Dispatches: Nepal 2024

Dispatches: Nepal 2024
Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Nepal 2024

Mission: Nepal 2024

By Gary Fallesen, Climbing For Christ

Saturday, May 18

Our Kangchenjuna team, above (left to right) Gary, Biru, Andy, Megh, Suzan, Suman, and Samuel. Below, Elaine with the women’s Bible study group at Pastor Tej’s church.

Travels home – to Colorado for Elaine and me and to Germany for Andy – went uneventfully, on time, and luggage made it. We continue to focus on what God has done, is doing, and will do in Nepal. “Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession” (Psalm 2:8, NLT).

Friday, May 17

The Rokka family, including (from left) Pastor Tej, his brother Karna, and Karna’s wife Hanna – along with their two daughters – saw us off at the airport. Megh was there, too, of course.

Elaine and I made our way to the Kathmandu airport to begin 36-plus hours of travel back to Colorado with an evening flight to Seoul. Then, on Saturday, it will be on to Seattle and Denver. Andy flies Saturday morning to Delhi and then Frankfurt to make his way home to Germany.

Megh and I met to discuss the ministry happening and discuss the possibilities for Mission: Nepal 2025. There is much to pray for and about.

Thursday, May 16

The faces of SARA Children’s Home: created in His image. Elaine and Pastor Tej pose with the kids and the wall-hanging she made from their contributions. Jesus is the center of it all. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

The highlight of a trip with many highlights for Elaine was the unveiling today of last week’s art project. Elaine put her college degree in studio art to work with a creative idea that came to her directly from God.

“It was God who gave me the idea to do a wall hanging when I couldn’t come up with anything on my own that would match the fun and creativity of last year’s The Cure video,” Elaine explained. “So, I am convinced He wanted this project done. And the kids came through with their creative juices flowing, as they always do.”

In her evaluation of the mission, Elaine listed this project as the highlight of highlights.

“Together with the SARA Home kids we completed a wall hanging representing how we are all made in God’s image, how we are all different but all one body of believers in Jesus Christ,” she wrote. “I don’t think I’ve ever hand-sewn anything for that long of a time in my life. I felt like I was sewing each child’s character and unique talents and abilities into each row. They weren’t just felt squares; they represented real kids who matter to their Creator.

“I pray that whenever they look at the hanging they will be reminded that they are indeed kids of the King, and that He loves them more than they can ever fathom.”

Elaine once again shared her Christ-like love with the kids as she spoke with them, shared gifts (that we both gave and received), prayed for them, and said “goodbyes” for now.

Pastor Tej opening his gift of genuine cornhole bags from the U.S. of A.

The best gift might have been the cornhole bags that Elaine bought for Pastor Tej and the SARA kids. Tej brought cornhole back from his last visit to the States. They made their own cornhole boards and bean bags. But the bags were losing their beans when we were here last year, so Elaine bought them the real thing. A cornhole game broke out before we left.

Andy, the German, sarcastically called cornhole one of America’s greatest inventions. But there is one group of Nepalis who dearly love it.

Momos at Megh’s house.

It’s fun to see the joy in Tej’s ministry as well as Megh’s. Megh was the host with the most today as he picked us up at the hotel to go to his house for lunch. It was our traditional momo meal with Megh (and his wife Bhim, cousin Samuel, and daughter-in-law). After eating and fellowship, he went with us to the Children’s Home. “Uncle” Megh, as he is known to the kids, has brought several of the children from areas where he ministers with us, such as Rolpa.

It wasn’t all play for our team. We started the day – after morning Bible study – in a meeting at a local coffee shop to debrief about this trip, discuss approaches to future Nepal treks, and plan other upcoming expeditions. All of this will be bathed in prayer.

Wednesday, May 15

Andy, left, with Biru on the Nango La Pass last Thursday. (Photo by Samuel Gurung)

We celebrated Andy and Samuel’s return to Kathmandu – early, no less, after they were able to board a flight before theirs from Bhadrapur – with our traditional post-trek stop at Fire & Ice pizza. While there, Megh applauded their success at going over the Nango La pass at 15,700 feet (4,795 meters). He said only “a Godly man” could do that.

Andy shared that Tshring Tashi Sherpa, the guesthouse owner in Ghunsa, told him he’s never been over that pass. And they saw the owner of the guesthouse in Olangchung Gola on the other side of the pass on the trail to Ghunsa; he’d gone all the way down the one river valley and then ascended up the next one rather than climbing over the snow-covered pass.

Maybe that’s why, as we planned this trek last year, the locals were shaking their heads in disbelief that we were going to go that way.

Andy, who crossed numerous high passes in the Andes on Mission: Peru 2023 just six months ago, was only concerned for the safety of Samuel and local guide Biru. He said he was warm enough as they kept moving slowly in the snow because he had the proper gear for both hiking and camping. He loaned Biru a pad and blanket for sleeping because the young Limbu man didn’t have anything with him.

We will pray that the impression left by this ascent is one that brings glory to God and continues to grow our relationships with the people of the Kangchenjunga area.

Tuesday, May 14

If you’d told me 20 years ago, I’d be sitting in a hotel room in Kathmandu, Nepal communicating with ministry co-workers in Haiti, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Pakistan, and Tanzania, I would have laughed. But God gets the last laugh. Here I was getting caught up with activities around the Climbing For Christ world and wiring funds to five countries while Elaine was wrapping up her kids’ project to be unveiled at the SARA Children’s Home on Thursday.

Andy, meanwhile, was on the last driving leg of the Kangchenjunga trek. “I’m feeling pretty done after the long travel and the climate here,” he remarked from Bhadrapur, where the temperature was 96 degrees F (35 C). “But all is fine.”

It is well with our souls.

Andy and Samuel fly tomorrow morning from Bhadrapur and we’ll be reunited in Kathmandu. A traditional pizza lunch awaits.

Monday, May 13

Gary, above, prays before the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Sandan church. Below, preaching with Megh translating. (Photos by Elaine Fallesen)

When Megh, Elaine, and I trekked the lower Manaslu area of Dhading in north central Nepal in 2019, there were no Christians in Sandan. Today, when we dedicated the church building to the Lord, there were 87 believers worshiping.

“God heard the C4C prayer,” Megh said.

The Sandan church was finished last August. It was the 10th of 11 churches Climbing For Christ has helped build in Nepal. An impromptu dedication of the Sandan church was arranged when Megh and I returned early from the Kangchenjunga trek on Saturday.

We three amigos (joined by Megh’s wife and sister) made the 100-mile (161-kilometer) drive early this morning, taking six hours to get there from Kathmandu. As we climbed out of Kathmandu Valley, the air was choked with exhaust fumes from trucks, buses, and cars devoid of emission controls. In the evening, when we returned, it took seven hours to drive the same 100 miles, sometimes sitting in gridlock on a semi-paved highway. We have concluded that Nepal’s roads (for lack of a better word) are among the worst in the C4C world.

Andy has learned this in his time getting to and now leaving the Kangchenjunga area. Today, he and Samuel drove for five hours from Ranipul to Tapeljung. Another day of driving awaits them. “Hoping your streets are at least a bit better than ours here,” Andy messaged.

They weren’t. But despite the painful challenge posed by driving, our trip to Dhading was rewarding. I prayed for the Church and for God’s house before cutting the ribbon and then worshiping with our Sandan brothers and sisters, who are mostly from the Gurung people group.

My message for them was focused on giving glory to God, using Psalm 103:1-2, 22. He is the One who has done all the work in Dhading, not Climbing For Christ or any other ministry. “For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36, NLT).

God has provided and God will protect (Romans 8:38-39 and Matthew 16:18). I encouraged the Church to be like “a city on a hilltop” and shine His light for all to see (Matthew 5:14-16). Megh followed by telling them there are many still who need to hear the Good News. He used the “E” word (evangelism). He also asked how many would be willing to come once a month for an overnight prayer vigil, and nearly every hand went up. This is the Church in Nepal.

Prayer brought the number of believers from 0 to 87 in five years. Prayer will continue to be used to grow this body of Christ.

Sunday, May 12

Praising Him: Some of the 12 women who gathered for Bible study today at SARA Church. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

It was Mother’s Day at home, but my wife and the mother of our children is not at home. The other day she half-jokingly remarked: “I think I’m ready for heaven. I feel like I have no permanent home here.”

Nepal celebrated Mother’s Day earlier this week. Elaine wrote about being a “Mom in the middle” (between my mother and our daughter Hayley, who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day) in an E-Update to all our C4C subscribers today. Three generations of moms in three countries: my mother in the U.S., Elaine in Nepal, and Hayley in Canada. Happy Mother’s Day to each of them, and to moms everywhere.

Elaine also got to spend time with a bunch of Nepali mothers at a women’s group Bible study today. She was the teacher.

“I was inspired by David Platt’s Secret Church study last month to share the Book of Ruth with the women’s Bible study group at SARA Church,” Elaine said. “These ladies meet every Sunday to worship, praise, and delve into the Word. Together we read through the short, four-chapter book, a love story within a love story, which uses the romance of Ruth and Boaz to illustrate on a much greater level how God loves, redeems, and restores us.

“Ruth is the only book in the Bible named after a non-Jew, and one of only two books named after women. On this Mother’s Day for North America, I am filled with admiration for Ruth, the grandmother of King David, whose lineage leads down through generations to the birth of Jesus.”

Likewise, we admire Hajur Aama (grandmother in Nepali) Elaine as she steps out in a new role with 6-month-old Jones David Fallesen-Harris back in North America while serving “her kids” here at SARA Children’s Home and ministering to the women in Pastor Tej’s church. She is blessed to be a blessing.

The long descent. (Photo by Andreas Moritz)

Meanwhile, in the Kangchenjunga area, the day was met with rain and blessed opportunities to share the Good News. Andy reports:

“This morning, we got woken by heavy rainfall, which platted down on our metal roof. After I spent my time reading my Bible and praying for the day, I headed down to the dining area, where Sammy was already waiting. Because of the rain, he said, ‘We’ll leave at 9 instead of 8 a.m.’ as originally planned. I quickly found that this was how God meant it to be.

“After Sammy and Biru (our local guide) had eaten their breakfast, Sammy invited me to share the Gospel with Tshirin, who could understand English, and Tashi, his friend. As I started sharing, two other men came into the eating area; one (named Bigas) stayed and listening attentively.

“After I finished sharing, Sammy also shared in Nepali and then we handed them all audio Bibles, which they happily received. Bigas was especially happy as his son, who lives in Kathmandu, is already a Christian and he has heard stories of somebody getting healed through prayer by Christians.”

Biru (left to right), Bigas, and Tashi with Andy after receiving audio Bibles in Amjilosa this morning. Tshirin, not photographed, also received an audio Bible. (Photo by Samuel Gurung)

Andy, Samuel, and Biru then hiked the last leg of the trek, another 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) mostly down (3,500 feet/1,065 meters) to Ranipul.

“Even though it was raining most of the way, we arrived happily early afternoon,” Andy said. “We had lunch and then went together with Biru to his village, Hillok, which is 100 meters above Ranipul. We got to know his family – he is the father of two, 4-year-old and 1-year-old girls. We shared a very sweet cup of coffee and then prayed for him.”

Please join us in praying for Biru and his family.

Saturday, May 11

Andy, Samuel, and Biru left Ghunsa this morning after praying one more time for guesthouse owner Tshring Tashi Sherpa. Samuel also shared the Gospel once again with Tashi’s father, Pemba, the village high monk, who we gave an audio Bible to in 2023.

“He was really open, saying he wants to see how (Christianity works) and then take some more time (to consider it),” Samuel relayed through Andy.

“This was really encouraging to hear,” Andy said, “as one big challenge for Tshring to become a Christian is his family. (Friday) when I prayed for him, I prayed that for God nothing is impossible and that Tshring’s dad could become a Christian even before Tshring.”

I was praying this morning that Tashi and his father’s response – similar to what we received last year when we shared with them – was genuine, and that the Holy Spirit is softening their hearts. Pray for the salvation of these men and this unreached Sherpa village.

Our three-man group descended today about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) to the village of Amjilosa. “It was a long journey, but the path was much better than on the previous days,” Andy said of the 12-mile (19-kilometer) hike that had another 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) of elevation change.

Samuel said he wants to share the Gospel with the Amjilosa teahouse owner where we have stayed the past two years.

Andy was able to send photos from previous days through WhatsApp as the group got its first cell phone reception since earlier in the week. Included was this shot:

Local guide Biru Limbu leads Andy through the snow and cold to Nango La pass at 15,700 feet/4,795 meters on Thursday. (Photo by Samuel Gurung)

Megh and I flew back to Kathmandu today from Bhadrapur. While we were flying, Elaine was teaching “Saturday School” at Pastor Tej’s church.

When Elaine and I got married, she was a Sunday School teacher at our home church in Rochester, NY. I was not a believer and I used to belittle her Sunday School activities. Then I had a Road-to-Damascus moment, and the Spirit changed my heart from a Saul to a Paul. Now I am proud of Elaine’s teaching the children in Nepal – be it during the week at the SARA Children’s Home or on the Nepali Sabbath. Here’s how her “Saturday School” experience went:

Today was Sabbath Saturday, my second in Kathmandu. I again attended SARA Church, but today I was across the way from the sanctuary, on the top floor of the adjacent building where Sunday School is held. I was the guest teacher for the day and spent more than two hours with 14 young children and three teen leaders who led the kids in songs, dances and games. One of the three young ladies served as my translator, and she spoke English very well.

I used five pieces of colored construction paper to share the Bible in a nutshell, from Genesis to Revelation: yellow for creation, black for sin, red for Jesus’ shed blood, white for the cleansing of sins, and green for growing in faith. Everyone also received a rubber bracelet with a Bible verse on it from me.

I’ll be back at church tomorrow to instruct the weekly women’s Bible study group from the Old Testament Book of Ruth.

Friday, May 10

As Megh and I made the long drive from Tapeljung to Bhadrapur, Andy and Samuel were prayer walking around Ghunsa.

“We decided to stay in Ghunsa and have a day of rest and prayer and connecting,” Andy said via satellite phone this morning.

They began the day in Bible study in the kitchen at the Dzonga guesthouse, where our teams have stayed on all three Kangchenjunga expeditions.

“We read Psalm 127, ‘Unless the LORD builds the house, we toil in vain.’” Andy reported. “Unless God is in charge of this hike, this trip is in vain.”

This morning, they prayed over the north end of the village, using John 12:46 (Jesus came as “a light to shine in this dark world”). In the afternoon, they prayed over the south side of the village, using John 14:5-7 (Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life).

After these powerful times of prayer, Andy had an opportunity to share the Gospel with Dhana Limbu, a porter from the same village as our team’s local guide, Biru. Andy used John 10:8-11 and explained that other gods are like the thief whose “purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” Dhana said he needed to think about what he heard. Samuel gave him an audio Bible and they prayed for him.

In the evening, Andy spent 1 ½ hours with our friend Tshring Tashi Sherpa, who owns the guesthouse. They talked about God, the Gospel, the differences between religions, and what it could mean to Tashi’s community if he became a believer.

“I prayed for him and he said he could feel it in his heart,” Andy relayed tonight. “I believe he is so close. But he is concerned about being the only Christian in the village.”

Andy, Samuel, and Biru will leave Ghunsa tomorrow. They will not be going over the other pass as we had originally planned, but will retrace the route our 2022 and 2023 teams took and visit those we have witnessed to in the past. We are praying for more sowing, watering, and hopefully reaping.

Meanwhile, back in Kathmandu, Elaine was back with the SARA children. Here’s her report:

This morning’s visit with the kids was short but fun. I first visited with the girls at Hanna and Karna’s home, where they all live. Then Pastor Tej drove me about a mile away to the original SARA Home orphanage site where the boys live. It was a quick morning of taking their photos and information gathering.

While we were at the boys’ location, a new orphan arrived. He is one of three new boys Tej has welcomed in the past couple weeks. I will soon be searching for sponsors for these three guys, ages 7, 10 and 13. The two youngest are brothers who have no father and whose mother, who has mental health issues, ran away. The oldest was abandoned by his father. His mother and sister were taken in by a shelter for females only. Praise God all three are now in the care of SARA Home and with a loving band of new brothers.

Thursday, May 9

The day began with this news from Andy at the “Stone Hut” camp at 12,300 feet/3,750 meters:

“We made the decision to turn back just because from where we are we cannot see the mountains and we could get up 500 meters or something and we probably will get in heavy snow. We can see that where we need to go it's snowing right now so there will be even more snow. We were talking about ‘should we try it or not?’ I think it is almost guaranteed we will get stuck in the snow and have to turn around. I said, ‘Let’s end our journey and just get back.’”

But one hour later, there was new news: “The sun just broke through and so we decided we actually are going to try (to cross Nango La pass at 15,700 feet/4,795 meters). If we should not be able to do it – if at some point we get stuck in the snow – we will turn around and come back to the campsite for one more night and then tomorrow we go back (down).”

The group persevered through the snow and made it to Ghunsa. Praise God!

“Today was even harder,” Andy said by satellite phone.

They hiked another 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) with nearly 9,000 feet (2,700 meters) of elevation change. Crossing the pass and descending to Ghunsa (at 11,200 feet/3,415 meters) took eight hours.

As this drama was playing out, Megh and I were returning by Jeep to Taplejung. Meanwhile, back in Kathmandu, Elaine continued patching the SARA Home quilting project together, sewing from 7 am through late evening. There is a time limit to get this completed before we say our goodbyes to the children next week.

Wednesday, May 8

Megh talks to a local in Olangchung Gola before our team departs. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

The morning light brought peaceful music from the Buddhist monastery for all of Olangchung Gola to hear. It’s the kind of music that deceives people, especially those in the West, into believing Buddhism is a religion of love, good karma, and peace.

The demons on the walls of monasteries paint a very different picture.

Before we left Olangchung Gola and its 65 houses, the tone of the monastery music had changed. It was the more threatening “om ma ne pe me hun” chant. We have watched monks with glazed-over eyes mouth these words while fingering their beads for years in Buddhist areas. The meaning?

Om god. Ma demigod. Ne human. Pe animals. Me hungry ghost. Hun hell.

It doesn’t sound peaceful or loving to me. This was the soundtrack of spiritual war that we heard as we marched out of Olangchung Gola.

The team split up at a fork in the trail about two miles outside Olangchung Gola. Megh and I, with two of our porters, descended back to Ila Danda, where we’d left the family running the guesthouse we stayed in Monday night with an audio Bible and SD card containing the Gospel truth.

Megh shares the Good News with a guesthouse family on Tuesday morning.

Andy, Samuel, and local guide Biru continued up toward a stone hut in the forest where they will camp for the night. It is a two-day hike over the Nango La pass (at 15,700 feet/4,795 meters) to Ghunsa, the village we have visited the past two years.

Andy reported tonight that it was snowing where they are after a “much, much harder” climb than Tuesday. The group hiked 8 ½ miles (13.86 kilometers) but with nearly 7,000 feet (2,050 meters) of elevation change. They still have about 3,300 feet/1,000 meters to climb to the pass in what may be very snowy conditions.

I sent gifts with Andy for Ghunsa guesthouse owner Tashi and his newborn baby girl.

Meanwhile, back in much-warmer Kathmandu, the mother of my children was being honored at the SARA Children’s Home. Here’s Elaine’s report:

Pandemonium in the green room at SARA Home. (Photos by Elaine Fallesen)

Welcome to my surprise Mother’s Day celebration!

Today is Mother’s Day in Nepal AND another Hindu holiday, which made for near gridlock on our drive to the orphanage through narrow side streets clogged with incense-burning ceremony observers.

The holiday also meant another day of no school, so we were under no constraints. I had plenty of time to distribute all the Project 1:27 sponsors’ letters to the children and help them write their replies. Then our partying began.

For a warm-up we watched “The Cure” video of the kids I filmed last year, which they’d not yet seen. They were ecstatic. Then I showed them the band Unspoken performing its version of the song, and asked which version they liked better. They were reluctant to choose, but they did ask to watch the SARA Home version a second time.

I had previously requested a cake to celebrate the recent baptisms of nine of the kids, so I suspected nothing when cake boxes and other bags were brought into the room. As I was called up front, the first cake was opened and presented to me amidst much cheering, clapping and spraying of an unidentified foam. I also received a beautiful scarf, a rose, and candy. Moms Hannah and two Sobas (who assist at the two orphanage locations) also were honored.

Recently baptized kids of the King include, left to right, front row: Manju, Shristi G., Nisha, Shristi C., Dikshya. Back row: Daniel, Samuel, Ranjan, Ajit.

This is the largest group ever of SARA Home orphans to be baptized at once. I welcomed them to God’s family and commended them all for their courage to stand up for the Truth. Not coincidentally, Pastor Tej had just come from a first-ever summit gathering of about 100 Nepali journalists, senior pastors and other church leaders. The morning’s discussion focused on the alarming increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal and raised the question of what to do. Pastor Tej told me the group agreed that Christians should respond to persecution by praying first, “and not be negative, but remain positive,” repaying anger with kindness. “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head and the Lord will reward you.” – Proverbs 25:22 (NIV)

Left to right are Theology grads Koushila, Laxchu, Sima, Nabin and Pastor Tej’s niece, Pratikchya.

And the celebration continued as five of the high school-age kids were recognized for completing a year-long online program in Theology sponsored by SARA Ministries. Among a class of 27 graduates were four from SARA Home as well as Tej’s niece.

Finally, we all ate cake!

Tuesday, May 7

The village of Olangchung Gola on the way to Tibetan China. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Stronghold 1, Gary 0.

The problem with entering spiritual strongholds, Megh will tell you, is Satan doesn’t want us there. Or, in this case, here. We hiked 10 miles (16 kilometers) with more than 6,250 feet (1,900 meters) of elevation change as we climbed up to Olangchung Gola at 10,500 feet (3,190 meters). Gola, for short, is a dark, depressing place with an ancient Buddhist monastery hovering over it from atop a hill behind the village. Prayer flags whip on tall poles in front of every house.

While on the way here I suffered a leg injury. Nothing serious but enough to slow me down and make the prospect of climbing over two 15,000-foot (4,600-to-4,700-meter) passes more than challenging.

“Satan is very clever,” Megh said. “There are many, many obstacles. What to do?”

Probably retreat. At least Megh and I will. Samuel, Andy, and the local guide, Biru, a member of the Limbu people group who is 22 but looks like a teenager, will continue on. Megh has other things for us to do; making good from something perhaps meant for evil.

Megh and Andy on a prayer walk.

Megh, Andy, and I went for a short prayer walk in the village. Prayer is needed to beat back the darkness in places like this and throughout the Kangchenjunga area. There are few, if any, believers here. The three porters with us come from the Limbu people group that is predominantly Buddhist. The same with the Sherpa and Rai people.

As we walked, as if on cue, it began to rain.

Meanwhile back in Kathmandu, Elaine reports:

This is my first mission trip involving non-stop hand sewing. That’s all I’ve done since returning to the hotel room yesterday from the hugely successful self-portrait project with the SARA Home kids. And there’s much more sewing ahead. It’s rare times like this that I feel my studio art bachelor’s degree is being put to good use. I wish I could share the orphans’ masterpiece-in-the-making with my Off-Loom Techniques art teacher.

Monday, May 6

The road to somewhere. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

We crawled along the rocky four-wheel-drive Jeep road for nearly six hours. It was tedious in its bumpiness. We had a full vehicle – four of us, three porters we picked up along the way, and the driver and the owner of the guesthouse where we’ve stayed the past two years and where we stopped for lunch.

At one point, as we rounded a sharp and narrow curve with a drop off into oblivion, our driver downshifted into 4WD low and sighed. “Very dangerous,” he said to me, suddenly able to speak English.

Nothing new under the (obscured) sun in Nepal.

The skies have been hazy from dust as dry season nears the end. Then, on cue, a thunderstorm struck with pouring rain after our arrival in Ila Danda, a spot on the map (situated at 6,725 feet/2,050 meters) with only a few houses. We’re staying in one tonight.

It’s been two days (or more) of flying and now two days of driving. Hiking is next on the C4C fly-drive-hike agenda. We’ve always said: two days of flights, two days driving, and two days hiking and you can be at the end of the earth. We’re headed that way in the Kangchenjunga area. Looking for the lost.

Meanwhile back in Kathmandu, Elaine has this to report:

I knew the creative juices would be flowing today. The SARA Home kids didn’t disappoint.

Koushila with her self-portrait. (Photos by Elaine Fallesen)

We talked first about the names the world often tries to use to define who we are. Negative labels like second class, useless, ugly. Then we ran through a long list of names God uses in the Bible to tell us who we really are: Friend, Chosen, Masterpiece, Art, His Temple, Child, Greatly Loved, Forgiven, Free. These are our real names. They are how God sees us.

We read Genesis 1:26-27 which says God made humans in His own image. And as God is love, we reflect Him and His love as believers in this world. The kids were then given felt, scissors, glue and different fabric edgings to make portraits of themselves. The results were stunning:

Nabin’s detailed image (above) and Gaurab proudly displaying his face in felt, below.

And we're not done yet. The portraits are to become something even bigger. Stay tuned.

We polished off our time together with a special snack of Easter peeps, a delicacy relished by all as the sugar-saturated marshmallow puffs are foreign to them.

Sunday, May 5

Time to fly – again. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

The emotional roller coaster of the past two days was like the endlessly winding roads we drove for 8 1/2 hours on Day 1 of our Kanchenjunga trek. Saturday, as Megh and I hashed out the day-to-day details of our trek, he broke the news: Tshring would not be guiding us. I was crestfallen. Tshring has been our guide the past two years and we have been praying for his salvation.

But this young Sherpa man was in Manang guiding someone else for the trekking company that employs him.

Then Saturday night, Megh messaged me: “No problem, big brother. Tshring arrived in Kathmandu this evening by helicopter from Manang. Because his guest was sick then he flew with the guest. He is ready to join us.”

I was euphoric. God wanted Tshring with us!

This morning, however, he was a no-show at the Kathmandu airport for our flight to Bhadrapur. Megh and Samuel, who picked Andy and me up at our hotel, called him dozens of times. No answer. I was deeply saddened.

We flew 45 minutes and then began our long drive (time-wise; it was less than 250 miles) to Taplejung. Along the way, we stopped to eat (a couple times – this is Nepal). Megh received a phone call. More news: Tshring was in an accident and injured his leg. We felt a great pain.

But we will continue to pray. We serve the God of the possible. The long trek has only just begun.

Meanwhile, back in Kathmandu, this was Elaine’s day:

I had a productive meeting with Pastor Tej to plan out the schedule for my time with the kids at SARA (Savior Alone Redeems Asians) Children’s Home. Tomorrow will be my first of three visits, and since it’s another of a bazillion Hindu holidays, the orphans don’t have school. Hurray! This will give us a whole day to work on an exciting new project I’ve been anxiously waiting to share with them. Their creativity knows no bounds, so I’m expecting great results to report back to their Project 1:27 sponsors.

Pastor Tej also asked me to share something with the women of SARA Church next Sunday at their weekly gathering; and teach something to the SARA Church Saturday School class (Christians in Nepal worship on Saturdays) next week. So I will be working on presentations for those events as well.

Saturday, May 4

The worship band at Tej’s church, which includes graduates of C4C’s Project 1:27 program such as Lokendra, Gideon, Lydia, and Chirring. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

The message at Pastor Tej’s church was from Acts 18. How appropriate. In a teaching I’m doing among disciple-makers the world over, I share about how exciting the Book of Acts is; must-read (again and again) material. But it’s not just a book in the Bible. Acts is happening now. God is at work. Always. He neither sleeps nor slumbers.

When I listened to the 85-or-so people in worship praying out loud, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would have His way with these fellow believers.

Acts 18 is also where the Apostle Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla. I told the Church how a sister in Christ dubbed Elaine and me “Aquila and Priscilla” a few years ago. We embraced that – as a couple doing marriage and ministry together – and we’ve taught other couples in places like Tanzania and Malawi how to serve the Lord as husband and wife.

There was more in this divinely timed passage. “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, ‘Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent!’” (Acts 18:9). These were important words for a church in Nepal to hear. As was Acts 18:13: “They accused Paul of ‘persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to our law.’” It is contrary to law in this predominantly Hindu country to worship the one, true God. The Church is threatened with imprisonment and fines for proselytizing.

But God’s Word encourages us to not be afraid. He was with Paul, and Aquila and Priscilla just as He is with Tej, mission teammates Megh and Andy, and this modern pair of Aquila and Priscilla (me and Elaine). We cannot be silent. There is Good News that must be delivered.

Friday, May 3 (9:30 p.m. Kathmandu time)

Our team all arrived with luggage in Nepal, which proves that miracles do happen even in the travel business. Andy arriving as originally scheduled (Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning as he’d been re-routed) is a story that took him almost as long to tell as his flight here from Delhi, India. It shows the absurdity of airlines, but we are thankful he made it today. “I guess God wanted me here as we originally scheduled it,” he said. Amen to that. God is in control.

Megh and Tej picked us up at the airport and delivered us to our hotel. Elaine and I have been flying or in airports for nearly 40 hours. We will be happy to sleep laying down for the first time since Tuesday night.

Friday, May 3 (west of the International Date Line)

Time is a funny thing. We know God lives outside it, yet He works within it because we are finite beings. We take off from LAX on a Wednesday night and land 12 ½ hours in Seoul in time to watch the sun rise Friday morning. Our Thursday was lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

After landing, we quickly try to figure out what time it is here, what time it is in Kathmandu, what time it is at home (be it Rochester, NY or Denver, Colorado). It only adds to the slight headache from our lack of caffeine and proper hydration.

Add to this how we try to plan and schedule things only to have something – in this case Air India – alter those intentions. Andreas (Andy) had his Thursday flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Delhi, India cancelled. He was rebooked on flights a day later and then had those flights cancelled, too. Already on a train from his home in Freiberg to Frankfurt, he managed to get on a Thursday night flight to Delhi where he will be subjected to a 22-hour layover (Lord, give him strength!). All this means, he is scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon. And so it goes.

One day we won’t be prisoners to 24-hour days – and airline schedules.

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” – 2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)

Wednesday, May 1

Let the air travel begin. Elaine and I head out from Denver to L.A. to Seoul to Kathmandu tonight through Friday afternoon. Andreas (Andy) leaves Germany tomorrow and is scheduled to land in Kathmandu a few hours before we do. Praying for traveling mercies.

This is my 19th trip to Nepal and Elaine’s 10th. Andy is GO-ing back for the first time in 11 years, when he did a YWAM outreach. “I’m really looking forward to this one,” he said today. “Wondering what has changed, what has stayed the same, how the spiritual atmosphere is. I’m very excited to see what God will do in and through us.”

Introduction

I have read Alpinist magazine, a self-described “archival-quality, quarterly publication dedicated to the art of ascent in its most powerful manifestations,” since issue No. 0 (a dress rehearsal of sorts). I was excited to again see “Jannu” on the cover of Alpinist 85 (Spring 2024) because Jannu is an impressive peak in the Kangchenjunga area of Nepal, where we have trekked the past two years and are GO-ing again next week. At 7,710 meters (25,295 feet), it is the 32nd highest mountain on earth.

But as I leafed through the story, I stopped at a photo of the village of Ghunsa, where we have stayed and will be staying. I emailed a copy of the page to some past Mission: Nepal team members. One, Adam Copper, commented: “Looks very familiar. Now, thanks to C4C it is being reached by more than the Alpinist.”

In the story, our friend and guesthouse host, Tshring Tashi Sherpa, is mentioned. The “upscale teahouse” (relatively speaking) where we stay was just being built when the writer of the Alpinist story was attempting the 3,000-meter north face of Jannu. This is where we were happily stunned, after five days of trekking ever upward, to find a coffee shop and bakery.

Tashi told the Alpinist writer how he and his father, the Buddhist lama in the village, delivered resupplies of liquor to the Russian team doing a first ascent of the North Face Direct route on Jannu in 2004. He said, “They were very mean.”

Gary and Tashi last year, above. Below, Gary arriving at Tashi’s guesthouse, which features an espresso maker and freshly baked goodies.

I messaged Tashi last week, as I was reading the story and we were making final preparations to GO to Nepal. He was excited to hear from me and happy to hear we are coming again. Since we saw him last, he has married (our guide Tshring’s sister) and he now has a 2-month-old daughter.

Life is the same in the Ghunsa Valley. “We all have finished planting potatoes a few weeks ago,” Tashi said. “The villagers are all busy in their seasonal businesses now. We are starting to see a few Rhododendron flowers in Ghunsa.

“This spring the weather has been normal, but I kind of think it’s colder (than) last spring.”

Last spring and the spring before were very rainy for our trekking teams. Tashi asked if all of our friends who arrived in Ghunsa in the past were coming again to Kanchenjunga. Just me and a new friend (staff member Andreas Moritz of Germany).

We have been praying – and will continue to pray – for our time in Kangchenjunga. Tashi and guide Tshring are two friends we have been lifting. They and others are the reason we are GO-ing back for a third time. It’s the Climbing For Christ way: returning to remote places time after time, growing relationships, sharing the love of Jesus, praying for the salvation of one – and then another.

On April 21, the first day of the next 20 years of Climbing For Christ, we were worshiping at Christian Family Fellowship in Canon City, CO. Pastor Mike Schoenfeld preached on “To Save the One.” The sermon was based on Mark 5, where Jesus goes across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes to reach “a man possessed by an evil spirit” (or spirits, as they were known as “Legion”). He rescues and the man and then leaves – the demon-possessed man was the only reason he went there. Pastor Mike said he was inspired in his writing of this message by something he read about Climbing For Christ seeking the one.

That’s because we GO where others cannot or will not, like the Kangchenjunga area.

Megh descending from Ghunsa last year.

When Kingdom worker Megh Gurung and I discussed this trek and taking a different route than we had the last two visits, we decided to cover more ground. But we would return to Ghunsa.

“It is a wonderful plan to cross two (mountain) passes,” Megh concluded. “We can pray from the high passes on the trek. My thoughts are this would be wonderful because no one has been in those places as a Christian missionary. I also never have been to those places, and we will be the first Gospel-carrying people in those areas.

“C4C is unique and powerful to reach the unreached. We are going to sow the seeds in the Himalayas areas. Through the C4C, we are breaking down stoney hearts.”

We pray for fertile soil in a rocky place, a hard-to-reach place – both physically and spiritually.

For several years, Operation World’s prayer guide has included Climbing For Christ as the ministry attempting to reach “the mountain peoples, almost entirely Tibetan-related. Most are lamaistic Buddhists living in isolated mountain communities. Most groups are small in number, and Christians are few” – if any.

The Sherpa people are more than 94 percent Buddhist.

While Andy and I are trekking with Megh and his cousin Samuel Gurung, my wife Elaine will be ministering to the children sponsored by Climbing For Christ at Pastor Tej Rokka’s SARA Children’s Home outside Kathmandu. It’s another new school year for the 32 SARA children. Two young people (Kamala BK and Akangksha) graduated and returned to their home villages, but a few more children may be added to the home. Nine more SARA kids have been baptized, which is a praise report. “Once again, thank you so much for your love, care, and concern,” Tej said about Elaine’s work.

We have been blessed to serve in Nepal since 2008. This will be our 21st expedition to Nepal and the 125th overall trip conducted by Climbing For Christ since missions began in 2005. Love, care, and concern are guiding forces for this ministry.

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