Ararat 2013: A personal reflection
It's about the mission, not the summit
By Gary Fallesen
Founding president, Climbing For Christ
“Mission, not mountain.
“People, not peak.
“Service, not summit.”
As I limped up 3,700 vertical feet to Base Camp on the first day of our Mission: Ararat climb – “remember, Gary, this is the easy walk,” guide Adem said – I thought about my leg injury, our last climb here, and Climbing For Christ's purpose.
Why would I pull a thigh muscle 10 days before an Evangelical Expedition? Why indeed.
On the flight from the United States to Turkey, I thought about Mission: Ararat 2010 and how I hiked alone for two hours on the final descent, trying to discern a failed summit bid and lack of real contact with Kurdish people on the mountain. I came away with, first, how blessed I was to set foot in eastern Turkey and walk on such HIS-toric ground. Then I realized, as I have on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and on other peaks I have climbed on five continents: THERE ARE NO PEOPLE ON THE SUMMIT.
If you're going to preach the “mission, people, service” slogan at the beginning of this story, you have to live it.
Our ministry's purpose – the purpose of Christians everywhere – is, as spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley wrote in the daily devotional our Mission: Ararat team read the morning of the first day's climb, the following: “Our King sends us to GO throughout this world to reach the lost, the hurting, the broken, burdened and bruised for Jesus Christ and His kingdom. To say what He would say and do what He would do.”
Would Jesus be here to stand on the summit of Mount Ararat or would He be here to save the lost people who, ironically, shepherd their sheep across the mountain?
A Kurdish village on Mount Ararat on Monday, July 29. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
That's why God brought me back and made it possible for us to organize this Mission: Ararat 2013 expedition the way it is. I know my purpose, but sometimes I need to be reminded by being slowed down by a loving Father, who said, “GO tend to my sheep!” He allowed me to step on a root during a training trail run that popped my thigh muscle and left me hobbled. I prayed and knew He would get me as far as He needed me. That turned out to be Base Camp, which is surrounded by nomadic Kurdish villages each summer.
It's not about the summit, it's about the mission to which He called me. Climbing For Christ is not a climbing club, it's a divinely orchestrated Search & Rescue Operation.
That's why my eyes are not glued to the mountaintops, but lifted up to where my help comes from (as Psalm 121:1-2, a ministry theme verse, so beautifully states).
Why else would Pastor Joe Trussell – a Mission: Ararat 2013 teammate (along with Charlotte Crain and my daughter, Hayley Hope Fallesen) – ask me as we ascended to Base Camp about the “mission, people, service” mantra I'd mentioned at his church in El Dorado Springs, MO, USA, nearly 1½ years ago? Why else would we be greeted by Kurdish children and have the sort of interaction we did during our first day on the mountain? Why else would our Muslim guides ask us if we would prefer to visit Kurdish people on a day designated for an acclimatization hike to high camp at 13,780 feet?
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me” (Luke 18:16). He didn't say, “Go bag a peak and worry about these lost souls later.”
God didn't call me to the summit, He called me to the mission field on a mountain side. I now know my purpose here. Thank You, Lord, for tripping me up so I could serve You.
Gary Fallesen is the founding president of Climbing For Christ. This is the second expedition he has led to Turkey.