(Photo illustration with Climbing For Christ ministry life verse by Jesse Eells.)
Making a coffee connection
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
The work in Tanzania began in a coffee shop in Thailand. John Becker of Africa Inland Mission – and a long-time Climbing For Christ member – was meeting with me in the aftermath of a gathering of like-hearted ministries in October 2017.
John had been following Mission: Kilimanjaro and suggested the next step Climbing For Christ needed to make was to use another ministry as a resource. He connected us with The Timothy Initiative (TTI).
Disciples making disciples
The HIStory of Climbing For Christ in Tanzania has been well documented: From my preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 1998 and receiving the call from God to start this ministry to our returning with a team for the first time in 2007 and establishing the Kilimanjaro Chapter in 2008. Our goal had always been to equip this chapter of guides and porters with the tools to become evangelists on and off the mountain.
Enter Damson Samson. Climbing For Christ had paid for his college education and in March 2014 we called him to become our missionary to East Africa. He accepted and visited the Kilimanjaro area for the first time during Mission: Kilimanjaro 2014 in August.
Teaching, house visits, and overseeing a chicken project to serve physical needs of Kilimanjaro Chapter members became the focus of Damson’s quarterly visits. In 2016, he even climbed the mountain – a rarity for an African who isn’t working on Kilimanjaro.
The next level
From coffee in Asia to an email to The Timothy Initiative in Florida to an immediate answer and a Skype connection within days, we could see how God was orchestrating this endeavor. Or, as John Becker referred to it, taking Climbing For Christ to the next level.
Books in Swahili were delivered to a guide friend in Tanzania and instruction began on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2017 in late November.
A year later, our Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018 team was fresh off the mountain and spending three days with three-dozen guides and porters in the fifth training session of our TTI program. We would graduate 28 brothers in Christ at the end of the third day.
It was a momentous occasion and the highlight of a spirited and Spirit-filled 100th Evangelic Expedition in Climbing For Christ HIStory.
Fadhil Hilonga receiving his certificate for completing our introductory TTI training. (Photo by Jesse Eells)
“I am full physically and spiritually,” Fadhil Hilonga said after graduating. “Before Climbing For Christ, I was not strong spiritually. I was a drunken man. I didn’t think I’d ever have a wife. After joining Climbing For Christ, Damson visited my home and convicted me. I thank God I now have a wife.”
CLICK HERE to read daily Dispatches from Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018, held Nov. 24-Dec. 9
“Graduation was a very special time,” said Jordan Rowley, our spiritual coordinator. “After spending a few days with the chapter members, you really begin to feel a special bond.”
He and other members of our team enjoyed watching the men celebrate “their successful completion of our curriculum,” some sharing the joyous moment with their wives and young children. Jesse Eells, a pastor from Mishicot, WI, listed “worshiping with the Kilimanjaro Chapter guys during our training sessions” among his favorite times on the trip.
Abide, bear fruit
Jesse, Jordan, Adam Copper of Canon City, CO; Jon Scofield of Huntley, MT, and Frode Strand of Oslo, Norway had come together with Damson and me for a “Spirit Walk,” two days of study based on Steve Smith’s book. The goal of the study – in addition to getting to know one another – was to surrender to His will while waiting on the Lord in prayer, avoiding sin, and preparing to pursue promptings of the Spirit.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
To walk in the works that God has prepared we need to be abiding with Him. Abiding has been a critical focus for Climbing For Christ’s staff since that gathering I attended in Thailand in October 2017. It was called “Abide Bear Fruit” and based on John 15:5. It’s no coincidence that from that time God birthed the TTI connection, thanks to a coffee break with a dear brother who has been described by a TTI leader as “one of the most Spirit-filled men I’ve ever known.”
Mission: Kilimanjaro team members on the summit: (left to right) Jon Scofield, Jordan Rowley, Jesse Eells, Frode Strand, and Adam Copper.
After Jesse, Jordan, Adam, Jon, Frode and I spent a week on Kilimanjaro – with those five going to the summit (the rooftop of Africa) with guide friend Yusuf – we successfully completed Mission: Kilimanjaro 2018 with our chapter members. While we were on the mountain, Damson was again doing house visits. In one, he led five others to the Lord. For Damson, this and the graduation of our first TTI class were the highlights of the trip. “This was a wonderful moment where the Lord wanted those five lives to come to (Him),” Damson said.
The year Climbing For Christ was incorporated (2004) in advance of our first Evangelic Expedition in 2005, I spent the month of June in prayer and research. This resulted in our original “Mission Vision.” Kilimanjaro was dubbed the “Model Mission.” I wrote:
To best serve the people – providing them with what they need, not just want – we must understand them. To make a difference, it is essential that you establish relationships. This takes time. It will require an on-going, long-term effort.
That effort has been on-going since 2007 and is a long-term project. Disciples making disciples. Those who graduated will be teachers, while remaining students. Another class will begin in March 2019 and graduate on Mission: Kilimanjaro 2020 (tentatively scheduled for February 2020).
One day, as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers fishing, the Gospel of Matthew tells us. “Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’” (Matthew 4:19). We all are learning from the Master – together.