Dispatches: Malawi 2024

Dispatches: Malawi 2024
Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Malawi 2024

Mission: Malawi 2024

By GARY FALLESEN, Climbing For Christ

Friday, July 5

Africa staff meeting: Gary, Damson, and Andreas in Mulanje, Malawi.

After dropping Andreas off in Frankfurt, I kept flying for another day. Everyone has returned from whence he came: Damson in Malawi, Andreas in Germany, and me in the United States. Although these are not our real homes (Hebrews 13:14).

Asked about his first trip to Africa, Andreas said it was “good” and “very interesting” – to see “the poverty people live in, the little means they have to live on, and how far (behind) the development of the country is. On the other hand, people are – mostly – genuinely friendly and happy.

“It was very cool to see how they celebrate Jesus and what He is doing, and it was also impressive to see what a difference the work of C4C has made in many people’s lives there.”

The appreciation expressed by Mulanje Massif guides and porters, widows and youth, and pastors and church leaders are both humbling and encouraging. The needs in Malawi remain great and Climbing For Christ will address both the physical and the spiritual. As I’ve said before, it is hard to teach about the Bread of Life when your Gospel sharing can’t be heard over the growl of empty stomachs. Please help us try to meet the needs of those being served through Mission: Malawi.

Thursday, July 4

Our team on Mulanje Massif. (Photo by Cook Livson)

It was a whirlwind week. Short but incredibly sweet – and fruitful. From the guides and porters in the Mulanje Massif Chapter on and off the mountain to the new Vocation Skills Centre and to other encounters with old friends and partners in ministry. We were surprised yesterday with a visit from Pastor Felix, who bicycled over from Mozambique from the church we helped him build to greet us (and make a few requests). There is much to reflect on and pray about.

I am very excited about the on-the-mountain evangelism training we’re doing with our Mulanje chapter in Malawi and with the Kilimanjaro Chapter in Tanzania. So much so I’ll be back in Africa in 2 ½ weeks to work with the Kilimanjaro members.

For now, however, we are making the long flights back: Blantyre, Malawi to Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany (where I bid Andreas auf wiedersehen) to New York, NY to Rochester, NY. Flying on!

Wednesday, July 3

Alishama, in orange top, talks about the metal frame she welded. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Sixteen-year-old Alishama confidently took the microphone and described how she welded a frame together in one of the first projects at the new Climbing For Christ Vocation Skills Centre in Migowi, Malawi. The center, which we dedicated to the Lord today, is one of a kind in southern Malawi.

Alishama showed the pieces to her frame and the cost for the materials: 75,000 Malawi kwacha (about $44 USD). The value of the finished product: 95,000 kwachas ($55 USD). A profit of 20,000 kwacha ($11 USD). “With this,” she said, proudly, “we can buy clothes to dress ourselves.”

The goal of the new vocational center, a vision God gave to C4C Kingdom worker Damson Samson last year, is to empower the next generation with skills so they can take care of themselves and help others around them, especially the many widows. The theme of the center, which Damson borrowed from one of my signature email closings, is “Be blessed to be a blessing.”

That was the message I shared during the dedication, attended by 300-400 youth, widows, caregivers, volunteers, various pastors and village chiefs, and even some ex-inmates Damson ministered to in prison visits funded by C4C. Using Genesis 12:1-3 and God’s calling on Abram’s life, I talked about God’s countless blessings on Climbing For Christ.

Part of the reason we have been blessed so much, I told them, is because we use what God gives us and we bless others. In Malawi, in Tanzania, and in countries all around the world. I told them stories about Gilbert Lindor in Haiti and Damson here in Malawi.

Damson, center, helps lead a time of worship at the start of a three-hour dedication of the Climbing For Christ Vocation Skills Centre.

Damson used profits from the maize mill God used C4C to bless him with to build the Vocation Skills Centre.

“We could have taken the money and eaten,” he said to the audience. “But in our culture, you don’t eat a seed. You keep it safe and when it is ready you go to the field and plant it.”

The center, he said, is “the fruit brought forward from the seed that was sowed.”

CLICK HERE TO READ “C4C VOCATIONAL SKILLS CENTER OPENS IN MALAWI”

After I preached and was honored to cut the ribbon officially opening the center, we saw demonstrations from teachers and some of the 300 students already enrolled in sewing, computers, welding, carpentry, electrical, and masonry. The center has only a few tools for the classes being offered and each teacher asked for help buying more resources (sewing machines, computers, welding equipment, carpentry tools, etc.).

Fifteen-year-old Hanna demonstrates the use of a circular saw.

I had asked the youth what they would do with the blessing they were being offered. “Will you ask God for direction and be obedient to His calling on your life – to work with computers, to make clothing, to weld or do electricity? God’s blessing to you may one day produce countless blessings to others.”

I quoted lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “Counting My Blessings” by Seph Schlueter: “One, two, three, up to infinity. I’d run out of numbers before I could thank You for everything.”

The numbers already are adding up at the Climbing For Christ Vocation Skills Centre. The carpentry class surprised and blessed two pastors with the first vocation-center-made pulpits for their churches. The sewing class then surprised and blessed Andreas, Damson, and me with shirts. It seems students at this center will not only be able to dress themselves, but others as well.

Pastor Bizwik Flaction, right, praises the Lord for the gift of a new pulpit.

Our last full day in Malawi was a day of celebration and praise to our loving and gracious Father. On the way to the vocational center dedication, we delivered maize to the 15 Mulanje Massif Chapter members who spent four days on the mountain with us.

Each person received a 50-kilogram bag of maize, which feeds a small family of three or four for about one month. The cost was $48 USD per bag. The people of Malawi have not recovered, food-wise, from a series of flood-causing cyclones in recent years and a serious drought during this year’s growing season.

“The guys are beside themselves – they are so happy,” Damson said as we stopped in Likhubula, Thuchila, and Phalombe to meet the guides and porters. “They never expected anything like this.”

Seven of C4C’s Mulanje chapter guides and porters praise God for His gift of food.

In Thuchila, Rescue Chapola – soon to be married and soon to be ordained – spoke for his group: “We cannot express in words what this means to us.” Only, thanks be to God.

Tuesday, July 2

Descending toward the clouds. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Our four days on Mulanje Massif ended in prayer, a long downclimb, and words of appreciation.

Before we became DC4C (DownClimbing For Christ), MacDonald Phillipo and Evance Chimalilo had shared Jesus last night with the two teenage sons of the Chisepo Hut watchman. We celebrated these conversions last night in near-freezing temperatures. But that wasn’t the end of the sharing. Throughout our descent, our team stopped to witness to people along the trail.

The 15 guides and porters who accompanied us on this outreach and evangelism training expedition are from our original Mulanje Massif Chapter class. I have known them since 2016 when the chapter was formed. We have walked with them through hunger, floods, drought, personal and family disasters, even the unexplained death of a chapter member in April. We have prayed with and for them, and we’ve been blessed to help.

They are dedicated to C4C and the cause of Christ.

Jungle trekking.

After hiking 7 ½ miles and descending 5,100 vertical feet – across the elevated plateau of Mulanje Massif through the jungle and into Thuchila village at the base of the great mountain – guide Samson Khalani sat with me under a tree. He expressed his appreciation (again) for the house we built for him after last year’s flood and the latest food that was delivered to all of the chapter members in late March when drought destroyed crops. Then he explained that the people are still going hungry.

“These brothers left their homes with nothing to eat because they love Climbing For Christ,” the Mulanje chapter coordinator said.

When Damson finished descending an hour later, I told him that we needed to get our team food. Tomorrow we will deliver maize flour to all of the members of this team. Maize flour is used to make nsima, the staple of the Malawian diet.

Damson shared this news with the men and they were overwhelmed with happiness – and probably relief.

Abraham James stepped forward to thank us for this gift and all that Climbing For Christ has been able to do for the Mulanje Massif Chapter. It is our honor. The work they have volunteered to do for Jesus and the way God has worked in all of their lives has been a joy to behold.

Monday, July 1

Gary teaching about small groups and church plants. (Photo by Frank Nsomba)

Damson closed our day of teaching on the mountain by talking about the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-13).

“God loves mountains,” he said. “Jesus would go to the mountains to pray. Moses went to the mountains to meet with God.”

He said we (Climbing For Christ) “don’t climb valleys, we climb mountains. We have been brought here so God can do more in the villages when we are brought down. God brought us here to hear what He wants us to learn.”

Instruction today centered on “Communicating God’s Word in Different Sized Groups.”

The guides and porters in the Mulanje Massif Chapter all started and lead small groups as part of their DMD training. The 15 with us at Chisepo Hut (7,325 feet/2,233 meters) have small groups ranging from 15 to 46 people. The largest is led by David Chithyoka, a porter-turned-pastor (thanks to God and C4C training) whose Grace Ministry “small group” soon will be a church. Rescue Chapola, who will be ordained in August, is another porter-to-pastor success story whose Congregation of Saints small group of 35 people is a church in the growing.

I taught a 3 ½ -hours lesson on leading these small groups and the roles of the Paul, Timothy, and Titus among each group.

Andreas teaching that we are “empowered by the Holy Spirit.” (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Andreas then taught about prayer and evangelism. “We need to pray first,” he said, pointing to Luke 10:1-3. “Why is this? First, that we don’t think we do it in our own strength. It’s important to first put our focus on Him. Second, it’s important to hear God.”

After listening he said we must be “obedient to the Spirit. Do what He wants us to do, not what you think or fear.”

He read from 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 and Acts 1:8 and said of us all, “I’m an ambassador of Christ and I have the power of the Holy Spirit. We have a job and we are equipped. All we have to do is be obedient.”

Damson leads the guides and porters in a time of prayer.

Damson closed by saying we are each called to do something. “God brought you to this high level to speak to you,” he said, again speaking of the role of mountains in the lives of His people. “God used C4C to push us to our calling. A seed was planted.

“Who has small groups?” he asked, and all hands went up. “Whose groups are those?” he said. “Mine,” they answered.

“You were called to start them,” he said. “You have been entrusted.”

Sunday, June 30

Andreas stream hopping on Mulanje. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Severe descents and steep ascents are the norm on Mulanje Massif. We traveled only 4.18 miles (6.73 kilometers) from Thuchila Hut to Chisepo Hut, situated beneath the highpoint of Mulanje and all of Malawi, but there were numerous ups and downs.

That’s because the route crossed several rivers and streams running down from the various peaks on the massif. There are no suspension bridges here like in Nepal; there are no bridges whatsoever - only rocks to hop.

As Cedric, one of the porters in our chapter, made one river crossing, he saw a man cutting grass for brooms in the villages below. “I was thinking I should share, but I wondered how many (of our guys) had already crossed ahead of me,” Cedric explained during our nightly gathering about the day’s activities.

“I asked if he had met my brothers. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘they spoke to me.’ I thought maybe he misunderstood; I should follow him in the bush.”

Cedric’s Spirit-led perseverance paid off. The two talked at length. He shared about Jesus and asked if the man would like to pray Christ into his heart. With that, 37-year-old Felix became a citizen of heaven.

Our group, sitting on the porch of the hut, applauded (with all the angels) despite one Dutch and two Israeli climbers trying to sleep inside.

This was a good lesson for our guides and porters – a good lesson for every Christian. If you’re moved by the Spirit to do something, act on it. Damson told them, “This is what you’ve been taught in the classroom (during Climbing For Christ trainings) and this was a practical application.”

We are boots to the ground and hands-on during this expedition. During 1,900 feet (579 meters) of elevation change on our way to Chisepo Hut at 7,325 feet (2,233 meters), one brother answered a divine appointment, asked a lost man to kneel, and placed his hand on his head as he led him in the most important prayer of his life.

Saturday, June 29

Mulanje Massif Chapter members at the start of the trek. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Samson, our guide, had stopped every 200 feet on the steepest section of our ascent to Thuchila Hut at 6,525 feet. He was laboring. It wasn’t surprising to see him pause again near the top of our 3,900-foot climb. But this time it was for God’s purpose.

He saw two men, brothers it turned out, who were collecting the special grass that grows on the Mulanje Massif plateau and is used to make brooms. “I thought I should have a stop,” Samson shared this evening as the 16 guides and porters we are accompanying on this evangelistic trek reported about day one of four on the mountain.

He shared the brochure Damson prepared for them to use during the outreach. “When I was sharing the Word with them they were looking to learn more,” Samson said.

Samson sharing with two brothers cutting grass to make brooms.

This was a common report. People, be it those (women and children mostly) collecting and carrying vast amounts of firewood or those (men) cutting and hauling bales of grass on their heads, wanting to know more about Jesus.

Rescue sharing with the locals on the trail.

Rescue stopped and talked to women with firewood. “They were asking for food,” he said. He offered them a drink of his water. While they drank he asked if he could share about Jesus. “They were interested in learning more."

Conversations started easily because the team was dressed in the same Malawi red C4C shirts and hats. “Where are you going? What are you doing?” they were asked. Sharing ensued. There was story after story – more than time allows in this space. Sometimes it just takes stopping to change a person’s life.

Friday, June 28

Brothers in Christ dancing in worship at the start of the Mulanje Massif Chapter training. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

I apologized for being late to our Mulanje Massif Chapter training. I explained how the cancellation of my first of four flights turned into a three-day delay in my arriving.

Samson Khalani, the chapter coordinator and our guide for the next four days of evangelism training on Mulanje mountain, said they wondered what would happen when Damson informed them of my flight problems. “When we heard you had landed (in Malawi) we rejoiced,” Samson said.

When I introduced Andreas to the 20 guides and porters – and our five-man music team, which performed a special “welcome” song – he told them he didn’t mind the delay. It allowed him to officially start dating a female friend of his in Germany.

Damson laughed and declared: “God’s time is the best time!”

Damson added that if we’d been here three days earlier, we would have been on the mountain in rain. Instead, we are hoping for a dry climb.

After a time of worship, prayer, and introductions, we dove into teachings. We started our fourth study from The Timothy Initiative, “Communicating the Bible.” We looked at 2 Timothy 4:1-8 and seven observations in the aging Paul’s letter to young Timothy, the next generation of disciple-makers and church-planters. We talked about the importance of communicating God’s Word (not our own message), being ready and committed to sharing His Truth, and that correct doctrine is essential (“because they have itching ears,” verse 3).

During a tea break, the group broke into smaller groups to discuss a review of the last study, “Discovering the Bible,” which some of the leaders shared when we resumed class.

Gary teaches with Damson translating about walking in the Spirit. (Photo by Frank Nsomba)

I then taught about “Spirit Walking,” a lesson derived from the late Steve Smith’s must-read book Spirit Walk. This is a two-hour-plus teaching focused on how God can use ordinary people like me to do extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are part of an Acts-like movement that is occurring in the world today.

The essence of this teaching is a four-step process: 1. Surrendering to HIS will and HIS every word; 2. Waiting on God in prayer; 3. Avoiding sin and letting God root out all unrighteousness; 4. Pursuing the promptings of the Spirit.

God’s will was for Andreas and me to arrive three days later than we expected (Proverbs 16:9) and to prepare the 18 guides and porters who will be the first of the 89 or so in the Mulanje chapter to do hands-on evangelism training on the mountain. “We are ready to do what God is willing on the mountain,” Samson Khalani declared. Amen to that!

Thursday, July 27

Driving toward Mulanje Massif, in the background. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

The long trip ended for me this afternoon when we landed in Blantrye and I stepped out of the airport 46 ½ hours after I’d stepped into the airport in Rochester, NY to begin four flights across three continents. “Welcome home” was the refrain. And welcome to Africa was the greeting for Andreas who is making his first visit to this continent.

Damson said, as we drove from Blantrye toward the Mulanje Massif, that he felt God putting a message on his heart. It was a greeting. Not just for me, but for those who send me – our prayer warriors and financial givers. There is a “pray” and a “give” before there is a “GO!” in the pray-give-GO! mantra of Climbing For Christ.

“As you have been committed to going around the globe strengthening the lives of believers and sharing the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ, I find it necessary to encourage you to continue doing this service to the kingdom of God,” Damson told me this evening.

“I was taken to the first Church and I was able to see how the apostles were assigned to go to various churches to get believers strengthened. Now my eyes were opened to see that really those hundreds of believers needed someone who may have them at heart and be willing to spare time and resources for their spiritual health.

“One might be wondering, ‘Why should we support missions?’ I am learning that very good farmers should be willing to check his or her field to make sure the crop is able to get what it needed at the right time. You plant, one waters, and the Lord makes it grow . Every member of the body of Christ has been given a different assignment, which we all have to accept.”

One may pray, one may give, and one may GO.

“We are praying for the Church to rise and see that it is of importance to have the nations visited and churches strengthened to His glory,” Damson said. “Every sender has a great reward.”

Flying into Blantyre in southern Malawi.

Wednesday, June 26

One overnight flight down, one to go. I flew from JFK to Frankfurt, Germany last night and I’m finally joined by teammate Andreas this evening. Andy lives about 270 kilometers (169 miles) south of Frankfurt in Freiburg. He took the train up this afternoon.

We fly to Johannesburg, South Africa tonight and then to Blantyre, Malawi tomorrow afternoon.

Damson and our Mulanje Massif Chapter guides and porters are waiting for us. Today they climbed the mountain to fast and pray together for Mission: Malawi 2024.

Chapter members on the mountain. (Photo by Damson Samson)

After we arrive tomorrow, we’ll teach on Friday and then start climbing to do hands-on evangelism training for four days on Mulanje mountain.

Damson said the prayer group dedicated our trip to Malawi, asking God to cover us as we travel. “We also brought to God the trainings coming this Friday, that it should yield fruits to the King of kings,” he said. “Another petition was about our evangelism trip to the mountain, which is starting this coming Saturday. We prayed that God should bring life on our way and we will honor Him by sharing the Good News of the loved son Jesus Christ for the salvation of humankind.”

After praying, Damson shared with them about the power of the heavenly call. “I told them that every human has no option when heaven has called. God knows our strength and weakness when calling us. We have nothing to say but rather accept and say, ‘Send me.’ Heavenly calling demands obedience. I told the team that we have been called to GO.”

Tuesday, June 25

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. It took nearly three days – and another delayed departure – to fly 49 minutes from Rochester, NY to JFK in New York City. It’s not exactly what Paul wrote about when he spoke of perseverance, but air travel today requires a marathoner’s stamina. Especially when the route is scheduled to take more than 45 hours from start (when you finally start) to finish.

Having escaped to New York, I have an overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany, where Andreas will meet me on Wednesday. Wednesday night the two of us will fly to Johannesburg, South Africa. From there, we will fly to Malawi on Thursday. Lord willing. Nearly two days in airports and airplanes. Trying to count it as joy.

Sunday, June 23

We spent hours on the phone last night and this morning rebooking flights after yesterday’s cancellation of the shortest, easiest flight (Rochester, NY to JFK) scrapped our original “tentative” itinerary. “Let’s hope God’s time is the best,” said Damson Samson, our Malawi-based Kingdom worker.

Damson wasn’t waiting idly by for our arrival. He’s been busy preparing the Mulanje Massif Chapter guides and porters for our outreach training on the mountain, and introducing youth to the C4C Vocation Skills Centre.

“Yesterday it was a busy day for the youth center,” Damson reported.

The vocational center will provide instruction in computers, carpentry, welding and fabrication, tailoring and fashion design, and much more.

We were introduced to this worthy project last August during Mission: Malawi 2023 when we dedicated one of Damson’s two maize mills. The mills have been turning a profit, so much so that Damson used funds from the mills to build the center. He’s also purchased four computers and four sewing machines. Additional funds are needed for more resources as more than 200 youth have registered for the start of training. (Some Climbing For Christ members responded to an ask for support for this center in E-Newsletter 506 on June 21.)

Showing youth the computers for computer skills training, above. Below, in order, electricity installation, carpentry, welding, and tailoring classes forming. (Photos by Damson Samson)

The youth center dedication has been rescheduled for next week. Our schedule for this trip remains the same, simply pushed back three days. Andreas said from Germany that the last 24 hours were very frustrating. “This is a great alternative, though.”

We are praying this is God’s will for Mission: Malawi 2024.

Saturday, June 22

The first flight delay was only 17 minutes. Moments later, there was no delay. “Great news! Your flight is now ready to take off at the original departure time,” the airline announced. But no. Again, a 17-minute delay. Then it was two hours and four minutes. Then … CANCELLED.

Sorry for the inconvenience (no that wasn’t actually said – nor any reason given for the cancellation).

No other flights today. No way to make connections. Everything gets rebooked after hours on the phone. The trip will be the same only three days later. Praying this is God’s timing. See you Tuesday when Mission: Malawi resumes – or restarts.

Introduction

“And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” – Genesis 9:7 (KJV)

This verse was put on Kingdom worker Damson Samson’s heart as he prepared for the arrival of staff member Andreas Moritz from Germany and me from the United States. “I was picking this to say that this mission reflects more on our obedience to GO,” Damson explained. To GO to other countries and to GO up the mountains to deliver the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“We trust in fruitfulness which will bring multiplication of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of many who are under the bondage of darkness,” Damson said. “It is a blessing to discover that fruitfulness brings multiplication.

“Every fruit tree brings hope to the farmer. Fruits to be brought about so as to multiply on its own. I can see the future where more than what we had expected will be (planted) in the ground. I can see our expanded Kingdom to the number of people we have never thought about even when we are not there. The seed will live on to His glory!”

“The goal of missions is generations of disciples,” missionary Dick Brogden wrote in Missionary God, Missionary Bible, a 365-day devotional that accompanies a one-year chronological reading of the Bible.

Making disciples who make disciples who make disciples who are making disciples. That is what Climbing For Christ is doing in Malawi through the Mulanje Massif Chapter (as well as in neighboring Tanzania through the Kilimanjaro Chapter) of guides and porters. Teaching discipleship to disciples to do the same to the next generation of believers and beyond.

The prayer of and for every missionary, Brogden wrote, is: “Lord, grant multiple generations of disciples! We don’t care about dollars, projects, institutions, buildings, programs, little plaques, or big ovations. We just want disciples that make disciples. Give us children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren in the faith – all for Your great-great glory in every unreached people!” Amen.

Our team is focused now on the next step in the DMD process: teaching our guides and porters how to evangelize on the mountain – in their workplace. We will take a group from the Mulanje chapter and climb Mount Mulanje, a massif with 20 peaks of more than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet), including Malawi’s highpoint, Sapitwa peak at 3,002 meters/9,849 feet.

Our hope is to encounter other groups climbing the mountain so we can teach C4C guides and porters how to do outreach.

Damson asks Climbing For Christ prayer partners to be “willing to water this mission so we can see a big growth of the kingdom in these last days. We can only reach others by the prayers and support of well-wishers so that every needed resource is provided.

“As God blessed Abraham to be the father of nations and (whose) seed shall be like the sand of the sea (too numerous to count, according to Genesis 22:17), here is what I see our chapter growing into. God has been faithful to His promises with Abraham. I can see our chapter bringing forward multiplication of the Kingdom of God to nations around the globe.”

“Children’s children are the crown of old men, And the glory of children is their father.” – Proverbs 17:6 (NKJV)

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