Sharing Christ's love with a smile
By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ
Her father watched as she hiked out of Base Camp with the rest of the Mission: Ararat team, heading toward High Camp and ultimately the 16,854-foot summit of Mount Ararat. God had given him peace about letting his 19-year-old daughter go on without him.
Only the day before the old man had shared with the team and then the rest of the Climbing For Christ world the message: “It’s about the mission, not the summit.” He had work to do at the lower elevations – around the 11,000-foot Base Camp. There were lost sheep to seek. He wouldn’t be going with them to the top.
But his heart leapt with unbridled joy when news came down the mountain: “She made it!”
Hayley Fallesen, right, with Pastor Joe Trussell on the summit of Mount Ararat.
Hayley Fallesen, my daughter, had reached the summit about 30 minutes after teammate Joe Trussell, a pastor from El Dorado Springs, MO, USA. The pair had done so virtually on their own – without a guide. Our climbing guide and friend had gotten sick at High Camp and never left the tent when the team made its alpine start in the sub-zero wind-chill at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31.
Of course, they had The Guide with them all the way.
There was a warm hug for my little girl – so grown up now – when she returned to Base Camp later that same day. A sweet embrace and a feeling of pride made even sweeter in the days after that summit success.
First, Hayley would acknowledge that she was praying to God for strength every step of the way. “It means,” she said about reaching the summit, “all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me. Definitely.”
And when asked about the highlight of her first journey into eastern Turkey she would talk about our interaction with the semi-nomadic Kurdish people living on the side of Mount Ararat.
“Amazing,” Hayley said. “It was my favorite part of the trip. I loved being able to summit the mountain, but what I valued the most was the relationships we were able to make with different families, especially the children.”
Members of two Kurdish families watching the 'Jesus Film' in a tent on Mount Ararat with Hayley Fallesen, left, and Joe Trussell. They are watching the film on an iPad to Joe's left. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Mission, not mountain. People, not peak. Service, not summit.
That’s what we preach. Apparently it’s been heard around our house in Rochester, NY, USA, and sunk in.
Hayley said it was “tough to leave people who are so easy to love in just a short amount of time.” Her teammates agreed. Pastor Joe and Charlotte Crain, a two-time Mission: Ararat participant from Gig Harbor, WA, USA, also spoke about the “many encounters with wonderful Kurdish people.”
After hiking up to Base Camp, the team was scheduled to make an acclimatization climb to High Camp on the second day of the trek. Instead, we descended another route to visit some Kurdish families who live in tents on Ararat during the summer months with their herds of sheep and goat.
“I was very happy we decided not to acclimatize,” Hayley said. “Getting up to Base Camp was pretty difficult for me and I was actually dreading spending a day going up to High Camp for really no reason. I woke up and I wasn’t excited. After breakfast I found out that rather than expend all that energy we had decided to go down and visit some of the Kurdish families.
Hayley Fallesen holds one of the girls' pet rabbits. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
“Even when you don’t speak someone’s language, it’s easy to communicate by what you can do – with just a smile,” Hayley said. “It’s easy to get to know a person even when you don’t know their language.
“It (acclimatization day) was a good day.”
Charlotte concurred. She said meeting the first family just below Base Camp “instead of doing a nonsensical acclimatization hike” was the highlight of her trip. “We talked so much with the family and when we asked about Jesus the mother said, ‘No one really tells us more.’ So I asked if she would like to hear more, which opened the door to showing the Jesus Film.
“The mother thanked us greatly for showing the movie. It was a warm reception and invitation to visit again.”
The team spent several days going back to see this family – and relationships were started.
Team photo: (left to right) Charlotte Crain, Gary and Hayley Fallesen, and Joe Trussell in Base Camp.
“I think God used all of us,” Pastor Joe said about our team. “Seeds were sown and at the right time and through the right means He will give the increase.”
God has promised to love, bless and multiply. He will bring to Himself many among the Kurmanji (or Northern) Kurds of Turkey, who live in the most rugged part of Kurdistan (along the Turkey-Iran border). More than 93 percent of the 8-million-plus Kurmanji Kurds are Muslim, and a scant 0.01 percent (only about 800 people) are Christian, according to the Joshua Project.
We are confident God will bring more Kurdish people to His kingdom. As Hayley said, “He does answer prayer. With Him anything is possible.”
She experienced this step after step on Mount Ararat. She also learned “how easy it is to show and accept the love of Christ.” That’s easier than an ascent to a summit nearly 17,000 feet high. It’s as simple as communicating His love with a smile.
“...the joy of the LORD is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10
Climbing For Christ first went to Turkey in 2010. A third Mission: Ararat is scheduled for June 2014.