Mission Moments: Turkey & Tanzania
Discipling, teaching, and encouraging
“Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:12 (NLT)
By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ
(NOTE: Climbing For Christ is revisiting Turkey, our seventh time in this Muslim country, and then GO-ing again to Tanzania, for the 12th time, from Dec. 3-15. FOR MORE PHOTOS, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM FOR THE PHOTO GALLERY.)
Sunday, Dec. 15
It was a full day of travel, and then some. Elaine and I flew for 25 hours from Kilimanjaro airport to Rochester airport, arriving just before midnight local time. Damson overnighted at the Dar es Salaam airport and returned to southern Malawi early Monday morning, local time. Damson summed it up nicely: “It has been my pleasure to be trusted in this Great Commission and I thank God for that.” We all thank and praise God for the wonderful things He has done!
Saturday, Dec. 14
The mountain – meaning 19,361-foot (5,895-meter) Kilimanjaro – appeared before sunset in all its magnificence for the first time this week. It has been in the clouds with rain coming down most of our days here. It has been rainier than normal for this time of the year.
It is strange to visit Tanzania and not climb Kilimanjaro. I have been on the mountain eight times through the years. I hope to do it again in the ’20s, God willing, so I will have trekked on Africa’s tallest mountain in four straight decades.
It is a glorious creation by our Maker. “O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!” (Psalm 8:1, NLT).
We enjoyed a final day with Damson, who showered us with gifts and appreciation. We pray for him, for his family, and for the ministry he is blessed to do in Tanzania and Malawi. To God alone be the glory!
Friday, Dec. 13
We purchased Bibles for the Kilimanjaro Chapter, crashed a couple’s wedding photos, and shared a heart-to-heart moment with two old friends we are praying will become brothers in Christ.
Many Christian guides and porters work without the Word. We continue to provide Bibles to these brothers in Christ. We were able to purchase 21 Swahili-language Bibles for about US $150.
Then, on the way to dinner, we encountered a couple doing a wedding photo shoot. We were invited to join the celebration – just as we’ve been invited in the past to participate in Kurdish weddings in Turkey. We stopped long enough for a few photos, shook hands, and blessed the bride and groom. (You can see our Wedding Album photo entry in the Gallery below.)
After dinner, we told two friends about our experience in Turkey this summer, when two guides we’d been praying for through much of the past decade announced they were Christ followers. I told our Tanzanian friends we continue to pray that they, too, will become our brothers in Christ. We pray the love of the God of the Bible that we have shared year after year will lead them to salvation.
Thursday, Dec. 12
We held an East Africa staff meeting in Moshi, Tanzania today, studying God’s Word and then discussing His work for us here. Damson, Elaine and I read through some Psalms together, concluding with “Then I will sing praise to your name forever as I fulfill my vows each day” (Psalm 61:8). A fitting jump-off point, I thought, for a time of praise for what happened the past two weeks with the Kilimanjaro Chapter, not to mention our time in Turkey. We then praised Damson for the work he is doing in Tanzania and Malawi.
We made plans for the next year, including missions back to Tanzania and Malawi in February and March 2020. God’s will be done.
Wednesday, Dec. 11
Student Tumain Panga writes notes and highlights lessons in his DMD book. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
Damson asked two of the farmers among our 23 guides and porters to describe how they plant each season – from preparing the field to scattering seed to watering and weeding to harvesting the crop. “How the farmer prepares his land, it works like this in the Kingdom of God,” Damson told the group.
“If you plant, you expect a harvest. A farmer plants by faith.”
As does a Kingdom sower.
We were studying “Four Fields of Church Planting & Visionary Church Planters” with our second-year Kilimanjaro Chapter students. This group graduated in December 2018 from the introductory level of disciple-making and have been studying the more advanced Disciples Making Disciples (DMD) this year. Tuesday and today covered church planting.
We focused on Mark 4:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 3:6, acknowledging that the Kingdom of God is grown by God – although we do play a role.
We spent a long time during the 9-to-5 class emphasizing our need to “partner with the Spirit.” Damson told them we need to be led by the Spirit (“to whom should I go?”), Pastor Winford Mosha added his thoughts, and I addressed the question being posed: “How much time do you spend listening to God?” We went back to an earlier training when the students wrote down their commitment to spending time with God.
“You should lavish extravagant time on Jesus,” I instructed. He is worth it, and – as we’re told in John 15:5 – apart from Him we can do nothing.
Damson, above left, speaks to a discussion group comparing church planting to farming. Below, our DMD group photo.
I spent a long time with the Lord early this morning, diving into God’s Word around 4 a.m. The Spirit moved me to write a lesson for our brother and sister in Turkey, which I emailed before sunrise. We do this often to teach and encourage new believers. The focus of that lesson was Psalm 37, specifically verses 3-5 and 7.
“Take delight in the LORD,” David tells us in Psalm 37:4. We delighted in being with our baby brother and sister in Christ in southeastern Turkey for five days and in being with our brothers in the Kilimanjaro Chapter today.
Damson, our Kingdom worker from southern Malawi, has been in Tanzania since Nov. 30. We’ll be spending a few more days together to plan 2020 and envision God’s dreams for our work in Africa. Today was a bonus for us – teaching and learning (as disciples we’re all students of Jesus) with some long-time Kilimanjaro Chapter members.
It is Elaine’s first time here since Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011. She got to see Pastor Mosha again and meet others she has heard so much about the past several years, including chapter leader Dauson Chonjo (a member since 2008).
Elaine greeted the group and shared from 3 John 2-4 (“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”) before I shared, and Damson taught about the fields of church planting.
Tuesday, Dec. 10
We landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport at daybreak, completing another 23 hours of travel from southeastern Turkey to East Africa. Damson and old friend Yusuf were waiting for us at the airport. After dropping us at the hotel so we could get a few hours of sleep, Damson headed to Himo to meet with our Kilimanjaro Chapter second-year students for their Disciples Making Disciples study.
Today’s study covered “Basic questions on church planting.” Twenty-two brothers attended, which was a good showing and pleased Damson.
Damson spent time with chapter leaders on Monday, reviewing this year and talking about God’s plans for their future. He used the time to share from Exodus and speak about Moses in a message he called, “A leader grows with the people.” He told them: “Love your people, die for them, put them on your back. Help them grow with you. Let them feel you care for them and you will be accountable to them.”
“Then we prayed for one another in love,” Damson said, “bringing our hearts together, constructing oneness to all leaders.”
Kilimanjaro Chapter leaders praying for one another. (Photo by Damson Samson)
Damson was grieved on Sunday when he received a call that a boy from his clan had died in a fall from a mango tree. It was the second loss of a young life we’ve heard about in the last week in Malawi, where again food is scarce and people are hungry. Pastor Duncan, a long-time member and ministry partner, emailed an appeal for help for those in need there and said a boy had died from eating a poison herb while searching for something to eat.
Damson explained: “Normally, this season, it’s a challenging time to us as few families manage to get food. In this way children are driven to get mangos as part of their meals and sometimes parents ask these kids to fetch mangos for them to cook, hence these things (accidents) happen.
“It has just been hard for me to understand losing young men who could have much more to do in the clan,” Damson added.
As a result of this growing need, we are appealing to our members and supporters to help feed our brothers and sisters in southern Malawi. Send contributions to Climbing For Christ, c/o Food Relief, P.O. Box 16290, Rochester, NY 14616 USA. Or click the DONATE button above to give via PayPal and email info@ClimbingForChrist.org to let us know that’s what your online gift is for. Thanks in advance.
Monday, Dec. 9
Our short time with new believers in southeastern Turkey ended; it’s moving day. We were driven to the airport by our dear brother and sister for our flight to Istanbul, which was followed by an overnight flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. We are scheduled to arrive early Tuesday morning.
We prayed with our brother and sister, who are, naturally, sad to see us go. We left them with John 14:27: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
In Tanzania, Damson is awaiting our arrival and also preparing for the DMD training with second-year students from the Kilimanjaro Chapter. He was meeting with chapter leaders today to discuss this next round of training and God’s dreams for our brothers in East Africa.
Sunday, Dec. 8
Worship at an orthodox church, above, and an evangelical church, below. (Photos by Gary Fallesen)
We were singing Joy to the World in worship at the Diyarbakir Evangelical Church when I put my arm around my baby brother in Christ. “The last time we were here, we weren’t together,” I said, referring to 2015 when he was a Muslim. “Now we are together!”
Talk about joy to the world. Praise God for what He has done.
We took our brother and sister in training to two houses of worship about a 1 ½-hour drive from where we’ve been staying. That’s the minimum distance many believers in these parts must travel to worship. The churches were very different. The first, the Syriac Virgin Mary Church, dates to the third century and is orthodox and had perhaps two dozen people in attendance. The second was the evangelical church that the priest from the Virgin Mary Church directed us to the last time we were in Diyarbakir in 2015. As God would have it, that particular weekday was when the evangelical church met for an evening worship. We took three Muslim friends with us. My brother, who came to the Lord earlier this year, remembered the moment vividly. We were there together, but we were not part of the same family as we are today.
We enjoyed our worship at the evangelical church with more than 60 family members, including many young children. I told the pastor and other members who spoke with us that we feared this church had been destroyed when the government attacked Kurds in southeastern Turkey after we were here in 2015. We had been praying for the church. They said God saw them through that difficult time, but asked us to continue praying, which of course we will do. The times are no less difficult for believers.
That was also the prayer request of another brother in Christ who we met later for coffee. Our divinely appointed encounter with that brother in 2015 changed his life. Whatever we shared with him (and we do not remember) rocked his world. He compared the Bible to the Quran he was then reading and discovered the Truth. He encouraged our other new brother to listen to us because we’d been sent here by God. After coffee, he encouraged me to take care of myself. “We need you; we still have a lot to learn,” he said. I told him it was in God’s hands.
His prayer request was for believers to “become stronger family in this area” and for protection for the church so it may grow and flourish. That is our prayer.
Saturday, Dec. 7
We spent the day focused on learning how to Share the Word of God and how to Defend Our Faith. At one point, the discussion turned to the way Jesus “related the Truth to real life” (using John 4:1-42 as an example). Jesus addressed needs, pains, and interests of people and this came to real time right before the eyes of our students.
We Skyped with a woman from our home church who is willing to pay for our new sister to go to college. This is something her Muslim father won’t do because he does not believe women should go to college. Seeing the possibility of a dream being realized gave us God bumps.
Climbing For Christ is a ministry that looks for the one lost sheep, wherever we GO. We know how important that one soul is to God. We spare no expense to GO and GO again and again to remote places to reach one. The family in our home church who want to help our sister will be doing this, too, by changing the life of this one God-gifted young woman. We praise Him for the way He works in and through us – and for the example He gave to our young brother and sister in Christ. God is real and active in this world.
In Tanzania, rain dampened the turnout from the Moshi side of the Kilimanjaro Chapter training. Damson reminded our brothers that God is about hearts, not statistics. “The few who are willing to GO, they’re more valuable than seating millions who are not willing at all,” Damson told his class of 10 students.
He used the example of Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, and Gideon as individuals who God used to deliver many. “A willing (individual) can bring (many) lives to the Kingdom if we are ready to accept the call,” Damson said.
Friday, Dec. 6
Studying in the dark. (Photo by Elaine Fallesen)
The calls to prayer blaring outside were the least of our distractions as we tried to dig into a day of lessons for our new believers in Turkey. There was the need to go help parents, visit people who wanted to meet the foreign visitors, a power outage, hunger pangs that made concentrating a challenge, and more. It seemed as if someone didn’t want our baby brother and sister in Christ to learn about the Bible.
But we made it through a study on interpreting and understanding the Bible.
When we shared parables such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan and then asked questions to see how these stories were comprehended, these new disciples answered with excellence.
There was much reading of Scripture in their own language and questions that led to the reading of other Bible passages that were not part of the lesson plan. At the end of the day our brother said he not only heard what we were trying to teach, but “I felt it in my heart.”
The Holy Spirit, our “Helper,” whom we talked about throughout the lesson, was present and guiding the lesson through the spiritual and physical opposition.
In Tanzania, it was another day of fasting and praying for the Kilimanjaro Chapter – this time in advance of The Timothy Initiative training for guides and porters from Moshi. The rain “hindered some members to not be available,” Damson reported. But five brothers gathered to pray for Saturday’s training, the Disciples Making Disciples meeting of second-year students to follow next week, and Elaine and my arrival there on Tuesday.
“I also had time to share with them about the last days from the Book of Matthew chapter 24,” Damson said. “I looked to say that we need to hold the Word of God so strongly, especially in these last days we are in. For many have lost their faith and many shameful things are happening in the body of Christ. But we need to be exceptional.
“I told them to keep their eyes on the future plans where God is taking them.”
Good advice as we remain faithful in building the body for that future in places filled with darkness.
Thursday, Dec. 5
Elaine teaching our baby believers. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
We landed in Diyarbakir, where our brother and sister in Christ were excitedly awaiting our delayed arrival. Praise God we had no problems arriving and, despite the cold and a rain-snow mixture, we drove to where we will be staying for a few days. After an excellent home-cooked meal, we began our teaching time this evening.
Elaine opened with a message preached in our home church recently by Pastor Larry, called “Grow.” We felt this was the perfect introduction to the lessons we have prepared for the days ahead. It’s about growing in the Lord and together as a body of believers.
We are growing the church in a place where evil has nearly eradicated it. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5, NLT).
We’d seen Christmas decorations in our travels today so we told our students the Christmas story: Luke 2:8-20. This was the first time one of our new siblings had heard the story and they wondered why Christmas would be celebrated in this Muslim country.
In Tanzania, the Marangu members of our Kilimanjaro Chapter finished another section of The Timothy Initiative study. Damson then reviewed the first eight chapters of the TTI book. “They were very good in remembering the lessons,” he said. “It gave me joy learning so much has been treasured.”
He asked a brother named Razaro Moshi, who accepted Jesus in September, how his walk has affected his family and life. “He confessed he used to drink beer, but now that is the story of past as his life has been changed,” Damson said. “His family is growing in the fear of the Lord. Now he is a leader to one Christian group and is able to share with them what he gets in the training.”
Lessons are being learned and shared with others from Turkey to Tanzania. All for God’s glory!
Wednesday, Dec. 4
It took an extra 24 hours because of winter weather, but we arrived late tonight (Home Office time) in Istanbul, Turkey, where it is a new day because we jumped seven time zones ahead. We drove to Buffalo, NY at 5 a.m.; flew to New York City, and then flew to Istanbul, accounting for more than 18 hours of our Wednesday.
In Tanzania, Damson met with the Marangu members of the Kilimanjaro Chapter to study The Timothy Initiative study on being a disciple who makes disciples. “I am excited to say the Lord has grown us today,” Damson reported. “I was just watching my brothers doing the great work on the TTI book.”
Damson said chapter leader Dauson Chonjo started the morning teaching 20 guides and porters from chapter 7, “Important Bible Doctrines.” Jonus Minja then took over after lunch to teach chapter 8, “How to Defend Your Faith.” There will be more to learn on Thursday.
Pastor Winford Mosha, who more than 12 years ago shared the same vision as Climbing For Christ for training guides and porters who work on Kilimanjaro, also attended the study. He “encouraged them to take into consideration this gracious time given by the Lord.”
Tuesday, Dec. 3
“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
We had flights cancelled by a winter storm that struck the northeastern U.S. the past few days, so our trip is delayed one day. We are now scheduled to fly (from Buffalo instead of Rochester, NY) to JFK on Wednesday, and then on to Turkey. We hope to arrive mid-day Thursday. Our Abi (brother) will be waiting.
Kilimanjaro Chapter members pray under a tree on Sango mountain for this month’s Bible training.
In Tanzania, Damson said: “Yes, our plans are not His, but His will has greatness to achieve great things in life.”
Damson said it was raining overnight around Kilimanjaro and he feared a prayer walk on Sango mountain might not happen. “But the morning was very clear, and I thank God we had 15 brothers coming up the mountain from Marangu. We had more time of prayer, which was led by Dauson (Chonjo, our original chapter leader).”
While Dauson was praying, Damson prepared to speak about one thing. But when he opened his mouth, a different message came out. He shared from Matthew 2:1-14 and the time of Herod. “Sometimes for God to demonstrate His greatness He allows evil people to see our victory,” Damson said.
He talked about “caring for the Son in you. I told them to be mindful and make sure they listen to God about how they can take care of this Jesus in them.” One way is to grow closer to the Father through the training we do with them, and to use the tools we’re blessed to give them to introduce the Jesus in their hearts to those who don’t yet know Him. Dauson told about sharing the Word on Kilimanjaro with more than 40 clients from all over the world.
“I am humbled by all that God has been doing since I started working with Climbing For Christ,” Damson said. “I know it has been possible through the support of our loved brothers and sisters. I really pray that they may feel the great impact made by what they have been putting into C4C.”
Monday, Dec. 2
Damson Samson met with the Moshi leaders of the Kilimanjaro Chapter to pray and plan DMD (disciples making disciples) training. The guides and porters again shared stories from the past three months.
“I just loved how John Mollen (one of our chapter leaders) explained how he encountered four clients (on Mount Kilimanjaro),” Damson said. “He had opportunity to share the Word with them. Among them, one was from India who was just worshiping stones right on the mountain. He tried to (tell) him about the true Father, who is the Creator of heaven and earth. But (the man from India) insisted on doing that. He mentioned that the stones can listen and they are very quiet. At every stone, especially the big ones, he would stop and touch it and then kiss it. As for me, it was my first time to hear about people believing in stones.
“This is where I come to understand the great work that Climbing For Christ has to reach unreached people like these.”
Damson added how John also shared with trekkers from the Netherlands. They were not believers, but as time passed on the mountain, John was able to discuss with them about heaven and prayed for their safety. “These people loved John Mollen for praying for their safety and talking about the Word of God at camp (each night),” Damson said.
This is why we are training guides and porters about evangelism, and being disciples who will make more disciples.
“The Word of God is like a seed,” Damson said. “However small it may appear to be one day, it will grow and bring forth (fruit).”
Sunday, Dec. 1
Damson Samson met with the Marangu leaders of our Kilimanjaro Chapter (photo above) to pray together, especially over the plans that have been made. “I encouraged them that they should love what they are doing and make it part of their lives, not doing it as part-time,” Damson said from Tanzania. “When you do something out of love, you don’t have a challenge with it and it gives you joy doing it.”
Damson heard testimonies from the brothers about their ministry since he last visited the Kilimanjaro Chapter in September. They agreed to fast and pray on Tuesday for the upcoming training.
Our staff and Board members are fasting and praying each day from Dec. 3-15 for the work that will be accomplished the next two weeks in Turkey and Tanzania. As Damson said: “Be strong in faith and never lose hope in this life.”
Saturday, Nov. 30
Damson Samson, our Kingdom worker in East Africa, left his young family in southern Malawi on Friday, Nov. 29 to travel again to northeastern Tanzania for our quarterly training with guides and porters in the Kilimanjaro area. “We pray for His will to be done in the lives of people here to His glory,” Damson said after landing at Kilimanjaro International Airport. This is Damson’s 22nd trip to Tanzania since 2014 to work with our Kilimanjaro Chapter. We will join him for DMD (disciples making disciples) for training on Dec. 10.
Worship in the church at Diyarbakir in 2015. (Photo by Gary Fallesen)
The news of a Korean evangelist being stabbed to death in the streets of Diyarbakir, Turkey was disturbing. Especially coming on the eve of our traveling there to visit our new brothers and sisters in Christ.
When our Abi (brother) was told the news, he said: “I didn’t know Korean brother been killed in Diyarbakir. But I am very upset now.”
The first – and only – indigenous church that we found on past visits to Turkey was in Diyarbakir. When the Turkish government went to war against Kurdish separatists in the summer of 2015, Diyarbakir was heavily bombed, and we lost touch with the church there. We feared it had been destroyed. Then, while on Mission: Turkey 2019 in June, we learned that a Kurdish Muslim we’d met in 2015 had turned to Christ and was attending that same church. It was alive and well!
Having led several other Muslims to Jesus this year, we planned a return to southeastern Turkey to teach the Bible. In addition, we scheduled a visit to Tanzania. But Turkey’s invasion of Syria in October jeopardized this trip. We prayed over it and the door remained open to us.
Then, on Nov. 19, a 41-year-old Korean who had been pastoring a small community of believers since earlier this year was killed. Jinwook Kim had lived in Turkey for five years. He was the first Christian murdered in Turkey since the infamous 2007 martyring of three believers in Malatya. The U.S.-based International Christian Concern reported “an increase in harassment, threats, and other non-violent incidents over the past three years.”
Turkey is ranked 26th on the Open Doors World Watch List. It has progressively moved up the list of persecuted places – from 45th in 2016 to 37th in 2017 to 31st in 2018 to 26th this year.
The 1982 Turkish constitution provides for the freedom of belief and worship and the private dissemination of religious ideas. But since the failed coup attempt of July 2016, human rights and civil liberties have declined. The government recognizes only Islam, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, and Judaism.
The CIA World Factbook claims Turkey, population 83 million, is 99.8 percent Muslim. The Joshua Project says the country is 96.1 percent Muslim with only 0.7 percent calling themselves Christian and 0.04 percent evangelical (that’s 4/100ths of one percent!). This in a place where the early church was birthed by the apostle Paul.