday, Nov. 29
Guide Hemedi inspired us (left to right) Jordan, Gary, Adam, Frode, and Jesse to join him in putting stones together in Shira Cave Camp to declare why we climb. (Photo by guide Hemedi)
We continued to climb Africa’s highest peak 20 years after I first came to Kilimanjaro and God birthed the notion that would become Climbing For Christ. The guys, all making their first trek on the mountain, enjoyed today’s walk to Shira Cave Camp. It was a short day: only 3.5 miles, ascending 3,150 vertical feet. After lunch and devo time, we did a short acclimatization hike above the camp. On our descent, we stopped to make a stone cross with “Climbing For Christ” written in stones next to it on the ground. It was the inspiration of Hemedi, one of our guides and (as we learned on the trail) a brother in Christ. There are several in our group of guides and porters who are now Muslim background believers. Praise God! We are praying for more.
Wednesday, Nov. 28
From a “Spirit Walk” to an uphill walk. Our team set out on a seven-day trek of Mount Kilimanjaro with many old friends (guides and porters) from past years on the mountain. They picked us up at our hotel in Moshi and transported us to the Machame Gate. We hiked 6.6 miles through the rain forest with a steady ascent of about 4,000 vertical feet to reach the Machame Hut at 9,350 feet. Our team, which is feeling good, is the only one at this first camp, a rare occurrence on this popular mountain nowadays.
Tuesday, Nov. 27
“Everything that God is planning for us is ready for us if we are listening to God.” – Damson Samson, sharing his own African proverb (if you will) for Ephesians 2:10.
Jordan (left to right) leads Damson, Frode and Jon in worship at the start of the second day of our ‘Spirit Walk’ study. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The question of everyone’s motivation for Mission: Kilimanjaro convicted hearts overnight and as we began the second of two days of our Spirit Walk S.W.A.P.meet, the team openly talked about it. The mountain had lured them here and now the Spirit was showing them more.
We spent the day in worship, study of 2 Timothy, prayer, and fellowship. Frode (chapter 1), I (chapter 2), Jon (chapter 3), and Damson (chapter 4) took turns leading the group through Scripture. We closed late in the day with a reading of “The Story Line of History” in Steve Smith’s Spirit Walk. The question asked: “How can my life best serve God’s will?”
What role will I, will we, will you play in God’s command to finish the task (Matthew 24:14)? Will you be a protagonist or stand on the sidelines watching? There is work to be done so let’s hasten the day (2 Peter 3:11-12). As Smith writes in his book, “There is no shortage of the Spirit; just a shortage of willing recipients!” I believe we have seven on this team who are willing. Pray for Adam, Jesse, Jordan, Damson, Frode, Jon, and me as we seek to do HIS will, period.
Monday, Nov. 26
Our seven-man team came together this morning for the first time – after Frode’s arrival from Norway – and we began a two-day study together. It’s called a “S.W.A.P.meet” and it is based on Steve Smith’s book Spirit Walk, which our staff and Boards of Directors read this year. We are applying for the first time lessons on walking in the Spirit at the start of a short-term mission trip.
S.W.A.P. is an acronym for: Surrender to His will and His every word; Wait on God in prayer; Avoid sin, and let God root out all unrighteousness; and Pursue the promptings of the Spirit.
We are studying 1 and 2 Timothy and today we tackled 1 Timothy with me (chapter 1), Jordan (chapter 2), Adam (chapters 3 and 4), and Jesse (chapters 5 and 6) taking turns leading the three sessions. We met in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night, starting each session in worship (with Jordan leading on his backpacker guitar) and bathing our time in prayer. Testimonies were shared, and we heard time and time again how God is working miracles in and through each man’s life.
“…the goal of this command is love from a pure heart, and from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5 (MEV)
This verse carried through the day with Jesse concluding tonight by asking each person to do a heart check: “What’s your motivation” for being here? If they came just to climb Kilimanjaro, that’s the wrong answer. Remember, Climbing For Christ is about mission, not mountain; people, not peak; service, not summit.” May we, as Paul exhorted Timothy, “pursue righteousness” and “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:11-12, NIV). All for His glory!
Sunday, Nov. 25
Old friend and guide Yusuf was waiting for us when we landed this evening at the Kilimanjaro airport. We expected co-worker Damson to be by his side, but flight delays had Damson arriving later tonight from Malawi via Kenya. All the flights for the U.S. team members were on time and uneventful (thank You, Father!) so the five of us rolled in together. Frode arrives from Norway early Monday morning, and then we’ll begin our Spirit Walk together. Jesse prayed for us this evening, giving thanks for safe travel and for all that God has prepared for us to walk in. The next 13 days will be an exciting time together both off and on the mountain.
Saturday, Nov. 24
Jordan and I made our first border crossing driving from Rochester, NY, USA to the airport in Toronto, Canada for an evening flight overseas. Everyone else on the team from the States was already airborne – we trust – having left earlier from Montana, Colorado, and Wisconsin. The five Americans are scheduled to meet up in Amsterdam Sunday morning for the flight to Tanzania. Here we GO!
Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018 is Climbing For Christ’s 100th short-term mission trip. One-hundred. It’s a milestone I could not have imagined when God birthed the idea of this ministry in my heart and mind 20 years ago as I prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time.
We began doing missions in 2005 and went to Tanzania for the first time in 2007. I’d always felt I would return to Mount Kilimanjaro, and we have. Again, and again and again.
The mission beginning today is our 11th Evangelic Expedition to Tanzania. It is HIStoric, not just because of the milestones (staff member Jordan Rowley is also GO-ing on his 20th mission) and 20th anniversary climb, but because of what will bookend that trek on Africa’s highest mountain.
Our team, consisting of five Americans (including Adam Copper of Colorado, Jesse Eells of Wisconsin, and Jon Scofield of Montana), one Malawian (Climbing For Christ worker Damson Samson), and one Norwegian (Frode Strand), will spend the first two days with us on a “Spirit Walk.” This is a new team-building concept that we are introducing to members on this trip. The purpose is to make us more in tune with one another and, even more importantly, the Holy Spirit.
After a seven-day trek with many of our old Muslim friends – during which we are praying for revival – we will meet with guides and porters who are part of our Kilimanjaro Chapter. We will spend three days completing a year-long study on disciples making disciples. Damson met with the Kilimanjaro Chapter in March, June and September after we kicked off this training a year ago on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017. We expect to graduate about 20 students. We anticipate that this will be a special time of fellowship.
Discipleship and evangelism training have been the goal of Mission: Kilimanjaro since 2007 when we answered a divine appointment in Marangu that introduced us to Pastor Winford Mosha. God had put on his heart a desire to do outreach among guides and porters working on the mountain. We had a similar vision. We recognized that equipping guides and porters to share the Gospel could impact countless visitors and workers on Kilimanjaro.
People could be led to something far greater than a summit; they could be guided to Jesus.
We have witnessed this numerous times as Damson, who began serving with Climbing For Christ in 2014, has taught and encouraged our brothers to deliver the Good News. How beautiful on the mountain – and off the mountain – are the feet of these disciples, who God is using to disciple others.
“You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others.” – 2 Timothy 2:2 (CEV)
CLICK HERE for our Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018 Prayer Bulletin. Pray on!