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Gary Fallesen

Trip Report: Making the most of our time

Summit fever struck the seemingly aimless group wandering on the slopes of a large active volcano on one of Indonesia’s many islands. Never mind the late start (3 p.m.) and the abbreviated schedule (less than the minimum 3 days and 2 nights required to ascend the more than 12,000-foot/3,650-meter volcano). As we hiked in the heat under, thankfully, overcast skies, I knew that this was not why we had come here.

We’d arrived on the island to survey the volcano and see how God might use us to reach the people living there. There are more than 2.7 million people in this particular group and they are 99.98 percent Muslim. There are reportedly only 540 Christians among them.

The previous night, after flying to the island, we’d met with a pastor of a church to get information. We were told there we no villages on the slopes of the volcano, that the climb required 5 days, and that there was some ministering going on with the Muslim porters. We decided to trek the mountain and witness to porters and then visit some villages where we’d heard work was being done. While on the peak we also would pray against the spirits that the animistic people in the area worship. Apparently locals will climb to the top of the volcano and pray to their god, whom they believe lives in the volcano.

The enemy has put these people — in fact, most of this country — in a cloud of darkness and confusion. We knew we could only do what our little time there allowed: pray, survey the area, seek God's direction (if He had any for us in this place), and shine His light into that darkness. In my journal I wrote that this was an exercise in trust because we had no plan going in and no idea what was going on. This was totally God, which is always a good thing. So we set out to take a walk with Him and see where He would lead. All to His glory!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the trailhead. An employee of the national park described the route and the 9,000-foot ascent. He told us to hike 6 hours that day, make a big push the following day, and then on the morning of our third day awake before sunrise to summit and descend off the mountain. “No way,” I thought when I heard this advice. But others in our group immediately came down with a case of summit blindness.

Maybe if I’d traveled halfway around the world simply to climb, I would have said, “Let’s go for it!” But I knew that wasn’t the purpose for our trip. This nagged at me when we started out. I prayed and prayed, but I couldn’t hear God telling me anything. In my heart, I knew what His silence was saying: “Why are you asking Me? You know what you’re supposed to do.”

We preach: mission, not mountain; people, not peak; service, NOT summit.

How could I blindly climb this volcano and then turn around and tell our members that Climbing For Christ is not for peakbagging, but for delivering the Good News?

International team: Ace from C4C Philippines, Budi and Iman from Indonesia's JEJAK, and Gary from world headquarters in the U.S. of A.

So after 2 hours of sweaty hiking, I told the group to take a break and I shared my thoughts with them. Then I read a devotional that had been prepared for our team by Climbing For Christ's spiritual coordinator. Somehow I knew God would speak to us through that devo. Sure enough, He did. The devotional — called “The Last Minutes” — said: “The clock is ticking! The Day is approaching! As Peter wrote in his first epistle in chapter 4, verse 7, ‘But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers’ (NKJV). Let us be about our Father’s business.”

At the end of the devotional, we were asked: “If you knew that you had 1 month left on this earth, how would you spend it?” Alleluia, amen.

“If these are our last minutes are we just going to climb a mountain or are we going to proclaim Christ?” I wondered. Everyone in the group knew the answer.

We decided to hike 1 more hour — getting us only halfway to the location the park employee told us to reach. We set up camp with another group (all Indonesians) and had some friendly conversation. We started to get to know our two Muslim porters/guides better.

At camp that night we discussed what to do the next day. We knew that we couldn’t just go back down to the town and visit houses and evangelize — it doesn't work that way in Indonesia. What would we do? I decided to stay on the mountain; we would go for a short hike and make another camp. We would let the Indonesian members of our team continue to develop a relationship with our porters. Then, on day 3, we would hike out and the porters would take us to visit the original homes in town. We were “tourists,” after all.

God’s plan went into action. It was counter to our desires as climbers (there would be no summit view) and even felt wrong to our missionary spirit. Our action was actually inaction. We spent half a day lounging in camp. But in the evening, our brothers had an opportunity to witness and afterward to pray for our friends, who were open to what we were delivering. Seeds were sown.

“There are millions upon millions upon millions of souls in this world who need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time,” our spiritual coordinator wrote in “The Last Minutes.”

“So what will we do with these last minutes? Tick tock!”

The clock was ticking and we made the most of our time.

A sign: Sharing the love of Jesus in the 'Brotherhood' house.

THE WORK GOES ON: Indonesia is a country of more than 248 million people — more than 86 percent of whom are Muslim. It is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. There are 784 people groups in this archipelagic state, and 213 of them are unreached with the Gospel. The number of misguided souls is staggering, paralyzing even. We must focus on one heart at a time. This is what we did during our climb and when we returned for the third time since 2007 to a village on another larger island. There are more than 32 million people in the group that dominates the inhabitants of that island, and only 0.06 percent (or barely 192,000 people) are said to be Christian. But in a village where we have been ministering, a family of believers is growing and work has been done. A “Brotherhood” house was built to bring the community together, a path was paved to make getting in and out of the village during the rainy season easier, and land was purchased so food may be grown to assist the people living there. Climbing For Christ and our Indonesian members of JEJAK have assisted with each of these developments. We prayed for unity among our brothers and sisters living in the village, protection from persecution, and the Spirit’s leading as the church forms in this area. We also sought to encourage and began better organizing our JEJAK group so more can be accomplished in the next year.

Read more about Mission: Indonesia in The Climbing Way (Volume 24, Spring-Summer 2012), due out in May 2012.

Gary FallesenGary Fallesen

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