Help is on its way
By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ
There was a feeling of helplessness, watching as the tsunami death toll in South Asia grew, staggeringly higher by the hour in the days and weeks after Dec. 26, 2004. We felt inadequate. Unable to do anything.
So we prayed. And we were touched.
What would we do if we physically could do something to help? I pondered this thought and came up with this notion:
Climbing For Christ exists to reach people who otherwise might not be reached. Those who live and play on higher ground, where we go. The opening line in the “Mission Vision” for our Evangelic Expeditions ministry states our purpose: “To minister to those in need – in both physical and spiritual ways – in the climbing community and in the places where we climb.”
If someone is in physical need, where we can climb, we need to go there.
My dream was to develop a Relief Team – climbers who could be dispatched to places struck by disaster. Places that others cannot get to, such as mountainous regions of the world. Think about this for a moment. Mountainous countries are at great risk from natural calamity, especially from the devastating effects of earthquakes.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. At least one of those will register 8.0 or higher on the Richter Scale and another 17 will have a magnitude of 7.0 to 7.9. On Dec. 23, 2004, an 8.1 trembler struck north of Macquarie Island near New Zealand and on Dec. 26, 2004, the 9.0 quake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami of unfathomable consequence.
An average of 10,000 people die each year from earthquakes. The deadliest quake occurred in China in 1557, when 830,000 people were killed.
The high mountains and the Himalayan range of Nepal have been identified by seismologists as being young and seismically active. Nepal experienced major quakes in 1980 and 1988. Several of the Stans – particularly Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – are considered disasters waiting to happen. In Tajikistan's remote Pamir Mountains, a 1911 earthquake blocked the flow of the River Murgab and formed a hanging lake. The Sarez Lake is located at an elevation of about 10,000 feet. It is said to be sensitive to future seismic activity, which could rupture the natural dam and send a wall of water flooding down on villages in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. Even in Africa, people living in and near that continent’s mountains (such as the Virunga Mountains between Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo), are warned to be at greater risk than previously thought from earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides.
On Oct. 8, 2005, a quake measuring 7.6 struck the Kashmir region of Pakistan. The first report: “More than 18,000 dead.”
Once again, we watched as the death toll grew. And grew. And kept growing.
Most alarming was this: Reports that “many areas in the quake zone have still not been reached ...”
On Nov. 8, 2005, the one-month anniversary of the quake and with more than 80,000 dead, the United Nations said there was a “race against time” for more than 200,000 people located in the higher mountainous regions of Kashmir and the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. A humanitarian official was quoted by The Associated Press as saying “people (would) freeze to death if they (didn't) get assistance in weeks.” As many as 20 percent of the 200,000 – or 40,000 people – had not been reached by any relief workers and nearly all of the 200,000 had received “inadequate assistance,” according to press reports.
This troubling news did not change in the weeks and months after that date, as the first snow fell and the winter of 2005-2006 set in.
How can we help?
As members of Climbing For Christ, we are committed to serving the physical and spiritual needs of those in mountainous areas. We believe we can use the talents we have been given to climb where other relief workers cannot go. Our goal is to form a Relief Team that can be sent into the mountains in the wake of natural disasters. To do so, we will need to be equipped and funded.
Are you willing to help?
We know from the tragedy in Pakistan that shelter is a primary need when disaster strikes. More than 3 million people were left homeless by the Oct. 8, 2005 earthquake. While the December 2004 tsunami in South Asia and the October 2005 hurricanes in the United States demanded immediate assistance, there is a greater urgency to help survivors in the mountains because of the climate: snow and freezing temperatures. Anything above snow line (approximately 2,000 meters or 6,000 feet in elevation) adds harsh conditions to an already desperate situation. Climbing For Christ would like to have tents – or be partnered with tent manufacturers – so temporary shelter could be provided as quickly as possible after a natural disaster. Other supplies, such as food and clothing, also would be necessary. As more permanent structures can be put in place, we also would have a hand in the construction.
Our Relief Team would consist of volunteers who, like those who work as missionaries for Climbing For Christ, feel called to serve. Climbing, first aid, and communication skills are necessary, but possessing the heart of the Lord can help us overcome any of our shortcomings in those areas. Anyone who sees the world as He sees it, will want to help.
We do. That’s why we are asking you to prayerfully consider giving to or volunteering to be a part of the Climbing For Christ Relief Team.
We can’t stop disasters from happening, but we can erase phrases such as “have still not been reached.” We can work with other relief agencies to send Climbing For Christ workers to high places to help those in need. We can prepare ourselves to be ready to help when the time comes.
Please continue to grow Climbing For Christ by recruiting new members so that we, as Christian climbers, can make a difference in the world. In the meantime, pray for those who are suffering and those who are serving in the wake of natural calamities. If you can, support relief efforts with a financial gift. Listen to God’s calling to us and climb in His direction. May we go and show Christ's love to a hurting world.
For more information about how you can help, e-mail ReliefTeam@ClimbingForChrist.org.