Dispatches: Kilimanjaro 2017

Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Kilimanjaro 2017

Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017

By Gary Fallesen, founding president Climbing For Christ

Thursday, Dec. 7

Damson returned to his home in southern Malawi and Elaine and I finished up at the Finishing the Task Conference in southern California. Louie Giglio provided the send-off message, quoting Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

“This (conference) is happening so that can happen,” Giglio said at the start of a stirring 45-minute message. He concluded as he often does, and rightly so, with the reason we do anything and everything: to glorify God.

“We want to finish the task to give glory to God!” Giglio said.


Wednesday, Dec. 6

Damson began traveling back to his home and family in southern Malawi, taking the bus today from Moshi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, while Elaine and I attended the second day of the Finishing the Task Conference in Lake Forest, CA, USA. Nik Ripken spoke at FTT about persecution and provided instruction for workers drawn from his 35 years in the field.

“I don’t see missions as a call,” Ripken said. “I see it as a command.”

Jesus is pretty clear on this: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).

Ripken says we have a choice where to go, be it Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). “But we must go to be obedient to God,” Ripken said, adding that we can partner with our persecuted brothers and sisters. “When I share boldly and wisely I identify with my brothers and sisters in chains. Not to share Jesus is to be a persecutor. We can share in the resurrection or share in evil.”

In other words, get out there and tell your neighbor about Jesus – across the street or across the globe. From Southern California to East Africa, and all points beyond.

Tuesday, Dec. 5

Saddleback pastor Rick Warren was teaching on Acts 2 in one of the kickoff sessions to the Finishing the Task Conference in Lake Forest, CA, a gathering intended to encourage the church (especially in North America) to reach the remaining 1,347 unengaged people groups in the world. “No Bible, no believer, no workers,” Warren stated about those UUPGs. “How is that possible 2,000 years later?”

Great question.

After showing his inspired and inspiring film The Insanity of God tonight, heroic missionary and author Nik Ripken was telling the story of a Muslim friend who traveled five days from Somalia to help the Ripkens bury their son. This man spoke about the Christians he observed at the funeral who knew the boy was “in the paradise.” Then he spoke about Muslims and how they did not know when they died if they were going “to the paradise or to the hell.”

“Why,” this man asked Nik, “have you (the church) not told the Muslims about Jesus so we can go to the paradise?”

Why indeed.

As my wife Elaine and I listened to these and many other task-finishing questions on day one of a three-day conference, Damson remained busy in Tanzania.

He went to visit Elinami Moshi, one of our Kilimanjaro Chapter members in Marangu. He met Elinami’s mother, his wife, and his daughter and son. “As usual, I am willing and ready to share what is the will of God,” Damson reported. “And at this particular time I was asking God what to share with the family.”

He was led to Daniel 5:1-30 and the story of King Belshazzar’s banquet. Damson called his message to the family “Mene tekel parsin,” which in the Book of Daniel is explained to mean that the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom were “numbered” (mene), he had been “weighed” (tekel) and fallen short on the balance scale, and his kingdom would be “divided” (parsin).

Happiness, the daughter of Kilimanjaro Chapter member Elinami Moshi, sits with her grandmother and brother. (Photo by Damson Samson)

“As I was looking at the daughter, (named) Happiness, I knew that there was a connection with what I was saying,” Damson said. “Later Dauson (Chonjo, our Kilimanjaro Chapter leader and translator) asked the mother and she confessed that when she was pregnant she was given charms to protect her (unborn baby). But in the end she was born with an illness and they have tried and have spent lots (to find a cure) to no avail.”

Damson shared about Jesus and His healing power and the family members “gave their lives to Christ Jesus,” he said. “Then I prayed for the sick Happiness. The wife believed that the prayers to her daughter will perform a healing miracle.

“It all brought great joy to the family.”

After this, Damson and Dauson visited another family of a less-active Kilimanjaro Chapter member. They encouraged him to appreciate what God is doing for those involved in the ministry there. We give thanks to God for the way He is moving in and through the Christian guides and porters serving on Kilimanjaro.

Monday, Dec. 4

Misayeli Minja, third from the left, is a Kilimanjaro Chapter member from Marangu, where today his (left to right) son, daughter, son-in-law, wife and grandmother accepted Jesus. Dauson Chonjo, right, is a Kilimanjaro Chapter leader. (Photo by Damson Samson)

Damson was sharing with Misayeli Minja and his family in Marangu from the Book of Philemon. “I really wanted to give the right food,” Damson said, who explained the story of the slave Onesimus in a mini-message he titled, “Do not be ashamed even in chains.”

Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, but as a fellow Christian he also was his beloved brother. Paul wrote this to Philemon and to the church.

Damson said, “I also shared John 1, verse 12,” which states: “Yet to all who did receive him; to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

“C4C is acting as Paul, who had trained many and sent them out to perform what they have acquired. We are creating home grounds for their training,” Damson said. “After I read John (to Misayeli’s family) I called those who were ready to accept Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior. All five came to Christ right at that time and Dauson (one of our Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders) helped me by praying for them one by one.

“Their group name is ‘Upendo’ (which means ‘love’ in Swahili). They will be meeting Saturdays, once per week and four times per month (for Bible study).”

Earlier in the day, Damson and Dauson visited brothers Steven and Jackson Mtui, two other Kilimanjaro Chapter members in Marangu. He shared about Joshua, “who was told to be strong and courageous.” He encouraged them to “put in action all they are learning” at our trainings; to share with family and grow their Bible study group. “They adopted Wednesday to be their day for study and they counted to be meeting more than nine members altogether,” Damson reported. “The name of their study group is called Mushiri (music). I prayed for them after I shared and when I am back I will have time to visit this group.”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16 (NIV)

Sunday, Dec. 3

This was a day of rest for me in southern California. I’m enjoying a couple of days of R&R with my wife Elaine before we attend the Finishing the Task Conference Tuesday through Thursday.

It turned out to also be a day of rest for Damson in Moshi. “I had time of praying and preparing for the Bible study meetings (the next few days) and asking God’s intervention at every step I will take in going out to share the Word with brethren in their homes,” Damson said.

Saturday, Dec. 2

New brothers and sisters in Christ: Kilimanjaro Chapter member John Mollel’s family. John, standing second from the right, served as our translator during the two-day evangelism training. (Photo by Damson Samson)

While I was flying more than 11,000 miles from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to Los Angeles in advance of next week’s Finishing the Task Conference, Damson was taking a motorbike a seemingly long 54 kilometers from Moshi to Merelani to start visiting guides and porters and their families at their homes. “I wondered why God led me to this distance,” Damson said, “but the will of God is more than what a man can comprehend.”

Damson went to visit John Mollely, who served as our translator at the two-day training, and John’s Massai family. “As I was thinking of what to share, I was given Acts 16 (starting at) verse 16,” Damson said, referring to the story of the slave who told everyone that Paul and those with him were “servants of the Most High God,” which led to their arrest and then the conversion of the jailer and those in his home.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved and so will your household,” Damson called his message. “As I shared, the Spirit directed all six in (John’s) household who attended (today’s Bible study) to believe in Jesus Christ.”

Damson said John’s 85-year-old grandmother, two of her elderly daughters, and John’s brother and two sisters accepted Jesus as their Lord. “They all welcomed the idea that they will be meeting every Friday two times a month (for Bible study) until the next time I will be visiting them (in March 2018),” Damson added.

This was only the first of several meetings with family members Damson has planned in the days ahead.

Friday, Dec. 1

The ‎view of Kilimanjaro from above. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

I enjoyed the commute of a busy and blessed work week, arriving at Kilimanjaro airport Monday and taking off at 5:30 p.m. today to return to the States. I left the Kilimanjaro Chapter in good hands as Damson will spend the next five days visiting the homes of members in Moshi and Marangu.

‎When asked if God used him on the trip, Damson said: “On this I can say yes. This is because I had to share with these brothers as part of watering them. This is also a great part (we play) in the kingdom; we plant and some water and then the Lord grows it.”

We have watched the LORD growing the Kilimanjaro Chapter and know He has great plans to use our guides and porters to glorify His name on and off the mountain. I reflected on this as our flight circled around the rooftop of Africa. What a sight. What we have been honored to witness here in Tanzania. Thank You, Father.

Thursday, Nov. 30

Our Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017 team photo. (By Yusuf Hemed)

“How many times have we climbed together?” I asked Juma, who earlier this year converted to Christianity and joined our Kilimanjaro Chapter.

“Every time you come,” he said, grinning. “With your children. With your whole family.”

Juma was one of the many members on the crew hired by guide and friend Yusuf each time we set foot on Mount Kilimanjaro. He is one of the many we have been praying for since Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007, when my son Jesse was on a team of 10 Climbing For Christ members. (My wife Elaine followed in 2011 and our daughter Hayley climbed in 2014. C4C climbed 19,341-foot/5,895-meter Kilimanjaro seven of the last 10 years.)

“When you came here, I saw you praying and I wondered what you were praying about,” Juma said as he gave his testimony on our second day of chapter training. He has learned that we were communicating with the God of the Bible, and now he does it, too.

A joyful Juma giving his testimony. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

I taught today about “Sharing the Word of God” from The Timothy Initiative’s study. At the end of the first lesson, we discussed how every Christian has a story to tell. I shared my testimony and then told all 51 of our guides and porters in attendance to write down their story. We asked seven of our chapter members to tell their stories. Two spoke about coming to Christ while attending our training last year. Another told a familiar story of working for a week on the mountain and then going straight to the bar and drinking all of their wages — until Jesus interceded.

Juma shared about how he witnessed the love and compassion of Christ on display in Jesus’s followers. When he was invited to a Kilimanjaro Chapter training he learned about a chicken project that was going on. He saw brothers in Christ helping one another with their physical needs. (See the Mission Moments story “Rejoicing in the presence of angels.”)

This was on display again today as our chicken project, which had seen 25 chapter members receive chickens from Climbing For Christ, took the next step. Ten of those members handed some of their chickens down to the next group from the chapter.

Chicken project distribution. A recipient, right, gives to a brother, left.

We celebrated this moment at the end of the gathering, after we’d finished our lessons on sharing the Word and read numerous passages from the Word, after we’d read Psalms of praise (Nos. 146 and 135), and sang songs of praise, and after we prayed together and for one another, and gave thanks to the time we’d been blessed with together.

Wednesday, Nov. 29

Men at work: my training resources on the table with Damson, right, teaching and Frank Sabas translating. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Damson and I began two days of spiritual training with the Kilimanjaro Chapter at Pastor Winford Mosha’s Lutheran district headquarters in Himo, located between Moshi and Marangu. Pastor Mosha was the brother we met through a divine appointment on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 and who has encouraged our chapter development through the years.

I welcomed (“karibu”) 51 guides and porters to what we hope will be an exciting, kingdom-growing year-long study on disciples making disciples.

I told the men that when I arrived Mount Kilimanjaro was calling me: “Come climb.” But God’s call was greater. “He called me to teach you,” I told them, to which they applauded.

I talked about what it means to be a disciple: a student or follower of Jesus. We started in Matthew 4:18-22, where Jesus called his first disciples. I shared from the Africa Study Bible: “People who are truly called by God do not waste their time looking at what is left behind. They willingly give up everything to follow Jesus.” The passage, entitled “When God Calls,” quoted Paul in Philippians 3:8. “The best response when God calls is to follow,” the Africa Bible Study continues. “He promises us new life, a life that starts now and will continue on after death.”

We are praying for new life here. We also are lifting our friend Yusuf, who was going to translate for us but had his 62-year-old Christian aunt called home on Tuesday.

To teach disciples how to make disciples, we must start with the basics. Using a study by The Timothy Initiative, we focused today on “Interpreting and Understanding the Bible.” Damson began by asking our chapter members: What is the Bible? How did we get the Bible? (One member answered, “You can just buy it at a shop.”) And who wrote the Bible? He took them through a series of lessons that used Bible stories (Genesis 1-3, Luke 10:25-37, Acts 8:27-38) and introduced questions (“What do we learn about God? What do we learn about man? What must I do?”) that help students interpret and apply God’s Word.

A time of worship.

Damson taught for hours in the 90-degree heat with breaks for chai, lunch, worship and prayer. Climbing For Christ provides food and drink as well as renting the meeting hall and reimbursing members’ bus fare.

Pastor Mosha, who is retiring next year and promising to get more involved with our Kilimanjaro Chapter discipleship, stopped by briefly to greet me. “This is your fruit,” he said. We are praying it reproduces exponentially in the years ahead.

Tuesday, Nov. 28

The roaster at work at Union Coffee, Kilimanjaro’s native co-op since 1933. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

We prepared for two days of training with our Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters by diving into The Timothy Initiative (TTI) study on disciples making disciples and by drinking coffee produced at a local roaster in Moshi. The start of a year-long training course will focus on interpreting and understanding the Bible (Wednesday) and sharing the Word of God (Thursday). TTI designed this course to equip disciples to share their faith with others, spread the Gospel at a fast pace, and plant churches. We recognize the need for church growth in villages here and our long-term goal remains the equipping of Christ followers who work on Kilimanjaro to be a witness to co-workers and trekkers who climb Africa’s tallest and most popular peak.

Yusuf took Damson and me to Union Coffee to help with my jetlag and to get a cup of what he considers Tanzania’s best coffee. Coffee is one of Tanzania’s top five exports (behind gold, manufactured goods, tobacco and fish products) and Kilimanjaro is one of the country’s main growing areas for Arabica coffee. We hope one day we can say the area also is known for producing Christians. God’s will be done.

Monday, Nov. 27

Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds and the surrounding countryside in Tanzania on Monday. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

“The mountain is looking at us,” my old friend and guide Yusuf said as we drove from Kilimanjaro airport to Moshi. It was a rare sight for me upon arrival, viewing majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Normally we arrive at night and don’t see the mountain until the following morning. But this time I landed in the afternoon, completing 26 hours of air travel from western New York to East Africa. Yusuf and Climbing For Christ’s Damson Samson were waiting for me.

There is always a special feeling seeing Kilimanjaro again. So much has happened in my life and the life of HIS ministry since I first came here in 1998. Yusuf and I already began discussing next year’s climb, which will be part of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018. We won’t be climbing this time around, but we will be teaching climbers. Damson met today and yesterday with leaders of the Kilimanjaro Chapter in Moshi and Marangu. We’ll prepare tomorrow for spiritual training that will take place with our guides and porters on Wednesday and Thursday. Pray on!

Sunday, Nov. 26

Time for me to GO: Twenty-six hours of scheduled air travel. I was blessed on Saturday with an opportunity to share about Climbing For Christ during worship at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hilton, NY. (My wife Elaine and spiritual coordinator Jordan Rowley were sharing today in two worship services and during the church’s Bible study.) Pastor Mark Ball prayed for me and for our mission.

We are praying for our Kilimanjaro Chapter training and the growth of the church in Tanzania. Operation World, the prayer guide to the nations, tells us there are “extensive areas where churches have stagnated and where many potentially open villages remain unreached. The need is great for more evangelists and church planters.” We desire to make disciples who may become church planters. It’s all about prayer so please join us in interceding for this mission.

“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)

Saturday, Nov. 25

Damson reached Moshi, Tanzania at 6:30 p.m. local time after 11 hours on a bus. He is looking forward to meeting with Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders on Sunday in advance of my arriving on Monday. Pray for our preparations for the coming week’s teachings.

Friday, Nov. 24

Damson is making his 14th trip to Tanzania in 3¼ years, while I will be going to Tanzania for the 11th time. Of course, I must travel a greater distance, but it usually takes longer for Damson to go from southern Malawi to northeastern Tanzania than it does for me to go from North America to East Africa. This is because he must ride several buses.

Today, at 3 p.m. Central Africa Time, Damson started heading toward our rendezvous in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. This time, though, he was flying from Blantyre, Malawi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

“I started after I prayed for the family for heavenly cover,” Damson messaged me. “It was very exciting, especially thinking to travel by air. The trip was just very wonderful as we traveled in just two hours what could take two days (by bus).”

He was boarding a bus in Dar es Salaam for the eight-to-nine-hour ride to Moshi, where he will arrive on Saturday. (I will be flying from the USA on Sunday and arriving in Moshi on Monday afternoon.)

“More thanks to all (who are) holding us in their prayers,” Damson said, “for the prayer of the righteous man avails much.”


Damson Samson, right, leading members of our Kilimanjaro Chapter in worship during our 2016 conference. (Photo by Gary Fallesen, Mission: Kilimanjaro 2016)

HIS story of Climbing For Christ starts with Kilimanjaro and continues around Africa’s tallest mountain. The ministry was born as I prepared to climb in Tanzania for the first time in 1998. Obedient to God’s call, Climbing For Christ (incorporated in 2004 and initiating global missions in 2005) sent our first short-term team to East Africa in 2007. The idea of planting a full-time worker and ministering among guides and porters working on Mount Kilimanjaro was born. The following year, we started the Kilimanjaro Chapter. Evangelism training began in 2010. But it was not until after Damson Samson of Malawi accepted the call to serve as Climbing For Christ’s missionary to East Africa that the work started producing fruit. This mission is our model for disciples making disciples. Damson has been discipling guides and porters and our annual evangelism training has continued.

In October, a Climbing For Christ member who has served with another ministry in Africa for many years asked over coffee in southeast Asia about Mission: Kilimanjaro. He suggested we connect with The Timothy Initiative (TTI) to take our next step in advancing Christ’s kingdom by multiplying disciples. This meeting was divinely appointed because within days we were reviewing TTI resources, some of which will be used by Damson and me on this particular mission. We are excited to see where God is leading us in this training over the next year. We know there are more God moments from HIS story to come.

CLICK HERE to read the HIStory of Mission: Kilimanjaro.


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