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Kilimanjaro 2007

Entering the gate

Trip Report by GARY FALLESEN /// Photos by SHAWN DOWD

 

Marangu

Students were inside the old Lyasongoro Lutheran Church building in Marangu, Tanzania, sewing the blue sweaters they wear to school. On the wall behind them were the words: “Mungu Ni Pendo. Atupenda.” It is Swahili for “God is love. He loves us.”

 

God loves the people of Tanzania – just as He loves all of His creation. But there are many in the Mount Kilimanjaro climbing community – guides, porters, their families and others in their villages – who do not know the One True God. We sought to reach out to the Muslims and other non-Christians in Kilimanjaro-land during an Evangelic Expedition in February.

 

Ten members of a Climbing For Christ team went to East Africa to explore how God will have us serve people on and around Kilimanjaro, where climbing is a primary source of Tanzania’s tourism industry. Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest countries because it lacks the exportable minerals found in many other African nations and is reliant on agriculture. But its geographic location and beauty make it a must-see destination for trekkers and people going on safari.

 

We witnessed to the people we encountered on and off Kili and sought to be a blessing to the One who blessed us with this opportunity.

 

Pastor Mosha

Pastor Winford Mosha, who shepherds a flock of more than 3,000 worshipers (including 50 or more guides and porters) at Lyasongoro Lutheran Church, met with us at the beginning and end of our trip to share what has been a prayer of his for the past two years. It was God’s perfect timing for us to arrive as he was seeking permission for a Christian to work inside Kilimanjaro National Park at the Marangu Gate.

 

“They would pray with porters and thank God when they come back,” Pastor Mosha said, when sharing his idea about a presence at the most popular entrance to the trekking routes up Kili.

 

The Marangu Route is the tourist route (also known as the “Coca-Cola Route”). There are also gates in nearby villages of Machame (the second-most popular route, known as the “Whiskey Route” because of its intoxicating views, and the path we took during our climb), Mweka (the exit for the Machame-Mweka Route), Umbwe, Londorossi, and Rongai.

 

Trekkers come by the thousands every climbing season and use these villages as staging areas for their climbs. This is where guides (required to ascend the mountain) hire porters for the 5-to-7-day trip up one of the world’s best-known mountains. An estimated 20,000 climbers reached Uhuru Peak – the summit of 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro – during the first two months of 2007, including seven of the 10 on our team.

 

Pastor Mosha added that instruction about HIV also could be provided by the Christian stationed at the Marangu Gate. An estimated 1.6 million Tanzanians are HIV infected with about 160,000 AIDS-related deaths annually and roughly 1.1 million AIDS orphans, according to the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Tanzania is one of 15 “focus countries” under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

 

“Abide with God,” Pastor Mosha said. “That was our plan.”

 

School prayer

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).

 

The Word

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” – Matthew 7:13 (NIV)

 

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