Dispatches: Tanzania 2023

Dispatches: Tanzania 2023
Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Tanzania 2023

Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023

By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ

Wednesday, March 15

Flying over the summit of Kilimanjaro, rising above the clouds, as we departed Tanzania. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

We returned to the Home Office tonight to complete 32 hours of flying, including 17 hours on one plane from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Dulles in Washington D.C., and to draw to a close this 15th Evangelic Expedition to Tanzania. We returned with heavy hearts knowing what is happening in southern Malawi.

During our layover at Dulles, I wrote an E-Alert and posted a Mission Moments page showing “Tropical Cyclone Freddy’s devastating aftermath.”

At the same time, after landing back in the States, I’d received several WhatsApp messages from Brother B in southeastern Turkey. He sent videos. When I first looked, I thought they were videos from Damson and Duncan in Malawi. Cars being washed down streets in flooding. But it was in B’s town and nearby towns already traumatized by last month’s earthquake.

A dirt devil moves across a dry field in sun-blistered northeastern Tanzania. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

The juxtaposition between where we have been and what we are seeing in southern Malawi and southern Turkey was jarring. In Tanzania, our friend Yusuf talked with hopefulness about the upcoming rainy season. It has been hot and dry for months in the Kilimanjaro region. So much so that the horizon is dotted with “dirt devils,” localized whirlwinds that pick up dirt as they spin like tornados. We saw not a single drop of rain in nearly three weeks, while less than 1,000 miles away southern Malawi is under water with homes, crops, and lives destroyed.

We grieve for our brothers and sisters in Malawi and pray for strength for Damson and Duncan as they serve diligently and lovingly. All we can do is lift them from afar and try to raise support to provide relief to a deeply impoverished people who have experienced so much pain.

We do rejoice in a successful Mission: Kilimanjaro, where many more were led to Jesus and our guides and porters grew deeper in their knowledge of the Bible and the God who loves them.

Tuesday, March 14

We prepare to leave Tanzania today after 18 days here and much accomplished, including many things that will be talked about in the future. We are excited with what God has done and is doing. At the same time, we are thankful that our timing for Mission: Malawi was not His timing.

Mission: Malawi would have been an unproductive mess had it gone on as scheduled this week. Tropical Cyclone Freddy has left a great deal of damage in its wake. Even today it was still raining in southern Malawi, where travel is difficult if not impossible in some places.

Some roads are impassable because of mudslides. Others are flooded. (Photo by Duncan Nyozani)

“The situation at hand is more painful,” Damson reported this afternoon. “Hundreds are at schools looking for shelter as their homes have been destroyed. You cannot cross (bridges) to villages as rivers are flooding. Things are just collapsing.”

Hungry people have even less to eat today. Electricity is out so maize mills, used to grind corn into flour for Malawi’s staple food nsema, are not working. Damson said as soon as the mill Climbing For Christ helped him build is functioning again, he will begin preparing thousands-of-dollars-worth of food for the most needy – widows.

Elaine and I will be flying from about 5:30 p.m. Tanzania time (10:30 a.m. Eastern U.S.) until, prayerfully, Wednesday night (6:30 p.m. Eastern US/1:30 a.m. Thursday Tanzania time). About 32 hours. We will be praying for the dire situation in Malawi and Damson and Duncan will keep us updated. After the storm clears, we will have a better understanding of the needs there. Certainly, support will be essential to help our brothers and sisters through this next painful ordeal.

As Moses told his successor Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8: “The LORD is indeed going before you – he will be with you; he will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” May these words of encouragement be felt in the hearts of those facing much trouble across the Climbing For Christ world.

Monday, March 13

This is the day the Lord has made. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

We were in the Gospel of Mark, in the Garden of Gethsemane, during our Bible study this morning. “Yet not what I will, but what you will,” Jesus says to the Father (Mark 14:36b). The Abide Bible we are using for this year’s reading had a note on praying Scripture and spoke about asking God “to help you abandon selfishness in order to serve others in love.” It referenced Galatians 5:13 and our being “called to live in freedom” and using that “freedom to serve one another in love.”

Again, from The Abide Bible: “That is Jesus’ way. As followers of Christ, we experience meaning and joy as we serve others in His name. Ask for His wisdom, discernment, and strength to live according to His will rather than your own will.”

In that moment I knew we were supposed to help our friend Saidi complete his fish farm. I contacted him and told him how I felt the Lord speaking to me. “I have been loved by Jesus and called to serve others in the love of Christ,” I explained. “We love you, but Jesus loves you even more. Because of that love we want to help you with your fish farm.” We then sent him the necessary funding.

I had already written E-Newsletter 471, which went out today. There is much to pray about – asking for wisdom, discernment, and strength – in the Climbing For Christ world, starting with our ministry in neighboring Malawi.

Tropical Cyclone Freddy was leaving its mark across southern Malawi. Pastor Duncan sent videos of flooding and mudding. One disturbing one showed a child that drowned in the Phalombe district where Duncan and Kingdom worker Damson live.

Porter Cedreck Mulaviwa with his fallen house in Fort Lister, Malawi. (Photo by Damson Samson)

Damson reached out to report on Cedreck Mulaviwa, a porter in our original Mulanje Massif Chapter class of disciple-makers, whose house in Fort Lister is ruined. Fort Lister is one of the gateways to Mulanje Massif. One wall collapsed. “I was talking to him,” Damson said, “and the house is going down pole-pole (slowly-slowly in Tanzanian Swahili).”

Damage is being done as the rain falls. Our prayers continue to go up.

Sunday, March 12

This Is Africa: Driving at night with high beams coming at you, above. Below, the sun rising brilliantly each morning over the mountains. Today we saw it come up over the Usambara Mountains in northeastern Tanzania. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

I first met Saidi Ngaina on Kilimanjaro in 2007. He was assisting our friend Yusuf in guiding our inaugural Mission: Kilimanjaro team up the mountain. Saidi and our son Jesse formed a bond and, after Saidi went to the summit with no gloves, Jesse gave him his gloves and his Bible.

Saidi was also with our daughter Hayley and me the year she climbed to the rooftop of Africa.

There are photos of those two climbs in our living room at home. Jesse giving to Saidi from his heart and Hayley, Saidi, Yusuf, and me grinning at the top of Barranco Wall with Kibo in the background. They were special moments that live on in our memories.

We have prayed for Saidi – as well as Yusuf – for years. When they have had needs, we have tried to help. We give to them in the name of Jesus.

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, when tourism stopped in Tanzania (and around the world), Saidi dreamed of building a fishpond on the large farm he’d purchased in 2006 in hopes of retiring from guiding. In November 2021, Elaine responded to this by donating $6,000 out of her savings to start construction. Climbing For Christ raised another $3,300 in January 2022.

Today, long before the sun rose over East Africa, Yusuf drove Saidi, Elaine, and me toward the coast to see the farm. Saidi was fresh off the mountain and another summit with two trekkers from France. His dream of retiring from the rigors of climbing to a life on the farm remains just that – a dream.

Saidi and Yusuf are from the same Pare village. They knew each other as children and met again as adults working on Kilimanjaro. The four of us drove about 435 miles (700 kilometers) across this country of speed bumps. “Too many sleeping policemen,” Yusuf complained about the bumps. (For the record, we drove over more than 430 speed bumps or about one per mile. Imagine driving a U.S. interstate highway and hitting a speedbump every mile.)

At least 35 miles (57 kilometers) were on dirt roads because Saidi’s farm is in a remote location. “We always have to go to the end of the road,” Elaine said.

Saidi pointing out where the water will come from during rainy season. He is standing on the lowpoint on his farm, which floods during rainy season.

We arrived and in upper-90-degree heat walked some of the 80 dry acres. Saidi showed us the dam built at the end of a field that is a lowland which gets flooded when the nearby Pangani River overflows during rainy season. He talked about what needs to be done to complete the project – hopefully before the rains begin next month and the month after. That is, IF the rains begin. It has been dry here for more than a year. There has literally been no rain away from Mount Kilimanjaro this year.

But rains will come eventually. It is our prayer that Saidi’s fishpond is ready for rising water and the arrival of fish from the river, which flows from the mountains (Kilimanjaro and Meru) to the Indian Ocean. It is a major river in northeastern Tanzania. He will harvest these fish along with the oranges, watermelons, and onions that are grown here.

PRAYER ALERT: While there is no rain in Tanzania, the rains began in southern Malawi on Saturday. Damson returned home today. He said larger planes flying into Blantyre had to be rerouted to Lilongwe in the north because of rains. Pastor Duncan forwarded a release from the government suspending classes in schools in the southern region on Monday and Tuesday. Tropical Cyclone Freddy is expected to “intensify, with the cyclone expecting to hit the region this evening or tomorrow.”

“It has been raining here since yesterday,” Duncan said. “Heavy winds, but minor damages to the crops (that were recently planted).”

Pray that the rains will not damage crops and property, that there will not be flooding like there was last year. We lift our brothers and sisters in Malawi as they endure the next challenge coming their way.

Saturday, March 11

Seeing off Jenna, Mandi, and Damson at the airport. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Damson’s wife and three children are eagerly awaiting his return to Malawi. Today was departure day for him, and for our American teammates Jenna and Mandi. But it is two days of air travel whether you’re going next door to Malawi or all the way back to Utah in the U.S. of A.

We pray for them as they head off. Elaine and I extended our stay in Tanzania after the postponement of Mission: Malawi because of the violent mob’s attack on ministry partner Pastor Duncan’s property on March 2. We are rescheduling the trip to Malawi and following up on other projects here in Tanzania.

Damson will get to see with his own eyes what we have seen in photos and video from Kambona village when he returns home tomorrow. We have been in constant contact with Duncan and pledged to help him rebuild his material life.

“This is a spiritual thing,” Damson said about the attack and looting that took place. “People not respecting what God has given to others.”

We do not know the hearts of those around us. “Some people smile at you but you do not know what they are thinking about you,” Damson said.

God knows our true thoughts, though. The heart of man is no secret to our Creator.

About 30 people have reportedly been arrested for the attack. “Most of the people who took my possessions are on the run,” Duncan said, including the leader of the mob who supposedly fled the Phalombe District where the crime took place.

Duncan’s IDs and TV were recovered, but the television was broken.

When I sent some encouraging words from the Lord to Duncan on Friday, he responded: “On the day that this incident happened, I had tears. But these are the next tears of great joy that I have now.

“Your email came (at) the time I was reading Hebrews 10:32-35. The author of Hebrews writes that his audience ‘joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one’ (verse 34, ESV). We have an inheritance in heaven that no mobs can steal, that no storm can wash away, that will never fade or perish. It is my prayer that even in this difficult time I would have joy as I remember this truth and we call for the angelic hosts to come to restore all things lost.”

We echo this prayer and ask the Spirit to move in those who can financially assist Duncan with his many needs, starting with transportation. He must replace his vehicle and that of his friend. Both cars were destroyed by the mob. The cost for a reliable vehicle in Malawi is $10,000 to $15,000 USD.

HELPING HANDS: Please pray for Pastor Duncan and consider giving to aid his recovery from the violent attack on his home. Send your financial gift to Climbing For Christ c/o Mission: Malawi at P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, NY 14616-0290 USA. Or CLICK HERE to give online via PayPal. In Canada, make cheques payable to The Great Commission Foundation, and on the memo line add Climbing For Christ CANADA. Mail your support to: The Great Commission Foundation, P.O. Box 14006, Abbotsford, BC V2T 0B4. Or CLICK HERE to give online.

“My friend has been using his car for business almost every day,” Duncan said. “This issue has affected his family so much.”

We were able to wire Duncan $1,000 USD last week and our home church, Hope Lutheran in Rochester, NY, also wired $1,000. “I was able to give some money to (his friend) to buy food for his family this week,” Duncan said. We have promised more support for our brother in the weeks ahead.

Damson will be returning to Malawi with money to buy food for the hundreds of hungry widows he serves. One of the many goals of Mission: Malawi 2023 – originally scheduled for today through March 20 – was going to be our annual widows’ program and distribution of food. Damson will now deliver food on our behalf. He’ll also deliver the sponsor letters to the orphans supported through Project 1:27 that Elaine brought. We are sending some money for orphans to have a small party together.

Mulanje Massif Chapter training also will be held in the next month as the discipleship of guides and porters in Malawi – just as in Tanzania – will continue until our next visit. Then we will go up the mountain just like the One we follow often did.

A sunbeam of light hits Mount Meru as we return from Kilimanjaro International Airport to Moshi town.

Mountains play a significant role in the Bible. Believers often go there to be “closer to God,” and God often reveals Himself on the mountains. We plan to keep teaching the Bible and outreach in the high places in the year ahead.

“One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up to the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.” – Matthew 5:1-2 (NLT)

Friday, March 10

Pastor Mosha’s prayer on Wednesday that God would give us “sight to see further and further” already has been answered. God, who months ago began giving me glimpses of what He wants us to do next in eastern Africa, did an unveiling yesterday and today. Damson and I eagerly planned for what this might mean when we met for several hours to discuss the rest of the year in Tanzania and Malawi.

John Mollen, a guide and one of the leaders of the Kilimanjaro Chapter, “happened” to be in the neighborhood and Damson asked him to stop and talk about Mission: Kilimanjaro 2024. That’s the way God is bringing this together. A WhatsApp message here, a conversation there, a prayer for direction and we have the makings for “Sermons on the Mount Kilimanjaro.” Our disciple-making lessons will continue in Bible interpretation, small-group growth, and an evangelism week on Kilimanjaro.

A lot will be happening in the months ahead in Tanzania and Malawi. God at work. Pray on!

Thursday, March 9

Our ‘Discovering the Bible’ group. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

John Mollen’s trekking company told him he could bring six of his own guys for a climb on Kilimanjaro’s Marangu Route. He had 10 clients to take up the mountain. He invited five fellow Climbing For Christ members to work on the trek, which was beset by illness, bad weather, troublesome clients, and even the death of a man in another climbing party.

John said he endured as the chief guide thanks to the presence of his brothers in Christ and their constant prayers.

John and another of our Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders, Jonus Minja, were sharing about God at work on the mountain at the start of today’s final disciples training session. It was our fourth day of teachings – the first two with our second class of DMD students and the last two with our original class, who date back to 2018 and are currently studying “Discovering the Bible.”

After several wonderful God-stories from the group, Damson reviewed the last quarterly training, which was held in early December. The discussion was about interpreting the Bible. Godlisten Mosha talked about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. God sent Philip to the Ethiopian who was reading from Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” he said.

Understanding the Bible. That has been our focus with this group of about two dozen guides and porters for the past year. They have been trained in disciple-making and church-planting and now are focusing on better understanding God’s Word.

Today’s lesson from their “Discovering the Bible” text began to examine the Seven Steps for effective and accurate Bible interpretation. We covered Steps 1 and 2, “Seeing the Bible Come to Life.”

The Bible is more than 80 percent stories and storytelling. For example, the men acted out the Parable (or story) of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. Then they asked what, when, where, who, and why questions to comprehend the story.

Godlove Kowero, who became a pastor after joining Climbing For Christ’s Kilimanjaro Chapter, plays the Good Samaritan and helps up a beaten Jonus Minja.

After that we discussed context. Many Bible verses are often taken out of context, which leads to misunderstanding.

Damson asked the 18 members who attended – and who were impressive in their learnedness and focus despite the worst heat of the week (94 degrees F outside the stifling classroom) – to recite Scripture and explain the meaning. One after another they did so successfully.

Misael Minja shared Psalm 125:1-2 from memory: “…Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever” (verse 2). Then he said, “Being in a group like this we must stand firm so we can resist the darkness against us.”

Later, Arthur Mawi recited Psalm 133:1: “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” He added, “When we are here, we’re like brothers. For us to be together shows that God is in our midst.”

Anyeruse Mwambegere, in striped shirt above, is a porter who cannot read. He listens and remembers what is shared from the Bible, storing it up in his heart! Below, the class during study.

I was taking notes throughout the day and this thread of community ran through it. The last time the group met, in December with Damson, they had covered the basics of doing Bible interpretation. The resource for this study from The Timothy Initiative talked about Bible study not being just a private discipline.

Yes, you can and should read your Bible alone – every day. But you also should do it with your spouse, your family, your small group, your church. Good Bible interpretation occurs in community with other believers.

I talked about this with our chapter members, encouraging them to study in their groups. I quoted Proverbs 27:17, which says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

Our brothers who work on Kilimanjaro gain greater insights when they read and pray together in their tents and in their houses. They are bound together through God’s Word, and we are blessed to see the Lord writing another chapter in His story here in East Africa.

Wednesday, March 8

Gwyndolyn Mollen, the 4-year-old daughter of John Mollen, center, who is one of our Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders and translators, helps Elaine with her “Putting Your Life in the Right Order” demonstration. Gwyndolyn is putting a ping-pong ball, representative of God, into the jar that symbolizes our life. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Pastor Winford Mosha, who we met on the inaugural Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 and who shared a vision with Climbing For Christ to work with the guides and the porters on Africa’s tallest mountain, recalled that first meeting. He was speaking to our original class of DMD students on their first day – and the third overall day – of Kilimanjaro Chapter training.

Our team was doing introductions for the 15 couples, as wives were again invited to this “Discovering the Bible” session, plus two wives of men working on Kilimanjaro and five husbands whose wives could not attend.

When I spoke I also acknowledged that divinely orchestrated meeting 15 years ago with Pastor Mosha. “We only had a small vision – to teach the guides and porters how to evangelize to clients,” I said to Pastor Mosha. “But God had a bigger vision. He wanted us to teach the guides and porters, their wives, their families, their villages, and all around the mountain. Not just on the mountain.”

That’s how God works. BIG picture.

When chapter member Elia Yona shared later in the day, he thanked God “for this group. It has made me stand firm in the Lord. If you say, how many have I witnessed to, there are many, many.” Elia is a Muslim background believer. Just Sunday, he said, he was in Rongai, the eastern gate for Mount Kilimanjaro, and led five people to Jesus.

The program for our teaching was similar to the one held Tuesday with our second class of DMD students. There was a focus on women – appropriate since today was International Women’s Day and the president of Tanzania, a woman named Samia Suluhu Hassan, was in Moshi meeting with women from her main opposition party.

Elaine, Jenna, and Mandi gave their testimonies. Elaine taught the lesson on prioritizing God in your life before marriage, family, work, and all the rest of the stuff we mistakenly put ahead of the Lord.

She then reviewed the husband-wife meeting we held a year ago during Mission: Kilimanjaro 2022 where she taught about Ecclesiastes 4:12, Aquila and Priscilla, and Gospel bracelets. There were many good memories.

One wife talked about using her Gospel bracelet to share during their home Bible study. Two men told stories about using the bracelet on Kilimanjaro.

Gift Mbuya said a client from Poland asked him if it was a charm. “It’s not a charm,” he said, and then he explained the meaning of the five colors – yellow (creation), black (sin in the world), red (Jesus’ blood), white (salvation bought by Christ), and green (growing relationship with God). “The client wrote it down. At the end of the climb, I gave my bracelet to him.”

Elaine then did a devotional about Moses and the advice he received from his father-in-law Jethro, based on Exodus 18:13-23. Jethro told him he could not lead alone, and Elaine told the men that they need the help from their spouses. “You are the cord of three,” she said, taking them back to Ecclesiastes 4:12. “Husband, wife, and Jesus together. You can accomplish great things together.”

I then did our lesson on “What is the Bible?” before we distributed 24 copies of God’s Word to those hosting growing house Bible studies. We then broke for lunch and another round of praise and worship.

Lunch, above, is one of two meals provided by Climbing For Christ for Kilimanjaro Chapter participants each day during DMD training. Below, worship and praise begin and accent each day’s teachings.

Climbing For Christ established the Kilimanjaro Chapter in 2008. The real chapter training began on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2014 when Damson joined our staff as C4C’s Kingdom worker serving in Tanzania and Malawi. Board member John Becker introduced us to The Timothy Initiative in 2017 and the following year we began to use TTI resources for disciple making, church planting, and now “Discovering the Bible.”

Elnami Mosh talked about learning the power of God’s Word – “the sword of the Spirit,” as the apostle Paul called it in Ephesians 6:17. Elnami said a brother came to him with children who “had a spirit disturbing them – going from one to another. He asked me, ‘Can you help me pray for my children?’ We used the Word of God. One child was about to die because of this evil spirit. When we prayed for them, we also gave them a Bible. We said, ‘Keeping reading this Bible. Read this verse: Psalm 118:17 (‘I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the LORD has done’). By learning the Word of God, they are well as this time.”

The classroom sang out, “Hallelujah!

Pastor Mosha, who will turn 73 next week.

There is more teaching and learning to do about the Bible tomorrow. We also are being shown a bigger picture for our training by our awesome God. As Pastor Mosha closed our long, hot (94 degrees F) day, he prayed, “Give them (Climbing For Christ) sight to see further and further.” Amen!

Tuesday, March 7

Godlove Kowero shares in Swahili with Damson translating into English about the impact Climbing For Christ’s training had on his life. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

It was graduation day for our second advanced disciples-making-disciples class of Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters. Damson told the 21 of 29 graduates in attendance – 16 with their wives – that they would be receiving a certificate. “It’s a piece of paper,” he said, “but it means much more. It is what you are doing with your lives.”

He then had Godlove Kowero come forward to speak.

Godlove was part of our original class, which began with us when we brought disciple-making and church-planting resources from The Timothy Initiative to the Kilimanjaro Chapter in 2018. He is now an assistant pastor in the Lutheran church.

“The certificate did me well,” Godlove said. “Before I went to college they asked if I had any certificates. I brought this and it helped me get into college.

“When we started there were a few of us; now there are more and more members. We have seen Climbing For Christ be a blessing to us. It has transformed many lives.”

He talked about healings and deliverances from evil spirits before adding, “You have been given the energy to stand and preach to people.”

I delivered a graduation message on what it means to be a true disciple of Christ and having a willingness to give up everything to answer His call to “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). It means never looking back.

I told them God wants us to make disciples who will make more disciples. We’ve seen that happening in two groups of guides and porters from Kilimanjaro and two more groups from the Mulanje Massif Chapter in Malawi.

After awarding certificates to the men, the women on our team addressed the wives of these guides and porters. Elaine, Jenna, and Mandi each shared their testimonies.

Elaine then did a demonstration called “Putting Your Life in the Right Order” in which she uses a jar (your life) and fills it with ping-pong balls (God), marbles (your priorities: marriage, family, work), and water (all the rest of the stuff we pour into our lives). When she filled the jar with water (i.e. stuff) there was no room for the ping-pong balls (God). But when you put the balls in the jar first (God in your life) all the rest fits around it.

Just add water: Elaine’s “Putting Your Life in the Right Order” demonstration.

She also taught about Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3), a husband-and-wife team that served with Paul, and used our relationship as an example of a couple becoming “one team” to do marriage and ministry together in the mission field.

Two members, Joshua Murutli and Geoffrey Njau, and the wife of member Elirehema Minja shared about what Climbing For Christ’s Kilimanjaro Chapter training has done for them, for their families, their villages, and beyond. “I thank God for bringing you to this place,” said Haika Minja, who along with Elirehema host a small group that has outgrown their house (they set up a tent outside). “I thank God for my husband – we have connected like Aquila and Priscilla.”

This was a celebration of what God has been doing through our DMD study. There were also times for worship (singing and dancing, Africa style), prayer, and breakfast and lunch. This is the  format for every quarterly training, three or four days of teaching and fellowship in a rented classroom with transportation included through funding provided by Climbing For Christ.

Half of the past year’s training sessions – in Tanzania and Malawi – were assisted by a grant from the AHEAD Initiative. AHEAD stands for is Accelerating Horn and East Africa DMMs (disciple making movements, which we are seeing in both of these countries).

Today the classroom was joyful and heated. It was 93 degrees outside and the electricity was out most of the day, stifling the few fans in the room. But that didn’t stop us from energetically starting the class on its way to the next study, Discovering the Bible (DTB).

I taught a lesson, “What is the Bible?” and then did a DTB devotional based on 2 Kings 22:8-11. We talked about the power of God’s Word – the Bible, the Living Word – to penetrate hearts. We are pointing them toward daily Bible reading, study, meditation, memorization, and application. Our goal is to make them walking, talking, real-life Bibles to impact their families, communities, East Africa, and the world.

Then we distributed Bibles to those hosting large Bible studies in their homes.

Elirehema and Haika Minja receiving Bibles for their large home Bible study. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

“The ability to put small groups in our home came from Climbing For Christ,” Joshua Murutli testified. “It wasn’t possible to put something together and do something wise before this. But what we have learned through Climbing For Christ has helped us grow these groups.”

He now has two large Bible studies in his home.

“Sometimes when I go to preach, people ask, ‘What school did you go to learn these lessons?’” Joshua said. “I tell them, ‘Climbing For Christ.’ Climbing For Christ has trained us to go out and tell people about Jesus.”

Monday, March 6

Mandi prays for porter Edward during the “tipping ceremony” after today’s Mount Kilimanjaro climb concluded. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

Jenna and Mandi returned to Moshi from the mountain at mid-day after trekking down from the last camp at 10,000 feet. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” a tired Jenna said about reaching the summit Sunday morning. “I don’t know how hard I thought it was going to be.” But it was harder than she imagined.

Harder still for Mandi, who had to overcome altitude sickness to reach the summit.

Muhammad guided Jenna, who was on top of the mountain for sunrise. Tom led Mandi up, arriving about 45 minutes later.

They made the long descent in 1 ½ days after taking 5 ½ days to ascend. Such is life in the mountains.

We met with their team, who awarded them their certificates for making the climb and sang the traditional Kilimanjaro song. Mandi asked if she could pray for them and proceeded to lay hands on each person and pray for them individually – the two guides, tent manager, toilet doctor, waiter, and six porters. She cried as she prayed over some individuals.

We then awarded tips to each person. We have always tried to be generous in our giving since wages are not that high in Tanzania, which is one of the world’s poorer countries, and we appreciate and love those we spend time with on Kilimanjaro.

Eliya Yona, above, teaches about equipping leaders in our advanced DMD class. Below, the Class of 2023. (Photos by Damson Samson)

It has been many years of sowing, watering, and sometimes harvesting on and around the mountain. Our second Kilimanjaro Chapter advanced class of disciples-making-disciples students met in Himo and Damson talked to them about the fig tree Jesus went to for fruit that had none (Matthew 21:18-22). This had been part of Elaine and my Bible study which Damson did with us on Sunday.

“I was emphasizing that we are in the harvesting season since we have gone through these books (from The Timothy Initiative),” he explained, meaning the introductory TTI Lite and DMD Advanced studies. “We need to see fruit coming up to show we have appreciated the support and time given to us.

“After that, I prayed for them that they should be fruit.”

Graduates of the first advanced DMD class then stepped forward to teach. Gift Mbuya did the first half and Jonus Minja the second half of Chapter 14 on “Establishing Churches” and Eliya Yona and John Mollen finished the study with Chapter 15, “Equipping Leaders.”

Tomorrow this second class of about 20 guides and porters will graduate. We have invited their wives to participate, and we will have a short women’s program and then introduce husbands and wives to the next study, “Discovering the Bible.”

Sunday, March 5

Ten years ago, I spoke at Colorado Christian University in Denver to former staffer Jim Doenges’ outdoor leadership class. One of the students in the class was a young woman named Jenna Snyder. When she heard me talk about Mission: Kilimanjaro – of which Doenges had been a big part in his time on C4C’s staff – she said she knew instantly that she wanted to GO to Kilimanjaro with Climbing For Christ.

“There are two things I’ve known were going to happen,” Jenna said eight days ago during our enroute layover in Nairobi, Kenya. “One was go to Kilimanjaro with Climbing For Christ and the other was marry my husband.”

We are honored to keep that company with Luke Winkler.

This morning at dawn, Jenna and teammate Mandi Taylor stood on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The fulfillment of a God-birthed dream. The pair went to the summit of Africa on Day 6 of their trek on the Machame Route. Congratulations, dear sisters! All glory to God.

ALERT: Mission: Malawi 2023, scheduled for March 11-20 after the conclusion of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023, has been postponed. Read “Madness in Migowi.”

Saturday, March 4

Jenna and Mandi reached Barafu, the high camp on the Machame Route, at mid-day and will rest until midnight when they make an alpine ascent toward the summit. That is 2 p.m. Mountain time where they live in the U.S.

Barafu sits at 15,331 feet (4,673). From there, it’s another seven hours of pole-pole (“slowly-slowly”in Swahili) climbing to the 19,341-foot (5,895-meter) summit, Uhuru Peak. Groups try to arrive to watch the sun rise over East Africa. Jenna and Mandi will be climbing under a nearly full moon that is shining over the mountain.

Climb on, sisters in Christ!

Worship at John Mollen’s house study, above, where Damson shared about judgment and witnessed the emergence of seven new believers from the group, below. (Photos by Damson Samson)

Jenna and Mandi have seven new brothers in Christ at the foot of the mountain. Damson’s home visits took him to Mererani where another Kilimanjaro Chapter leader, John Mollen, lives and hosts a large Bible study group. About two dozen people listened as Damson spoke to them about judgment.

He shared from Acts 1:9-11 and Jesus’ ascent to heaven. The disciples were craning their necks to watch Him go, and as they looked “behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10b-11, KJV).

“Then I was asking the group, ‘Why is He coming again?’ They told me, ‘He is coming to judge us,’” Damson said. “I told them this life is very deceitful; everyone walking around they think things are well. Nobody has come to think about the day when the judge shall come.”

He talked about Noah’s day and how that man of God labored to build the ark while the rest of the world went on with its self-absorbed business. “But it came to pass where it started raining until the whole world was filled with water,” Damson said. “Many died, even children died, the rich and the poor died together for they believed not.”

Damson offered the choice we all have, and seven members of John’s small group stepped forward to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. All of heaven rejoiced, seven times over.

The group continued in prayer, offering healing to several people who were hurting. Again, to the glory of God.

Friday, March 3

Jonus Minja kicked off Damson’s home visit in Moshi with a reading from John 1 and the Word made flesh. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5, KJV).

He talked about darkness being our sinful nature and how Jesus is the only Life which brings Light to people. We are sinners by nature and when our daily living is held up to the Light of Christ we see the darkness in us.

Damson then added from Genesis 1:2: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (KJV).

“Even before it was in the creation, the darkness was covered by the Spirit of God indicating that only by the Spirit of God can we defeat darkness in our lives,” Damson explained.

“Whatever evil is holding us brings hard times for humanity and we find ourselves struggling with it. Freedom only comes after the Holy Spirit takes over our lives. There will be no freedom from sin unless Jesus has taken over your life and this is the only way to make sure we have comfort.”

He then called anyone in the group who wanted prayer and a young man named Thecypung gave his life to Christ. “I need a special prayer to accept Jesus,” he said, “because I have been touched by the Word.” Amen!

Thecypung. (Photo by Damson Samson)

Meanwhile, up on Mount Kilimanjaro, Jenna and Mandi made the scramble up the Barranco Wall this morning and continued on to Karanga Camp at 13,106 feet (3,995 meters). After the one-hour ascent of the wall – 843 feet (257 meters) – it’s mostly a lateral move across the south side of the mountain. A relatively easy three-mile hike.

“They are all going great,” Yusuf reported. “Ready for the summit tomorrow night.”

Thursday, March 2

Five new followers of Jesus: one guide, three porters, and a wife kneel before the Lord in prayer. (Photo by Damson Samson)

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (KJV)

Damson was making home visits in Kilema with Jonus Minja and Eliya Yona, two of our original disciple-making students in the Kilimanjaro Chapter. Eliya shared those verses from Jeremiah and talked about trust when they met at a home with 16 chapter members.

Then Damson taught about how you cannot rely on money. If you are climbing or working on the mountain, money can’t buy you anything. When a porter comes off the mountain with his salary and his tips, if he goes and buys only beer, how will his family eat?

“The devil is a liar,” Damson said. “You are struggling with life not because you didn’t have but you let the enemy push you too far to destruction. This is because the darkness has overtaken you.

“Climbing the mountain can only make you free people when you climb to share Christ. Then I asked, ‘Who is ready to make a U-turn? Come for prayer.’”

Five people asked to be saved. They were prayed over and with – and all of heaven rejoiced.

A healing prayer was then made on the wife of one of the members who had a back injury.

“Some witnessed freedom of the heart and peace in their heart,” Damson concluded. “We all thanked God for being faithful.”

He is to be trusted.

The 843-foot (257-meter) Barranco Wall awaits climbers on Day 4 of the Machame Route. (Photo by Jesse Eells, Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018)

We are trusting that the Lord is with our teammates Jenna and Mandi on the mountain. They reached Barranco Camp on Day 3 of their trek. While it is sunny and hot (90-degrees F) off the mountain, it was raining on Kilimanjaro.

The group moved up from Shira Camp to Barranco at 13,044 feet (3,976) after an acclimatization hike up to the Lava Tower at 15,190 feet (4,630 meters). It always seems to be wet – rain or snow or mixed – at Lava Tower, so today was not unusual. Tom, their guide, said “all is fine” at Barranco.

Wednesday, March 1

Kilimanjaro today. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

Damson and 14 of our Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters took their quarterly prayer walk up nearby Sango Mountain. This is done before every chapter training. The brothers in Christ fast, share, and pray together.

The sharing today concerned the work of the evil one occurring on and around the great Mount Kilimanjaro. Eliason Mosha, one of our original chapter trainees who has grown spiritually by leaps and bounds in recent years, told of one very unusual encounter on Kilimanjaro. Upon reaching Karanga Camp on Day 4 of a seven-day trek, they saw a cat. Karanga Camp is at an elevation of 13,100 feet (nearly 4,000 meters). That night a guide went missing. He was found dead days later outside of the camp.

Another time, at Barranco Camp porters went to get water when they saw “six small people walking naked.” But these were not real people; they are called “mountain people” and are believed to be evil spirits.

“These stories surprised me, and I did not understand what all this was about,” said Damson, who climbed Kilimanjaro with us in 2016 and again last year.

Eliason, left, with Baraka, talking about unusual sightings and occurrences on Kilimanjaro. (Photos by Damson Samson)

Baraka Lembawe, another member from our original class of disciple-makers, explained about the demonic stronghold on Kilimanjaro. Cats, dogs, chickens with chicks, even a white cow have appeared in odd places – places they could not reach – and then something bad happens. These are considered some sort of apparition.

“This is where I came to tell them, ‘You need to understand your enemy so that you can defeat him,’” Damson said. “‘If you don’t know the plan of the darkness then you might end up being in a big problem.’ I gave them the example which they told me of one of the porters who was up dressing at midnight as if it was day. Someone was watching him and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘My father is here calling me.’ But his father had died many years ago.

“Using this example, I told them there are driving forces, powers that lead many into sins, and when they hold you, they can take over your life. I told them that this is where Climbing For Christ is taking you in the right direction. We meet these spirits all over, but Jesus makes us victorious. We must have Jesus whenever we are going up. The Bible should be the first item in our daypack so that we stand to conquer the powers of darkness.”

Our praying brothers in arms.

The group talked about the power of prayer. They shared again about an American believer that C4C connected with our guides and porters last year. After reaching Barranco Camp on Day 3, he felt sick and asked them to go back down. John Mollen, one of our chapter leaders, suggested that he wait and gathered others to pray with him. In the morning, he was strong and healthy and went directly to Barafu (high) Camp. The following day he reached the summit and then descended all the way off Kilimanjaro. He turned a seven-day trek into a successful five-day climb.

We pray our climbers, Jenna and Mandi, experience some of that supernatural power in their ascents. Today, on their Day 2, they moved from Machame Camp to Shira Camp at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters) after hiking about three miles (5K) and ascending 3,150 feet (1,000 meters). Their guides report they are doing well. We continue to pray for them and for the work we will be doing in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Jenna and Mandi heading off to climb. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)

Long-time guide Muhammad, a grandfather of three who is in my age group, came to pick up Jenna and Mandi and usher them to the Machame Gate to begin their seven-day Mount Kilimanjaro trek. They were nervous and excited as our friend Yusuf drove them away.

It was a day of meeting the crew that would be helping them and then hiking about seven miles through rain forest from the Gate at 5,380 feet (1,640 meters) to the Machame Camp at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters). “They made it safe and strong,” Yusuf said after hearing from Muhammad and fellow guide Tom.

Tonight will be the first of six scheduled nights camping on the mountain.

Machame is the most popular route on Kilimanjaro. It is about a 37-mile trek with nearly 17,000 vertical feet of gain from gate to summit and descent.

On Day 5 of the trip, the duffels landed in Tanzania.

Elaine and I went to work writing and managing all the daily Climbing For Christ operations – from Tanzania to Turkey to India. Our day was made better when our duffels arrived. We had dinner this evening with Damson, getting caught up on his family and the ministry that is happening here and in Malawi. God stuff.

Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders in Moshi. (Photo by Damson Samson)

Damson met with four of the leaders of the Kilimanjaro Chapter in Moshi today to discuss the work here. He expressed concern about the number of members in Moshi declining. The leaders explained that it is because many of the members have farms elsewhere and when they are not working on the mountain they are away at their farms.

Still, Damson said, outreach needs to continue. “Then Baraka [in the yellow shirt in the photo above] shared that he is committed, especially to see many in bondage set free,” Damson reported. “He has been praying for his relatives in Kenya and (having) us plan to go there one day to bring them prayers for redemption.”

In the meantime, there are many others needing to be set free from the influence of witchcraft and evil spirits. A Biblical worldview and Christ-like character is needed here in the Church.

Monday, Feb. 27

This morning’s view of Kilimanjaro from Moshi. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

A day of rest for those who will climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the next week. Mandi and Jenna organized their trekking gear and met with Yusuf, and guides Tom and Muhammad to go over the trek. The focus is on “one day at a time.” Tom, a brother in Christ who was featured on the cover of The Climbing Way (Volume 55, April 2022) after guiding us on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2022, told them to live in the moment and enjoy each day. “Don’t think about the summit.”

After dinner, Elaine shared a devotional with our two sisters in Christ. She read a chapter (“The Biggest Word in the Bible”) from the book project we are working on.

That word is GO! “One syllable. Two letters. Eternal significance,” Elaine read.

We are all about GO-ing – even when our luggage doesn’t come along. Our duffels still have not arrived in Moshi, Tanzania. The wait continues.

Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders from Marangu, one of the gates to Mount Kilimanjaro. (Photo by Damson Samson)

Damson was in Marangu today meeting with the Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders there. It is part of the quarterly planning process that leads up to several days of DMD (disciples making disciples), church planting, and DTB (Discovering the Bible) training for our guides and porters.

They opened in prayer and Damson shared from Matthew 4:19-20 where Jesus begins His ministry by inviting anglers Peter and Andrew to follow Him, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Damson used this to talk about God’s calling on our lives to preach the Gospel. He said God will use people with varying skills. “Looking at a tree,” he said, metaphorically, “one man can see a chair, while one can see feed for animals, and another can see firewood.”

He talked about how guides and porters left behind lives as drunkards to serve the Lord through Climbing For Christ.

“I asked them how many were able to carry a Bible on the mountain before,” Damson said. “It seems nobody. The Bible had no meaning to them even though they were going to church. Now, the story has completely changed. ‘You carry the Bible throughout (your treks) despite the heavy bag you are already carrying up (the mountain).’”

This prompted a divine appointment. A man entered the building where the group was meeting. He heard the discussion and interjected: “Taking the Bible on the mountain will always give you strength because even when you are tired and weak you can get energy only by reading the Word of God.”

Amen to that!

Sunday, Feb. 26

We are a Proverbs 16:9 ministry. Look it up. But sometimes – after prayer, abiding, and planning – we do wonder who (not Who) is making the schedule?

Another day, another misstep. It actually began yesterday when our old friend and long-time guide Yusuf realized we were arriving a day earlier than he thought. With the Kilimanjaro Marathon scheduled today, our hotel for the next two weeks (along with many others in the area) was not available. So, we had to stay elsewhere last night.

Today, Yusuf and Kingdom worker Damson drove us to Moshi and the hotel we’d planned to reside at for two weeks of writing, teaching, and rooting on our Kilimanjaro climbers Jenna and Mandi, who joined us this afternoon. That’s when we found out that the trek, planned for tomorrow until Sunday, isn’t starting until Tuesday. And so it goes.

Our luggage has yet to arrive. And, to make matters more frustrating, we’ve been unable to access this Web site or our Climbing For Christ emails in Tanzania – a problem never before experienced.

Recently, my small group read a chapter on “Rejoicing in the Lord always” from Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing. When I read it, I was thinking about the devastating earthquake in Turkey, hunger in Malawi, Hindu oppression in India and Nepal, and Muslim opposition in Pakistan and other places we work. The sub-title for the chapter was “God uses everything for His will.” In my prayer journal, I wrote, “Even earthquakes.”

Little did I know, God was preparing us for the frustrating start to this trip by pointing us to Philippians 4:4. Max wrote, “He ‘works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11, NIV).” As we say, “His will be done on earth as in heaven.”

What then, you ask, is His will for flight delays, nearly missed connections, lost luggage, scheduling errors, and the like? Or – in the much bigger picture – earthquakes, hunger, persecution, and sickness and disease.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).

He is working. We are waiting. “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NIV). “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Note: After writing this short message – to myself more than you the reader – I heard from our site provider, who told me to try accessing ClimbingForChrist.org. “Our support team said that they have now un-blocked Tanzania.” Thank You, Lord!

Saturday, Feb. 25

Sleepy heads: Even coffee couldn’t keep Gary and Jenna awake during long Nairobi layover. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)

We nearly stayed on the ground as long as we flew from USA-Kenya. We had a 10 ½-hour layover before jumping on a propeller-engine plane for the 35-minute flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro International Airport. The flight from Kenya to Tanzania took as much time as clearing security at JFK. Ah, air travel.

We made it safely – praise God. But none of Elaine’s and my luggage made the trip. Probably on a tarmac somewhere at JFK. The close connection was too close for our bags. Praying they arrive on tomorrow’s flights. I’d prefer to not repeat the trip to Tunisia a few years ago with Board member John Becker when Air France misplaced my backpack and I went eight days in the same clothes.

Jenna’s luggage made it (she didn’t have the close connection we had) and all she needs is a little sleep and she’ll be ready to GO. Mandi is somewhere else in Tanzania and plans to join us tomorrow. Jenna summed up our travel this way: “The day was like 1,000 lives.”

Friday, Feb. 24

We hope for “uneventful” flights. Everyone prays for us to have “smooth and flawless” travel. But … Elaine and I narrowly made our JFK-Nairobi flight after we were delayed out of Rochester, NY. Jenna was waiting for us on the plane, but other than a quick hug and hello we had to wait until after our 12-hour flight to talk over coffee in the Nairobi airport Saturday morning. Coffee was much needed – since, inexplicably, our Kenya Airways flight had no coffee or tea. That is not uneventful for us!

INTRODUCTION (Thursday, Feb. 23)

Cover of The Climbing Way (Volume 59, March-April 2023), available for distribution soon. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)

On Feb. 23, 1998, I stood next to my climbing partner Kevin Flynn on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Twenty-five years ago today. And tomorrow my partner in life and in Climbing For Christ (my wife Elaine) and I will board flights heading back to Tanzania for Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023 (and Mission: Malawi 2023 to follow).

Much has changed during this quarter-century. Our daughter Hayley, who was not yet 4 years old, cried her eyes out at the gate at Rochester International Airport in 1998. She is now a married woman living in Denver, CO, and security restricts that those going to the gate must be ticketed passengers.

Kevin and I were peak baggers in 1998. He was on his way to all eight of the Seven Summits (the highest point on every continent). I was with him on Africa’s Kilimanjaro and South America’s Aconcagua, and authored a book for him about his ascent of Asia’s Everest. I was a newspaperman in 1998; today I deliver the Good News. I stopped caring about summits long ago, focusing instead on the people who live on those mountains.

That’s what Climbing For Christ is about – reaching the lost in mountainous areas around the world. The ultimate search-and-rescue operation.

But the roots of this ministry are found on Kilimanjaro. It was while I was training for that 1998 ascent that God directed me to start what became Climbing For Christ. God gave my mountain-climbing aspirations a higher purpose.

I returned to Tanzania in 2007 on the inaugural Mission: Kilimanjaro. Our son Jesse was with me then. Jim Doenges, who died in 2018, was also on the team. We are about to conduct Climbing For Christ’s 15th expedition to Kilimanjaro. Mandi Taylor of Wyoming and Jenna White of Utah will be the ones vying for the summit this time around. I met Jenna, who is 30, for the first time when she was a student in Jim’s outdoors studies class at Colorado Christian University. Funny how time changes things.

The students now are the guides and porters in the Kilimanjaro Chapter. They will be learning more about discipleship and life’s guidebook, the Bible. We’ve been discipling scores of guides and porters since God first led us to Africa’s tallest mountain, and then in 2008 formed Climbing For Christ’s Kilimanjaro Chapter.

Hundreds of guides and porters in Tanzania and in Malawi’s Mulanje Massif Chapter have had their lives – and the lives of their family members and neighbors – transformed through C4C teachings. It has been one of our greatest honors.

So much goes into and results from missions like Kilimanjaro 2023 and Malawi 2023. Bible teaching. Physical feeding. Fellowship. Prayer. Relationships will continue to grow and the greatest relationship of all – the personal one each of us is offered with our heavenly Father – will continue to deepen.

I’ve always instructed our chapter members that I am a student, too. That’s what being a disciple is all about. I was reminded of this again last fall during worship in a Hillsong church on Bali, Indonesia, when the speaker said, “You’re just starting to know God. Pray to know Him better.”

That is our prayer as we prepare to GO on Climbing For Christ’s 118th and 119th mission trips. May each of us know the Lord better every day. 


Gary FallesenGary Fallesen

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