Mission: Kilimanjaro 2024
Into Africa: A Love Story
By GARY FALLESEN
My love affair with Africa dates back more than 25 years to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. I stood on the rooftop of Africa on Feb. 23, 1998. A quarter-century later, I returned to Tanzania on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2023 marking my 15th trip to this astonishing East African country.
It was while training for the first Kilimanjaro climb that God spoke to me and instructed me to start a Christian climbing organization that, on April 20, 2004, would become Climbing For Christ, Inc. I had no idea in 1998 what it meant. But here we are on the verge of Climbing For Christ’s 20th anniversary and our 16th expedition to Kilimanjaro.
Mission: Kilimanjaro 2024 is scheduled for Jan. 19-Feb. 2.
When I flew home from Tanzania in 1998, I felt in my heart that I would GO back. That occurred in 2007 on our inaugural mission to Kilimanjaro. Then again in 2008, and 2010 and ’11, and 2013, ‘14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, ’19, and 2022 and ’23. Only the COVID-19 pandemic could keep us away.
A divine appointment with Pastor Winford Mosha kicked off our work in Tanzania. Delivering duffels of gear to the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project in Moshi at the start of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007, we were asked by the American director of that organization if we would like to meet a Lutheran pastor. Since I am from a Lutheran church, I said, “Sure!”
“We are extremely excited as Pastor Mosha has just recently come up with some ideas as to how the church can help the situation of the porters,” the Porters Assistance Project director said. “So, it will be perfect timing for your group to provide encouragement for his doing so. The only way change can be affected here is by the Tanzanian people themselves. You will be helping the situation tremendously.”
It was God’s timing.
Delivering duffels of gear for ill-equipped guides and porters working on Kilimanjaro, above. Below, meeting with Pastor Winford Mosha on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007. (Photos by Shawn Dowd)
Pastor Mosha shared what God put on his heart: to put someone at the Marangu Gate, one of the busiest entrances to Kilimanjaro National Park and the tourist route up the mountain. This person would pray with the porters before and after their climbs. They would also talk about HIV – and other issues – with the hundreds of porters and guides who passed that way each day.
He asked what we would like to do. “What you said,” I answered.
It was our stated desire in 2007 to plant a missionary around Kilimanjaro to work with the guides and porters. Fast forward to 2014 and this happened. Again, God’s timing for everything.
Damson Samson was a young man who we met on our first trip to Malawi, one of Africa’s friendliest countries – dubbed the “Warm Heart of Africa.” Damson worked in the ministry of Pastor Duncan Nyozani, a Climbing For Christ member since 2009. Damson was caring for orphans we were introduced to when a thief stole their food and Duncan appealed to us for help. We responded by paying for a month’s supply of food. This led to the start of our Project 1:27, based on James 1:27 (“caring for orphans and widows in their distress”).
In 2010, we went to Malawi. Damson had been praying for seven years to go to college, unable to afford tuition. He shared this with me, I prayed about it, and we sent him to college for four years. Upon graduating, we called him to serve with Climbing For Christ. He accepted and five months later he made his first trip to neighboring Tanzania on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2014.
He has been a quarterly visitor since, conducting our Kilimanjaro Chapter training. The Kilimanjaro Chapter, guides and porters who work on the mountain, was formed on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2008. We knew we had to equip the workers here to do ministry 24/365 since we could only be here a couple weeks every year. But the real breakthrough occurred in 2017 when current Board member John Becker of Africa Inland Mission – among other ministries – introduced us to The Timothy Initiative (TTI).
TTI had the resources we could use to teach disciple making and church planting. A movement was soon underway. And not just in Tanzania, but farther south in Malawi where we’d formed the Mulanje Massif Chapter of guides and porters.
For six years, 63 guides and porters in Tanzania and 89 guides and porters in Malawi have learned to be disciples who make disciples, plant churches, and better understand the Bible through two studies, “Discovering the Bible” and “Communicating the Bible.” God has worked in and through them to transform their lives, their families, their communities, and to evangelize on the mountain where tens of thousands of foreigners come every year for a mountaintop experience.
We pray those tourists gain more than a summit. We pray that they come away with a Savior.
I thought Kilimanjaro was another peak experience for me. But God used it to become so much more. He kindled in my heart a desire to reach people in the mountains. It became about service, not summit; mission, not mountain; people, not peak. He gave me a love for Africa that has kept me GO-ing back again and again. For 25 years – and counting.
MISSION: KILIMANJARO 2024: This will be the 16th expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro dating back to 2007. The trip is scheduled for Jan. 19 to Feb. 2. We will be teaching both classes of Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters, including taking 20 members up Kilimanjaro for on-the-mountain training in “Communicating the Bible” and outreach. This five-day course in evangelism will occur on the Marangu Route, where our team will trek from the Marangu Gate (6.046 feet/1,900 meters) to the Mandara Hut (8,858 feet/2,700 meters) and then to the Horombo Hut (12,205 feet/3,700 meters) for teaching and outreach before descending off the mountain. Pastor Mosha, who dreamed with us the direction God has taken the Kilimanjaro mission all those years ago, plans to join us on the Marangu Route.
OPTIONAL CLIMB: C4C members may also choose to stay on longer and make a summit attempt with a long-time friend and guide. This would be an additional cost.
Email info@ClimbingForChrist.org for a mission application. For C4C members only (CLICK HERE to join).