Climbing For Christ

TAKING THE GOSPEL TO MOUNTAINOUS AREAS OF THE WORLD WHERE OTHER MISSIONARIES CANNOT OR WILL NOT GO

Articles by Gary Fallesen

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Gary Fallesen

Dispatches: Malawi 2018

Mission: Malawi 2018

Reporting by Gary Fallesen

(Photos by Gary Fallesen unless otherwise noted)

Tuesday, Aug 28


Mulanje Massif Chapter members in prayer.

This photo is one of the many memorable moments from Mission: Malawi 2018. Members of the Mulanje Massif Chapter gathering at the Chisepo Hut, about 7,500 feet up on the Sapitwa Peak, for one final prayer together during our three days of trekking and training. It was one of countless blessed occasions Bill and I had with brothers and sisters (and those not yet related to us by the blood of Jesus) over the past two weeks.

Neither height nor depth, nor numbing 15-hour plane rides from Johannesburg, South Africa to New York, New York, nor lost luggage, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Bill and I finished 29 hours in planes and airports by safely returning to Rochester, NY, bringing to conclusion this particular phase in the ongoing work in Malawi.

I share the prayer photo because there was (and is) a great deal of prayer put into Mission: Malawi. We continue to lift brother Damson from the C4C staff and his service to his fellow Malawians, as well as all of those we have shared laughs, tears, joy, and sorrow with in recent days. Please join us in praying for God’s hand on this particular corner of Africa. We humbly bow our hearts and ask that needs be met and lift our voices in thanksgiving for all that God continues to provide. God is good all the time.

Monday, Aug 27

On the road toward home.

Bill and I are flying today and tomorrow back to Rochester, NY, USA. Praying for uneventful travel. Lifting seeds planted, watered, and nurtured during our time in Malawi. For HIS glory!

Sunday, Aug. 26

Bill, Pastor Duncan and me with the church at Kambona after worship last Sunday. We worshiped with these brothers and sisters again today.

Bill preached at Msema about hope (expectation in the LORD, not the church where he is missions director) and I shared with Kambona about storing up our treasures in heaven. There was a second worship at Kambona in the afternoon and Bill delivered a message about happiness-vs.-joy (the former temporal and the latter eternal).

As God would have it, Bill and I did not discuss any of our messages or lessons in advance of the trip, and time after time the Spirit wove them together perfectly. It was a divinely orchestrated eight days with both of us teaching and preaching every day, sometimes multiple times each day. Throw in some trekking, outreach, and service to widows and orphans, and you have a blessedly exhausting time in southern Malawi.

Damson Samson with his family (left to right) wife Selena, daughter Elaine, son Koinonia, and daughter Hayley.

We ended the day and week in another perfect way: with dinner at local Climbing For Christ staff member Damson Samson’s house. We were honored to be with his family and it is a joy to see the way the LORD is working in and through Damson in Africa. We lift him prayer and also give God thanks for all He is doing.

Saturday, Aug. 25

I was the substitute teacher for our Project 1:27-sponsored children, offering instruction in place of my wife Elaine. Elaine oversees our Project 1:27 and visits Malawi and Nepal most years. But secular work would not permit her being here this time. However, she prepared our lesson and sent gifts and well-wishes to the children.

I taught about “The Power of a Whisper, and the Voice of God,” based on a study by Pastor Mark Batterson. We told the children they needed to be able to hear God to pursue the dreams and plans He has for their lives.

It is heart-rending to watch kids grow up in places that are fraught with danger and defeat. Children need love and encouragement. When asked what some of their problems are, the children answered: no food, no money, no clothing, no shelter. These are the basics of life.

Ethel, a 13-year-old entering grade 6, reads 1 Samuel 3 during our lesson. (Photos, above and top, by Bill Marsaw)

Only God can provide a way out of desperation for these children. We pray for them the prayer of a young Samuel: “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.” May they hear His voice above the other noise, and be led to a better place.

We continue to work to help those in physical and spiritual need in this place, and have been honored to bring Hope Lutheran Church of Rochester, NY, into partnership with Pastor Duncan’s ministries over the past 14 months. Bill Marsaw, the missions director at Hope, has been with Duncan most of the week. Today, he visited their fruitful goat project.

I put my head and heart together with Climbing For Christ staffer Damson Samson to plan C4C work in Malawi and Tanzania for the next 18 months. This includes our disciples-making-disciples training with guides and porters on Mulanje Massif and Mount Kilimanjaro, outreach among the Ngoni and soon another 99-percent unreached people group, the widows project, ministry to Mulanje Prison, and another initiative Damson has proposed. All of these need your prayers and your financial support. We walk in the work God has prepared for us, and those praying for and giving to the critical service here are blessed to witness the fruit being produced.

Gifts that keep on giving: Food that we received Friday from the widows was delivered to the orphans today.

Friday, Aug. 24

Widows lining up to cheerfully give to Climbing For Christ, above. The gifts piled up, below. Food that in turn will be delivered to our Project 1:27-sponsored children’s home.

The emphasis was again on giving at our annual widows program. More than 400 widows attended with 333 bringing gifts for us. We in turn handed out gifts of cloth to the women (mostly) and men Climbing For Christ has been ministering to since God put on Damson’s heart at CHRISTmas 2015 the desire to help the least of the least of these.

“It is like we were thrown out of the village and you came and picked us up,” Damson said, speaking for the widows.

It was a day-long celebration at Phalombe Teacher Training College, where we rent a hall and bring enough food to feed a mostly elderly army.

This is all part of fulfilling James 1:27: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” We serve the orphans in Pastor Duncan’s care through Project 1:27 and support Damson’s work among the widows.

I spoke on “Caring for Widows and Orphans,” based on an article in the Africa Study Bible.  This focused on God’s love for them (Psalm 68:5, Isaiah 1:17, Exodus 22:22-24, Malachi 3:5 and Deuteronomy 14:28-29), instructions for the church in organizing a widows ministry (1 Timothy 5:3-16), and God’s expectations for the widows themselves:

  • Widows must not do evil. They must avoid witchcraft and curses.
  • Widows must give – cheerfully. Their giving pleases God, no matter how little they have (Luke 21:1-4).
  • Widows must make contributions to society. They can provide comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We then received – through music and dance, hugs and smiles – what added up to one 50-kilogram bag of maize, eight bags of pigeon peas, seven bags of millet, two bags of potatoes, three chickens, some eggs, 15 kilograms of ground nuts, 10 kilograms of rice, 20 kilograms of beans, some soap, onions, and salt. On top of that, cloth was given to Bill to take back to Hope Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY, and Damson’s family gave me cloth as a wedding present for my daughter Hayley, who was here in 2016.

I told the widows that they still have something to give: They can share God’s love. If you’re still breathing, I told them, God is still using you. You are blessed to be a blessing.

Thursday, Aug. 23

Nelly, right, a widow whose age is “old enough,” believed in God and knew Christians were “supposed to commit to Christ.” But she didn’t know how until we shared with her. Nelly, her daughter Hannah (left, who has epilepsy), and Hannah’s 15-year-old son Austin, center, then accepted Jesus. (Photo by Bill Marsaw)

During our discipleship training with the Mulanje Massif Chapter, I posed the question: “What would you do if you only had 24 hours to live?” The evangelist’s answer is run around and tell all the people you can that you are going home and they could see you again in heaven if only they believe in Jesus.

I was reading my daily devotional book after returning from our Mulanje Massif trek on Wednesday and I read another question: “When was the last time your heart churned because someone did not know Jesus?” The Climbing For Christ answer is today – and every day.

We sat with families from the under-reached Ngoni tribe in Central Malawi. Bill was blessed with the opportunity to share the Gospel message and twice we led families (grandmothers, children and grandchildren) in prayer, inviting Jesus to take up residence in their hearts.

Later, I shared with a gathering of about 75 Ngoni people the message “There’s God!” It was a teaching I wrote based on Psalm 53:1, using creation to introduce people to God and the story of creation-to-salvation. In another village, Bill taught more than 100 people about salvation.

The Ngoni’s Kasale village with Kilik mountain in the background.

This was all part of the ministry Climbing For Christ has been doing among the Ngoni since early 2017. Damson makes the three-hour drive from southern Malawi to the town of Ntcheu three or four times a year and leads Bible studies in the surrounding Ngoni villages. He started these studies and scores of people are attending each week. Some go before even knowing who Jesus is because they believe in a God who created everything around them.

This was my second visit to the Ngoni, a people I learned about at the 2016 Finishing the Task conference. Few if any ministries or churches were serving them (hence “under-reached”) and they were in our Malawi backyard.

Chiefs thanked us for bringing the love of Jesus to them, saying that drinking problems have lessened, people are getting along better with one another, and you can see a change on the faces of people. “They are shining now,” said the Chief of Mastimale village.

On this day, more than 200 people recommitted to Christ and some, for the first time, accepted Jesus as their Savior. As I stood in front of them, looking at their shining faces, my heart churned for more to come to know the LORD.

Wednesday, Aug. 22

The Mulanje Massif Chapter in evangelism training beneath Sapitwa Peak. (Photo by McSon Soka, caretaker of Chisepo Hut)

We finished our training time this morning with the men of the Mulanje Massif Chapter sharing from their overnight assignment. They were to read John 4 (the Samaritan woman at the well) and explain their understanding of the passage. To share the word of God you must understand the word of God.

When each of the guides and porters were done speaking, I pointed them to verse 39: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony...” I reminded them how powerful each of their stories are, and many can be led to the Lord through their sharing.

Their homework assignment is for each man to share his Christ story with five people that the Spirit puts on their heart through prayer. They’ll report back to Damson at the chapter’s next training in October. They also were encouraged to minister to their families first and use this three-day training as an opportunity to witness when anyone asks where they have been.

With words of praise sung, thanks given (“this teaching makes us hot, hot to go and make disciples; we are very encouraged,” chapter chair John Mollen said), and prayers lifted together, we broke camp. All that was left was the steep descent off the Mulanje plateau, down some 6,500 vertical feet in less than six miles, in hot and extremely dry conditions. We covered a lot of ground – both physical and spiritual – in a short time. It was holy time spent with our dear brothers in Christ.

Tuesday, Aug. 21

Trekking toward Sapitwa Peak, at nearly 10,000 feet the highest point on Mulanje Massif. We camped below the peak at Chisepo Hut (about 7,500 feet).

I awoke to the sounds of worship as the men of the Mulanje Massif Chapter greeted the day with voices lifted in praise. What a sweet start to the new day that the Lord had made.

Damson finished the first chapter of our study, which carried over from Monday night, and I began chapter 2 (“Sharing the Word of God”) before we broke camp and trekked to Chisepo Hut at the base of Sapitwa Peak. Sapitwa (9,836 feet/2,998 meters) is the high point of Mulanje Massif. Our hike today was much easier, covering more than 4 miles over rolling hills. We probably descended and ascended a couple thousand feet.

Part of our training is learning to tell our stories of coming to Christ. Among the testimonies shared:

John Ben came to Christ when Climbing For Christ came to the Mulanje Massif Chapter in 2016 and we were teaching about evangelism. The question was asked, “If you die tonight, do you know where you will go?” He realized he was not heaven-bound, repented, and invited Jesus to take over his life.

Several others told similar stories of being led to the Lord at C4C trainings, after leading lives that included drinking, smoking and womanizing. Some even went to church before that, although they had no relationship with Jesus. When Damson taught from Ezekiel at one gathering, Abraham James said, “I knew it was me who was the dry bones and I had to change my ways.”

David Chithyoka received Jesus at a chapter meeting where the book of Jonah was being taught. “When I heard the story of how he was running away from God, I realized I was doing what Jonah did. I should confess now and start a new life.” He added that he sees the importance of learning to be a disciple who makes disciples.

Monday, Aug. 20

Trekking to Thuchila Hut.

What started as a four-hour trek turned into a six-hour prayer walk, thanks to stomach problems for yours truly. Damson and I set out from the Thuchila trailhead with 19 brothers in Christ from the Mulanje Massif Chapter, and within one hour (in the sun and heat) I was resting on the trail in pain. I never fell asleep on a trail until today.

A 15-minute nap had me back on my feet and heading up what they call the Elephant Head Route. You ascend a mountain shaped like an elephant’s head. We only covered 3.67 miles, but we climbed more than 5,500 feet to reach Thuchila Hut.

This is Day 1 of a three-day training with guides and porters in our chapter. We are starting them on The Timothy Initiative, a year-long study that we will complete with the Kilimanjaro Chapter in neighboring Tanzania in December. We brought them to the Mulanje Massif, where they work, to get away from life’s distractions and focus on Christ alone. Our aim is to teach them to be disciples, and grow the church.

I introduced the training and Damson kicked off chapter one: Interpreting and Understanding the Bible. This moment was born on Mission: Malawi 2017, when Damson and I took a dayhike with most of these brothers and I taught The Sermon on the Mount on the mount. It was such a great experience we decided to go deeper and farther this year.

God has used mountains as a setting to speak to His children throughout HIStory. May the Mulanje Massif Chapter fruitfully follow in those footsteps.

Sunday, Aug. 19

I shared a message on storing up our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21) with the church at Msema and Bill preached about hope (Jeremiah 29:11, John 10:9-11, Romans 15:13, and 1 Peter 1:3-4) in the church at Kambona. In both cases we wanted to encourage a focus on spiritual wealth, not worldly riches. God, being God, wove our two lessons together perfectly. Next Sunday, we’ll reverse the order with Bill preaching at Msema and me sharing at Kambona.

Bill, with Rabson translating, preaches to the church at Kambona.

Preaching, with Damson translating, in the church at Msema. (Photo by Bill Marsaw)

We were surprised by a visit from Pastor Felix from the church we were blessed to help build in Mozambique. He and the church were well, all praise and thanks to God.

Later, we met with many of the Project 1:27-sponsored children. They did their traditional introductions: name, age, school year, what they want to be when they grow up (nurse, soldier, pastor), and their favorite colors, foods and things to do. We met the three new children and got reacquainted with some we have watched grow for several years. Gift, for one, is now the tallest in the group.

We’ll be spending Saturday with them as I teach a lesson in Elaine’s absence. But, first, it’s time to head for the hills.

Saturday, Aug. 18

Painfully long travel (one flight was 14 1/2 hours) brought us back to Malawi. Bill and I were greeted by Duncan, Rabson and Damson at the airport in Blantyre. They transported us to Migowi in southern Malawi.

Bill was just here five months ago, but it’s been more than a year for me – although Damson and I have been together in Tanzania since then. When you serve in ministry – staying in constant communication and in each other’s prayers – it seems as if you saw one another just yesterday. That’s how God keeps track of time anyway (“for a thousand years in Your sight are but yesterday when it is past,” Psalm 90:4). We’ll spend a good deal of time serving together the next eight days, prayerfully glorifying His name.

Friday, Aug. 17

Brother Bill and I met very early this morning at the Rochester, NY airport to begin 26 hours of flights to Malawi. I have already been blessed. Not only do I have the honor of being sent, I am going to get paid next week! God inspired several of our members to give generously yesterday, filling our coffers with enough funding to pay our staff. We give thanks and praise to our Provider and to those who responded to the Spirit's stirring to give to Climbing For Christ.‎ There is nothing greater that we can do than support the work of the LORD through prayer, financial gifts, and GO-ing in His name. May I, may we represent Him well.

Introduction

Let all who run to you for protection always sing joyful songs. Provide shelter for those who truly love you and let them rejoice. Our Lord, you bless those who live right, and you shield them with your kindness.” Psalm 5:11-12

The welcome committee is ready and waiting. Two weeks ahead of our arrival, Malawi national and Climbing For Christ staff member Damson Samson made the rounds and told villagers “you are coming to visit them again, and they were very happy to have you again in Malawi. They can’t wait! They are ready to bless America.”


There was a celebratory dance in Manado village when Damson told them of our upcoming visit. (Photo by Damson Samson)

I am honored. Family and friends should be so glad to greet me. Maybe this is why, as I prayed about Mission: Malawi in the midst of financial difficulty for Climbing For Christ, I needed to decide whether to GO or get paid next week. I chose to be in Malawi next week teaching guides and porters on Mulanje Massif to be Jesus disciples who make more disciples, worshiping with Pastor Duncan Nyozani’s churches, celebrating with widows ministered to by Damson, and spending time with children sponsored by our Project 1:27.

Bill Marsaw, the mission director from Hope Lutheran Church in Rochester, NY, is traveling with me. Hope is my home church and we helped them become ministry partners with Pastor Duncan’s ministry last year. This will be Bill’s second visit this year and third overall. I am GO-ing to Malawi for the sixth time since 2010. 


Damson speaking at a meeting in Nasiyaya village, where, he said, “they have been meeting and if not it is (because) they have a funeral in the village. They also find it is more important to meet and hear the Word. They are also ready” for our visit.

 

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