Dispatches: Tanzania 2022
Mission: Kilimanjaro 2022
Scheduled March 24-April 9.
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
Sunday, April 10
We leave behind Kilimanjaro, but neither the people of Kilimanjaro nor the mountain itself are ever far from our hearts. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
The challenges of travel continued today with our failing to get on a Delta flight as standby passengers (we were Nos. 1 and 2 on the wait-list when the plane filled) and then all other flights to Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse were full. This required a cab ride from JFK to LaGuardia for a late afternoon flight.
I started the day with Jordan St. Cyr’s anthem “Weary Traveler” playing over and over in my head:
“Beat down from the storms that you have weathered
“Feels like this road just might go on forever
And then later in the song: “Someday soon we’re gonna make it home. Someday soon we’re gonna make it home.”
Fal/G and Fal/E left JFK without seats on the flight.
In 12 hours, we rode JFK’s Air Train, an Uber, a hotel shuttle, a cab, and an airport shuttle – all to fly for an hour from New York City to Rochester. We went through security three times, each time taking 45-60 minutes and each time having TSA go through our backpacks.
When a TSA agent pulled my Bible from my backpack, I said, “That’s the Sword of the Spirit. No wonder that set off your alarms.” There was no reaction.
The lines seemed endless and mind-numbing. This made our return from Tanzania one of the longest travel dazes I have experienced, lasting more than 53 hours. We knew Satan wanted to frustrate and discourage us on the heels of a wonderfully blessed Mission: Kilimanjaro.
Then we remembered it was Palm Sunday. This is something you don’t see in the world as airports return to pre-pandemic numbers of travelers, many on self-focused Spring Breaks.
“Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!’” – Matthew 21:9 (NLT)
Jesus is NOT in the center of more than 70 percent of the world’s processions to and fro. We in the Christian majority must shout, “Praise God for the Son of David!” Praise Him for His Son Jesus!!
May we reflect His love with a world in search of answers.
Saturday, April 9
Sea of humanity in customs at New York’s JFK. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Thirty-eight hours of travel wasn’t enough, apparently. We had no problems leaving Tanzania – although it’s always hard to say goodbye to the people of Kilimanjaro and the mountain – and there were no issues flying through Amsterdam. We rejoiced during our long layover in Amsterdam when Damson messaged that he was home in Malawi with no issues. He had a nightmare of trip back home in February.
It was our turn, again. Once at JFK in New York City, we joined hundreds of people in customs. It took us 1 ½ hours to clear customs, but it took foreigners 3 ½-4 hours. Welcome to America! Then, racing to make our final flight, TSA hassled us. The usual slow, lousy attitude greeted us, and this time it included searching Elaine’s backpack and swabbing down the red-wax gouda cheese she bought in Amsterdam because, as everyone knows, that stuff is a real threat to air travel.
Running later still, we reached the farthest gate in the terminal for our 10 p.m. flight. We made it with 10 minutes to spare, but the Delta plane had already left. Several other passengers faced the same dilemma.
We were put on a standby flight Sunday morning. Lord willing.
The good news: our duffels reached Rochester tonight. Our son Jesse picked them up at the airport for us.
We couldn’t really be surprised by these struggles. The last leg to Rochester, NY is usually a gong show of some sort. And this trip had been so amazing from start to near-finish that we knew the enemy had to have some sort of welcome-home waiting.
Friday, April 8
Team Kilimanjaro 2022.
We met to go over the East Africa plan for the rest of 2022 and the start of 2023 – up until Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023, which will be conducted Feb. 24-March 10, 2023. We talked about DMD training for the Kilimanjaro Chapter here in Tanzania and the Mulanje Massif Chapter back in Damson’s home country of Malawi.
All three of us are flying this evening as we begin to make our way to respective homes.
Damson shared his appreciation for the maize mill Climbing For Christ funded to give him a tentmaking job that could help support his family and ministry. The mill is operational. He estimates making $3 USD for every $1 spent. From that, he pays a staff of four and still has money left. That money goes to his Praise Foundation and to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others.
He also gave thanks for building more houses for the widows in the wake of two tropical storms in late January and February. God has provided more than $25,500 USD through C4C members and supporters off our recent appeals. We give thanks for this provision, which should result in a total of another 21 homes for the widows. We built more than 40 homes in 2016 and 2017.
“Some people say, ‘Why are you doing this? These are dying people,’” Damson shared. “I tell them, ‘Let them die with a smile on their faces.’”
The widows are stunned to receive such a blessing. “It is restoring their lives,” Damson added. “Before they wanted to die. Now they say they want to stay alive and live in their new house.”
Damson was euphoric about this trip – as are Elaine and me. We are excited to see the spiritual growth in our Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters. It is a blessing for us to see.
We also had a divine appointment with another American couple who have served fulltime in Tanzania for 27 years. We had breakfast together and shared some of what God has been doing in our lives and His ministries. Praise Him!
Damson summed it up: “I don’t take any of this for granted. I know this is by God’s hand. He has entrusted us with this.” Amen.
Thursday, April 7
Saidi on Kilimanjaro in 2018. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
Our friend Saidi, who we have known since 2007, has had some tough breaks. Saidi is a Kilimanjaro guide. He has climbed with me numerous times. He climbed with our son in 2007 (when Jesse gave him a pair of heavy gloves and his Bible), as well as our daughter in 2014 and Damson in 2016. Saidi is a Muslim. In addition to being a mountain guide, he is a farmer.
Many years ago, planning for a future when he would be unable to go up a 19,341-foot (5,895-meter) mountain, he bought land toward Tanzania’s coast. Eighty acres. He started farming it – by hand. He needed a tractor and we prayed that we would be able to help him with that need, but it didn’t happen.
One year his cows were stolen by a man working for him, who was never seen again. Another year his crops burned when a fire started by a neighbor burning trash raged out of control.
We see Saidi each year. We WhatsApp with him in between. We share Jesus – and His love – and pray for him. We want to spend eternity with him, and our many other Muslim friends here (and around the C4C world).
During Mission: Kilimanjaro 2021, after Damson, Elaine and I climbed Mount Meru, we met Saidi in Moshi for coffee. He told us of his desire to build a fish farm. We said if the Lord willed it, it would happen. Later in the year, Elaine was moved by the Spirit to contribute to Climbing For Christ the funds that Saidi needed. He began work on his fish farm. In January, he sent us videos walking around the very large pond that is bigger than two football (soccer) fields.
We were supposed to visit him today – at least a four-hour drive to Tonga – but the rains have made the route impassable. Saidi contacted us last night to say, “(There is) heavy rain still in the village and no car is going here. It is degenerating. Sorry.”
Yusuf was prepared to take us in a four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser, but they talked and the 27 kilometer dirt (read: mud) road to Saidi’s farm was undriveable. Yusuf will go for us at a later date to report on the progress. The pond is completed and is filling with rainwater. Fish will soon be released. We are praying for success – and a Jesus moment. He is focused on fish; we are fishing for men.
Wednesday, April 6
Worshiping the Lord at the start of the Kilimanjaro Chapter’s DMD study on church planting. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We met in the classroom for the first time with our second group of DMD (disciples making disciples) students, who have been in training with Damson since 2019. I was blessed to share COVID-19 relief with these Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters during Mission: Kilimanjaro 2021.
But this was our first time teaching and observing our graduates as they instructed the younger students. About two-thirds of our original DMD class have taught. Today, Dauson Chonjo and John Mollen were the teachers.
The sweetest moment for me occurred during my lesson on abiding (based on John 15:5). The study and pursuit of abiding in Christ has been my passion since 2017 when I attended the global “Abide Bear Fruit” conference of ministry leaders and workers serving in the Muslim world. During the pandemic, God instructed me to share what I was learning with those we are serving and ministering to around the Climbing For Christ world – from Tanzania to Nepal to Turkey, and beyond.
The key to abiding is “lavishing extravagant time on Jesus,” a discipline I continue to pursue. This is done in three ways: daily study of His Word, more time praying, and more time being still and listening.
I pointed them to Isaiah 40:12-31 and talked about how God is all-powerful. After sharing this and stories about the way God birthed and was using Climbing For Christ in the mission field, I explained that my breath prayer (one of them, at least) is: “Apart from You, I can do nothing.”
I asked the 21 brothers in the class to breathe these words with me. They repeated them in Swahili. Then I told them to say it to God.
These 21 guides and porters closed their eyes and said in unison, “Bila wewe mimi siwezi kufanya kitu” (“Apart from You, I can do nothing”). It gave me Godbumps. It was a treasured moment.
Dauson teaching about planting the church where there is none and reaching unreached people.
Dauson and John team taught chapter seven (“Some Basic Questions on Church Planting”) of our advanced DMD textbook from The Timothy Initiative. They addressed questions such as “Why should we plant churches?” “Where should we plant churches?” “Who can plant churches?” “What type of church should we plant?” and “How should we plant churches?” The answers to these questions are found in the Bible, and the class studied these.
Our guides and porters – 63 in all in Tanzania – are dedicated to learning and growing. Today’s group met in a classroom on a ministry campus where the power was knocked out by a storm yesterday, so there was no electricity. This meant there were not even fans to move the stifling air as temperatures again reached 90 degrees. Yet they focused on our lessons for more than six hours.
“This is a very good group,” Dauson said at the end of the day. “I think they will produce 1,000 times, not 100.”
He was referring to the words in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, when the Lord says they will “produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Mark 4:20). We trust this is possible if they abide in Jesus.
Tuesday, April 5
Misael Minja accepts his certificate from Gary Fallesen. Pastor Winford Mosha, left, who met Gary by divine appointment on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 and planted the seed of training guides and porters that has reached germination today, attended graduation. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)
It was graduation day for our first advanced disciples-making-disciples (DMD) class in the Kilimanjaro Chapter. Twenty-six guides and porters who studied disciple-making and church-planting with us since 2018 received certificates from Climbing For Christ – and then commenced to start our third study.
Baraka Lembawi, left, reads his Discovering the Bible textbook while his wife takes notes and Elaine Fallesen teaches a lesson on Bible study methods. John Mollen is translating for Elaine. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We have spent a lot of time in the Bible the last five years with our Kilimanjaro Chapter members. As one of the chapter’s leaders, Jonas Minja, noted yesterday, “God’s Word is the foundation for everything.” Our desire is to give them a stronger foundation, so we began a new study, “Discovering the Bible.”
I opened this study with a short lesson on the importance of God’s Word. We looked at the story of Josiah in 2 Kings 22:8-11. There was a long line of evil kings in Judah, who had led their people farther and farther from God. When the Book of the Law (the first five books of the Bible) was unearthed and presented to Josiah, who was a good king, he tore his clothes in despair. He realized his sins and the sins of his people. With just one reading of God’s Word, he committed his life to leading Judah to repent.
“That’s the power of God’s Word – the Bible,” I told our chapter members, who were joined today by their wives and some of their small children. More than 60 people crowded in a small classroom on an Africa-hot (90-degree) day for eight hours of study, worship, celebration, and prayer.
Godlisten Mosha, left, and Asheri Tibu with their wives and Asheri’s daughter discuss a Bible passage in their small group.
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” – Psalm 119:11 (NLT).
We started the “hiding” or storing-up process of Bible study with two very involved lessons. Elaine taught about personal Bible study and I taught about group Bible study.
Elaine instructed them to write a Scripture verse then put it into their own words and then attach an action item to it. “Read, obey, and share” is the theme. The group lesson was a little more involved – with instruction for prayer, sharing about how God was speaking through personal Bible study, reading a passage of Scripture out loud multiple times and then putting it into your own words, answering a series of questions in a discussion time, and then determining how to apply it to your life.
We are equipping the guides and porters – and their wives – with the tools to grow in the Word and lead others to spiritual maturity in their many prayer groups. These 26 Kilimanjaro Chapter members are leading several hundred people in small groups.
“These subjects are making us strong,” said chapter chair Dauson Chonjo, a Kilimanjaro Chapter member since its inception in 2008.
“I see the difference it’s making,” Damson concurred. “When I go in the villages, I see the fruit of it.”
Monday, April 4
A dramatization of the church-planting method we have employed here in which the vision of a Paul has been shared with a Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, Titus, and Silas, who in turn teach the faithful and they reach out to others. The guides and porters lined up to make a human chain with one in the back, four in the next row, and 20 in the front row – reaching out to the next generation of churches to be planted here. (Photos by Gary and Elaine Fallesen)
Damson asked the Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters from our original disciples-making-disciples (DMD) class about the impact of our training on their lives. We were covering the final chapter in the second DMD study with 25 brothers in Christ. Only one of the originals is missing, Godlove Kowero, and he is in Bible college now.
“Climbing For Christ has been our mentor,” Damson said. “It has taught us how to evangelize.”
Damson asked Godlisten Mosha what his life was like before C4C. “Before Climbing For Christ, I had a very bad life,” Godlisten answered. “It was evil – drinking and smoking marijuana.” He even came to his first training drunk. But Damson included him, and his life was changed. It was given direction.
We started using resources from The Timothy Initiative on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017. This is our 15th DMD training session, each lasting two-to-three days. In between quarterly meetings, members have formed small groups to study the Bible and pray. Through this, they have led scores of family members, friends, and neighbors to the Lord. Disciples making disciples.
Our day began with the usual time of worship, which turned into morning calisthenics with Damson leading them in singing and dancing to “Around the Corner (Jesus is Coming).” The group was high-stepping and high-fiving around the room in Himo, a crossroads between Moshi and Marangu.
When the music stopped, I shared a refresher on abiding, following up on our in-depth study last year. I then talked about having “a heart that cares,” borrowing some material from Pastor Greg Laurie. Five years of regular attendance has shown that these men do care. I spoke about them learning to be intercessors (“mwombezi” in Swahili).
Damson then reviewed past material. Gasper Mosha told how he used what he learned to survey the mission field around him. He said there were Muslims, Catholics, and animists in his village. He brought them together to share the Truth and five people asked Jesus to be the Lord of their lives.
Every member is leading a small group of four-to-10 people. Dauson Chonjo, the Kilimanjaro Chapter chairman, has three groups, numbering seven, eight, and 10 people. Chapter 15 of our TTI study (Equip Leaders) focused on raising up leaders within these groups (or churches).
Damson described TTI’s church-planting method, saying I am the “Paul” to his “Timothy” and the guides and porters are the “faithful men and women” who have others meeting.
This turns the vision of one into a church of hundreds, if not thousands. “And this is repeating all over the Climbing For Christ world,” Damson said.
“You are the leader in your group. You are like the pastor,” Damson instructed. “That’s why we are training you – to stand on your own.”
He led the guides and porters through a dramatization of the church-planting process. “It’s a very big chain reaching the nations,” Damson said after they’d lined up. “A very big chain.”
We are honored to see this chain – the Church – growing in Tanzania, and around the Climbing For Christ world. To God be the glory!
Sunday, April 3
Yusuf describing the dishes we are about to eat for dinner, including makande, center, and ndizi, left. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We had to wait until after sunset for dinner at our old friend Yusuf’s house as he is observing Ramadan. While we waited, he described many cultural things about the tribes in Tanzania and discussed his religion of Islam. As this was the second day of Ramadan, he explained why he thinks it is important to fast: “You get paid double” by Allah for righteous (or good) deeds.
Project Prayer: Ramadan 2022, our 30 days of prayer for the Muslim world, is focusing on Tanzania tomorrow. This country is 30 percent Muslim (and 51 percent Christian), according to the Joshua Project. But Christians living in Muslim-majority areas along the coast (particularly Zanzibar) and in western regions face difficulties. We are asking people to pray for those being persecuted as well as their persecutors.
We are praying for hearts to be changed. May the Holy Spirit reveal that Jesus Christ has “saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
Damson, Elaine, and I worshiped the Lord together this morning. “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). We praised Him in song, listening to Casting Crowns’ “Crazy People” (because we are C4C – “Crazy For Christ”), Phil Wickham’s “House of the Lord,” Jordan St. Cyr’s “Weary Traveler” (our new anthem), and Casting Crowns’ “Nobody” and “Only Jesus.” We did Bible study, and then addressed praying for Muslims everywhere.
We spent several hours preparing for the next three days of DMD training with the Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters. Yusuf then took us to his home for dinner, which consisted of my favorite dish of the Pare tribe: makande (beans and corn stew). We also enjoyed ndizi (plantain stew), tasty beef stew, arrowroots, and porridge.
Although our focus is on Muslims during Ramadan, which began at sunset on Saturday, including several very close friends, we also ask for prayer this day for the many unreached tribal groups who have been resistant to the Gospel. That includes the Assa people, a small tribe that has mostly merged with the much larger Maasai groups in the northeast. Our hope is that members of our Kilimanjaro Chapter can reach the Assa and other unreached people with the Good News. Also with this truth:
“And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved.” – Romans 11:6 (NLT)
Saturday, April 2
John Mollen, right, one of the Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders, prays for four new believers. (Photo by Damson Samson)
Damson shared from 1 Peter 1:3 and the hope of eternal life found in Jesus Christ. “We can only be called ‘sons of God’ through Him, and no one else,” Damson explained to Kilimanjaro Chapter leader John Mollen’s home study group.
Questions were asked and answered and, finally, Damson asked the only one that mattered: “Who felt touched and willingly would want to pray the confession prayer?” Who wants Jesus to be their Savior and Lord?
Four men stood, joined hands, and John Mollen began to pray for them. Then Damson prayed with each one, individually. And all of heaven rejoiced.
As this was happening a woman was vomiting. Damson laid hands on her and prayed. “She witnessed freedom and peace in her heart,” he declared. Others in the Bible study also felt a freeing and sense of peace during this time.
One person said, “When I was coming here, we had a disagreement with others outside and my heart was heavy. But after these prayers, I felt peace in my heart.”
The group thanked God and asked that John and Damson would continue to visit in the future and help keep them grounded in the Word.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation.” – 1 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
Friday, April 1
Lining up to meet: Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders met with Damson to plan next week’s DMD trainings. (Photos by Damson Samson)
“The new class is more excited to meet you for the first time since we had started,” Damson declared after meeting with nine leaders of the Kilimanjaro Chapter to prepare for next week’s spiritual training sessions.
The first DMD (disciples-making-disciples) class is graduating from the advanced training and, along with their wives, those two dozen guides and porters will be starting a new study on Discovering the Bible. The second DMD class is about halfway through the advanced training. Graduates of the first class are involved in teaching the second class with Damson supervising.
I have spent many days in training with the first class through the years, but only handed out COVID-19 relief (food) to the second class during Mission: Kilimanjaro 2021.
In all, we have 63 guides and porters learning to be disciples who make disciples. The studies – an introductory class begun in 2017 followed by an advanced session that started in 2019 but was interrupted by the pandemic – have led to the formation of small Bible study groups in homes. This has resulted in scores of family members and neighbors being brought into fellowship and learning about Jesus.
Damson attended one study group’s meeting this afternoon in Moshi. “We were altogether 16 people in number,” he said. Counted among them was a Muslim background believer who is “standing firm” despite coming from a family of Muslims. “He finds it more pleasant to pray and thank God (in this setting). He has a joy and peace in sharing the living Word of God.”
Joshua Mututu, left, who is in our second DMD class, hosts a prayer group in his house each week.
Damson used his invitation to the “home prayer group” as a teaching moment, sharing from 1 Samuel 3:4-7, where the Lord calls Samuel but he does not yet recognize His voice. “On this, I was sharing about understanding your call,” Damson said. “Your call is not a group thing; this is more personal.”
He prayed for each person “to take a step forward to accomplish this Great Commission we are called to do.” He also prayed for an older woman with leg problems. The last time Damson visited this group, in early February, there was a person with a stomach problem and a man with chronic headaches whom Damson prayed for with the others. Both were “completely healed.”
Thursday, March 31
See the gallery of photos added at the bottom of the page.
Damson, far right, delivers the Word with Hemed translating. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We gathered with our 12 guides and porters for the annual “tipping ceremony,” where we get to say “asante sana” (thank you, very much) for the work they do for us on the mountain. We used this opportunity to again share about Jesus and pray with them.
Damson shared about our freedom of choice. He asked guide Hemed to read from the Swahili Bible from Deuteronomy 30:15: “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster.” His point: Choose life!
Everyone is free to choose what they want to believe, but that freedom does not exempt oneself from consequences and repercussions of that choice. God gives His creation free will. However, true freedom is found in Christ alone.
Elaine told the men how much we love them – keeping them in our prayers even when we are not in Tanzania – and she added, “But there is someone who loves you even more. He is Jesus Christ.”
I prayed for the Holy Spirit to come into their hearts and have His way with their lives.
Most guides and porters come from poor families, although it is not uncommon for them to have college degrees. Swalehe is a porter despite having a degree in teaching. Hemed went to school for administration and hoped to work in government, but now is a guide. Neither would be able to find work in those fields.
They earn $12 a day as porters and $22 as guides. Most treks are seven days in length, meaning $84-$154 for one job. They might get two or three jobs in a month during the high (tourist) season. In the off months, there is little or no work. During the pandemic there was nothing.
We tip them as much or more than they make in salaries.
Yusuf, who owns his own company after many years of working for another, said the guides and porters look forward to our coming. “For two reasons: financial and spiritual,” he said, explaining how we offer more than money, which is fleeting.
Our team dancing and singing to the traditional “Kilimanjaro song.”
Though we have another week of work here – continuing disciple-making training with those guides and porters in the Kilimanjaro Chapter – we already began talking about Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023 next February. It will mark 25 years since I first climbed the mountain, when God birthed the idea of Climbing For Christ. We look forward to seeing our friends again, even before we leave here. We will continue to pray for them – for Yusuf, Hemed, Tom, Riziki, Mohamed, Juma, Swahele, Mohamed, Thabet, Hemed, Adam, Kweli, and Swahele – and for their making the right Choice.
“Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” – John 14:21
Wednesday, March 30
Damson marvels at the sight of more snow than he’s seen cumulatively in his 39 years on earth this morning at the Third Cave Camp. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
The storm raged through the night, rain and snow pounding down on our camp at 12,950 feet (3,950 meters) on Mount Kilimanjaro. Ten hours straight of unrelenting downpour – with lightning thrown in for good measure. Snow collapsed the mess tent. Guides and porters had gear soaked by rivers of water rushing under their tents.
Our friend Yusuf could not believe it. It was the worst rain he has seen in more than a quarter-century working on the mountain.
Damson, a native of Malawi, could not believe it, either. He’d never seen this much snow in his entire life, including his successful 2016 ascent.
Elaine was not feeling well due to altitude and that combined with weather caused Yusuf to suggest a retreat from the mountain. Although the sun managed to come out this morning, Yusuf determined that the horrible weather conditions we were experiencing would not improve – in fact, it would only be worse at our next camp (Kibo Hut at 15,419 feet/4,700 meters), never mind the summit at 19,341 feet/5,895 meters).
So, down we climbed – retracing our steps from the last three days, a descent of 7,500 feet over 8 ½ miles. We encountered no other trekkers on the route, a sign that the weather had won.
We descended with heavy hearts, having received a text from home that my dear uncle, Dr. Gary Kent of Pittsford, NY, USA, had passed away on Tuesday.
The difference 12 hours make: Sunset at Third Cave Camp on Tuesday, above, and sunrise today, below.
Tuesday, March 29
The rains caused Yusuf to suggest a route change. We would move up to Third Cave Camp, a more direct route to Kibo, at 3,950 meters (12,950 feet). This would be a staging area for two nights before we go to the high camp, which guides and porters here refer to as “Base Camp.” It meant skipping my favorite camp on the mountain, Mawenzi Tarn Hut, which sits at the base of the Mawenzi summit.
My daughter, herself a Mission: Kilimanjaro veteran (having summitted in 2014), suggested via text: “Probably not so bad to switch it up a little the eighth time on that mountain.”
We will make good use of our time in this camp. Damson has begun visiting the guides and porters in their tents, sharing more about Jesus. We have been reacquainted with a couple of our old porters, Juma and Adam, who years ago accepted our invitation to follow Christ and got involved with our Kilimanjaro Chapter. Elaine also spent time in the cook tent with our longtime chef Riziki. Most of the men seem more open to our witness. Guide Hemed even reminds us at nightly briefings and medical checks that we are “climbing for Christ.” Amen!
Monday, March 28
We set out in a thunderstorm on Sunday, climbing about 2,100 feet (650 meters) in less than three miles (5K) to Simba Camp. Day 1 was shorter than our last trek on the Rongai Route because a new gate (entrance) was built higher up, avoiding several miles through farm fields. Views of Kenya, which is only a few miles away, were marred by bad weather as we hiked through the rain (emphasis on rain) forest.
Simba Camp can be visited by elephants and lions so guide Hemed warned us about going out of our tents at night.
In the evening, Elaine and I did our daily Bible study and invited Damson and Yusuf to join us. We hope to continue this every day during the trek.
The second day began in heavy rain as we climbed another 2,800 feet in 3 2/3rd miles (6K) during four hours of downpours. It was among the worst weather I have experienced on Kilimanjaro. We reached Second Cave Camp at 11,417 feet (3,480 meters) and spent the rest of the day drying out. Fortunately, the sun shone intermittently.
Sunday, March 27
We head for the hills today – climbing Kilimanjaro via Mawenzi, the second-highest of the three summits. Kibo is the highpoint of Kilimanjaro and Africa (19,341 feet/5,895 meters), followed by Mawenzi (16,893 feet/5,149 meters) and Shira (13,140 feet/4,005 meters). We are taking the Rongai Route, which we last did on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011. This is the second time on Kilimanjaro for Damson and Elaine, and my eighth trek.
We GO, as we do customarily, with a group of Muslim friends. We are reaching out as we reach up.
In the latest case of divine timing, our friends at Prayercast put out a video, “East Africa: Millions suffering in oppressive and broken nations,” on the day we left for East Africa. Prayercast wrote:
“East Africa is immensely diverse. Yet one thing is the same across the region: Jesus is the answer to every East African's greatest need.
“Islam is on the rise. It claims to have the answers they seek.
“But Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life for every East African.”
Amen! CLICK HERE to watch the video and join us in prayer for the people of East Africa, particularly the Muslims in Tanzania.
(We’ll try to post Dispatches from the mountain but may be offline until Saturday.)
Saturday, March 26
Flooding in southern Malawi. (Photo by Damson Samson)
After our arrival Friday night, Damson and I worked into the wee hours on the situation in his home country. He shared updates on the construction of widows’ houses (now up to 18) and the flooding situation that has left hundreds homeless in the wake of the latest tropical storm to hammer southern Malawi.
We discussed it more this morning so I could send out an E-Update to Climbing For Christ members (“Only Jesus can see them through”). Damson told how the phone call came Monday, two days before he was scheduled to fly to Tanzania. It was more sad news. At least 40 widows were sleeping in a school because their houses had been flooded.
“I had a troubling night,” Damson recalled this morning in Moshi. “I could not sleep thinking what to do.”
He wondered if it could wait until he returns from Tanzania on April 9. He decided it could not wait.
On Tuesday, the day before his flights, he visited the school where the widows were sleeping. He took with him 100 two-kilogram “packets” of corn flour. But when he arrived, he was stunned to see more than 360 “victims” of Tropical Storm Gombe, which flooded the lowlands two weeks ago.
Flooding has been so bad there have been hippo sightings in the water where before there were no animals. Hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa.
“We went with the help we had,” Damson said. He and his Praise Foundation volunteers distributed a packet of flour to each of the widows and then divided the remaining flour among the other people, so everyone had some nsima to eat. Nsima is a thick cornmeal porridge that is Malawi’s national dish. “And we prayed for them because only Jesus can see them through.”
Damson also shared a message from John 3:16 to encourage those in need.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it has faced even more difficulties than usual in recent months. First, Tropical Storm Ana caused widespread flooding and damaged homes in late January. Then Gombe blew through, causing more destruction and hardship.
The harvest should be coming in April, but for many there will be no crops because of flooding. Some lost more than crops; they also are homeless. We decided to appeal to members and supporters for help.
Yusuf and Kilimanjaro guides Hemed and Tom arrived when we were working on the E-Update. They came to brief us on the climb, which begins tomorrow.
Our heads may be in the clouds on Africa’s tallest mountain, but our minds and hearts will be on those who are hurting (physically and spiritually) around the Climbing For Christ world – in Malawi, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Turkey, and Tanzania.
Friday, March 25
Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders meeting on Sango Mountain today to pray for this mission trip. (Photo by Damson Samson)
Elaine and I landed at Kilimanjaro airport this evening after more than 24 hours of flying. Damson and our friend Yusuf were waiting for us after we cleared COVID checks, customs, and picked up all of our luggage. We praise God for safe and smooth travel.
Our flight from Amsterdam was less than half full, more because this is the low (or non-tourist) season than due to the pandemic. Yusuf welcomed us to Tanzania, the unmasked country where only six (as in, 6) percent of the population is vaccinated. He said people in tourism, like him, are about 75 percent vaccinated.
Damson and 15 members of the Kilimanjaro Chapter spent the day together fasting and praying on Sango Mountain for the next two weeks of our mission here. We are grateful for their prayers and the prayers of our global team.
Thursday, March 24
Damson landed at Kilimanjaro airport this morning before Elaine and I even took off from Rochester, NY, USA. We have two days of flights ahead of us to meet up with our co-worker in Tanzania.
Wednesday, March 23
Damson began traveling today from southern Malawi to neighboring Tanzania. He had an evening flight from Blantyre to Dar es Salaam, where he overnighted. He has been very busy since he last traveled to Tanzania in late January and early February, building houses for widows and family, and conducting DMD training for Mulanje Massif Chapter guides and porters. Now he is returning to Tanzania for the 28th time since he accepted the call to serve the Lord with Climbing For Christ eight years ago.
God birthed Climbing For Christ through a climb on Mount Kilimanjaro in 1998. I was training to GO there – at the time, I was the outdoor writer at the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle newspaper – and God instructed me to start a Christian climbing organization. That became Climbing For Christ (C4C). C4C was incorporated in 2004 and sent into the mission field in 2005. In 2007, I returned to Kilimanjaro. It was only a few weeks after leaving the newspaper to go into ministry full-time. It was the first of a dozen trips I have made to Tanzania with C4C. This is my 13th mission to this beautiful East African country.
From the start, we knew we had to train guides and porters how to evangelize. They could be used by the Spirit to reach countless people coming from all over the world to trek on Africa’s tallest mountain. We are only there for 2-to-3 weeks; they are there 52 weeks a year – 24/7. We have been teaching them how to evangelize for years. But in 2014, Damson Samson of Malawi joined our staff and in 2017 we were introduced to disciple-making resources by The Timothy Initiative. These two additions were game changers. Between Damson’s quarterly visits to do training with our Kilimanjaro Chapter and my annual trips, we have equipped scores of guides and porters. Their stories of God moving on the mountain, in their families, and in their villages have been nothing short of amazing. We praise God for what HE is doing in and through these guides and porters.
Damson also goes into the villages during his visits. He gets to see firsthand what the guides and porters are doing in their homes and villages – and sometimes he leads them by example.
Damson climbed Kilimanjaro with us in 2018, an experience that changed the way he looks at serving through C4C. He is returning to the mountain with us – with my wife Elaine and me – as we continue our outreach among Muslim friends. Kilimanjaro Chapter training will follow our trek. We are graduating our advanced DMD class and starting a third study, “Discovering the Bible.”
“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” – 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT)