This has been the desire of my heart since I wrote our original “Mission Vision” in June 2004. Among Climbing For Christ’s goals:
Educate porters about altitude and its effects on the body. Many become ill and some die because they are unaware of the risk of the cold and altitude.
Improve conditions for porters by helping supply better clothing, water purification, and other climbing essentials.
Educate climbers and trekkers – especially Westerners, who mistakenly think of porters as pack animals – that porters are human beings. They were created by God and are not second-class citizens of this world.
The bottom line for us is to share the love of Jesus Christ.
We would like to plant a full-time missionary in Kilimanjaro-land to become a part of this colorful, friendly culture. This servant of the Lord would maintain a base of operations, establishing contact with the many guiding companies and working alongside porters’ groups. Other members of Climbing For Christ would visit during climbing seasons to provide short-term support.
We have seen how a group of Jesus lovers can impact those working and visiting Kili.
Some of the highlights of our mission trip included an unplanned visit to Himo, a busy crossroads village located on the main Arusha-Taveta Road, where our bus broke down on the way to meet Pastor Mosha. While some would have seen this as, at best, an inconvenience or, at worst, the enemy’s attempt at keeping us from our appointment, we viewed it as an unexpected blessing. Todd Paris broke out his balloon animals for the many children on their way to and from school; Mollie Olson and Becca Catlin played with children and visited with women sewing on a porch; and everyone said “Jambo” (hello) and shared smiles and handshakes with countless passers-by intrigued by the tourists invading their village.
We had a similar opportunity while visiting our guide Yusuf Hemed’s family and neighborhood in the village of Njoro outside Moshi town.
On the mountain we lived Christ out loud – through prayer, worship, mountain stewardship (picking up trash on the trails), and in our genuine love for those around us. It is easy to care for the warm people of Kilimanjaro-land. Once you have encountered them, you want to help them. Be it through a prayer, a hug, or sharing something with which we have been blessed, like proper climbing gear.
Aaron Hemphill and my son, Jesse, left their Bibles with our guides, Yusuf and Saidi. I gave Saidi a pair of mountaineering gloves after learning that he climbed to the summit bare-handed. We put a face with every name and tried to attach a prayer request to each of 24 men who supported our climb of Kilimanjaro. It is only the start.
As Pastor Mosha said in describing his idea for the Lord’s presence at Marangu: “We want to enter through that door and when we are there we can do something more.”
Gary Fallesen led Mission: Kilimanjaro in February 2007. This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 7, Spring 2007).