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Kilimanjaro Dispatches 2008

By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ


  • CLICK HERE for Trip Report — The Beginning of a New Chapter


Wednesday, Mar. 5 (11 p.m. local time)

Jim and I have returned to the States. Praise God for protection as we traveled the past 34 hours.

Tuesday, Mar. 4 (5 p.m. local time)

We have planned a course for the Kilimanjaro Chapter of Climbing For Christ. Now we will allow the Lord to determine our steps (Proverbs 16:9). Many of the Journeys of Inspiration people left this morning on safari. Thirty-nine of the 41 participants in the cancer fund raiser reached at least the 18,700-foot crater rim of Kibo, which is much better than the average. At least one in four turn back before getting to either Gillman's Point or Stella Point. Miguel is headed for other parts of Africa, and Jim and I are preparing to fly back to the States. We are thankful to God for all that has happened the past two weeks.  Onward and upward!

Monday, Mar. 3 (11 p.m. local time)

The second meeting of the Kilimanjaro Chapter of Climbing For Christ — this time held in Moshi — was a huge success. God's hand clearly was on the formation of this chapter as 39 more guides and porters joined Climbing For Christ, giving us 74 here in Tanzania. Guide Frank Sabas posted the meeting at his Kiborilon Assembly of God Church. More than 50 people waited more than three hours for us after we were delayed by the post-climb tipping ceremony at our hotel. Guides and porters make nearly as much or more in tips as in salary. Tips ranged from $50 - $300 for eight days' work, a ridiculously small amount considering the labor that goes into the climb. In the case of Kilimanjaro Chapter members we are hoping it will be a labor of love — Christ's love. We are equipping and encouraging our members here to be missionaires on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Monday, Mar. 3 (2:30 p.m. local time)

We hiked 10 miles down nearly 6,000 vertical feet to exit at Marangu Gate — our eight days on Kilimanjaro complete. A joyful surprise was having Saidi waiting to meet us there. Saidi, one of our guides last year, could not climb with us this year because he came down with malaria. It was his second bout, which is not uncommon here. He is feeling better and expects to climb again in three weeks. We have been praying for his recovery so it was great to see him.

Sunday, Mar. 2 (9:45 a.m. local time)

Everyone has returned to Kibo Hut. Jim, Miguel and Kathi made it to the summit where they met many other Journeys of Inspiration climbers. Laurel went as far as Stella Point, halfway between Gillman's Point and Uhuru Peak on the crater rim. Ned and I turned back at Gillman's Point (18,711 feet). Everyone is tired out from a long night's climb. They are resting and we will be breaking camp and descending to 13,000 feet this afternoon. Praise God for everyone's safety and experiencing His majesty on Africa's tallest mountain!

Saturday, Mar. 1 (1:15 p.m. local time)

We hiked five miles across the Saddle to reach Kibo Hut at 15,430 feet. Kibo Hut is where the Rongai and Marangu Routes intersect. The Marangu (Coca Cola or tourist route) used to be the most popular way up Kilimanjaro. Now about the same amount of people use the Marangu or Machame (or Whiskey Route).

We reached Kibo Hut by early afternoon, giving us about 10 hours to rest and eat before making a summit attempt. The group will set out for Gillman's Point, the rim of the volcano, at 11:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. Eastern US, 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time). It is about a 6½-hour climb. From there it's another 1-2 hours around the rim to Uhuru Peak (19,340 feet). Prayerfully we'll all be there at sunrise on Sunday.


Friday, Feb. 29 (1 p.m. local time)

We moved up from Kikelewa Camp at 12,100 feet to Mawenzi Tarn Hut at 14,240 feet this morning. Everyone in the group is doing great. We are camped beneath the north face of 16,893-foot Mawenzi, the third highest mountain in Africa. We have been in the clouds most of the day. This is reported to be the most beautiful camp on Kilimanjaro, and I would say that it is one of the best I have seen.

Thursday, Feb. 28 (12:30 p.m. local time)

It's a rest day on the Rongai Route. We took an acclimatization hike up 1,100 feet to about 13,200 feet. In the distance we could see Kibo Hut and the route we will take on summit day. It is still a long way off.

Each day a group member has shared why he or she is here. Laurel is a breast cancer survivor (and also had a hip replacement). Ned and Kathi have had cancer strike family and friends. Today our own Jim Doenges will share how he could not have survived thyroid cancer without Jesus Christ.

I have dedicated this Journeys of Inspiration climb to those in my church family who are battling cancer. I am praying for Randy, Eric, Helen, Heidi and Norma.

Wednesday, Feb. 27 (1 p.m. local time)

We pulled into Kikelewa Camp after a leisurely stroll: 3.5 miles with only about 600 vertical feet gained. We're at 12,100 feet. The group continues to do well. We'll stay here for two nights to help people acclimatize.

Coleman, our guide, is the only Christian among our 24 support people. Pray for more interesting, God-glorifying conversations within our group on the trail and in camps.

Galatians 6:9 — Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Tuesday, Feb. 26 (3 p.m. local time)

Our group — six climbers and 24 guides and porters — climbed up from First Camp at 8,858 feet to Second Camp at about 11,500 feet. It took about 4.5 hours in 70-degree heat and partial sunshine. Everyone continues to feel good.

All of the Journeys of Inspiration climbers should be on the mountain now, with the third group starting out this morning on the Machame Route. I spoke to Rick French, who is on the Lemosho Route, this morning and everyone is doing well there.

Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 (7 p.m. local time)

The six of us (Kathi, Laurel, Ned, Jim, Miguel and me) arrived at First Camp on Kilimanjaro's Rongai Route at nightfall. We got a late start, needing to drive three hours on dirt roads to reach the Rongai Gateway. Saidi, our guide who was with us last year, was sick so God sent us a Christian guide named Coleman Temba. We set out at 3 p.m. from 6,398 feet and climbed five miles through farmland and rainforest, where we saw baboons and monkeys, to First Camp at 8,858 feet. Everyone is doing great.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008 (4:30 p.m. local time)

We preached at two worship services this morning at Lyasongoro Lutheran Church in Marangu. I spoke about Climbing For Christ and how the Lord sent us here to start the Kilimanjaro Chapter and reach out to guides, porters, and trekkers. Jim preached on spiritual blindness (John 9:13-17 and 35-39). He talked about not being able to understand how anyone can view Kilimanjaro and “not know that God exists.” He told the people of the Lyasongoro congregation, which number more than 3,000 members: “Each one of you bears the image of God and you're beautiful.” The 7 a.m. worship was in Swahili and the 10 a.m. worship was in the tribal Chagga — both offering exceptional singing and music. The Chagga is the third-largest tribe in Tanzania and a majority of the guides and porters working on Kibo are Chagga. Many Chagga worship a traditional god, called Ruwa, who lives in the sky. But a good number of modern Chagga have converted to Christianity. It is our prayer that more will follow.

Brothers Tuimani and Humphrey Mkonyi came from Moshi to attend the late service with us. Tuimani brought Frank Sabas, who is known as “Pastor” to other guides and porters because he is always preaching the Truth on the mountain. Sabas became our 34th member of the Kilimanjaro Chapter.

We returned to Moshi after lunch with Pastor Mosha. We will do a gear check of the 40 “Journeys of Inspiration” climbers to prepare them for tomorrow and the next day. On Monday, we will head off for the Rongai Route while those on the Lemosho also begin their eight-day trek. Climbers doing the Machame will begin on Tuesday.


Saturday, Feb. 23 (8 p.m. local time)

We addressed 13 guides and 12 porters from three churches at what become the inaugural Kilimanjaro Chapter meeting at Lyasongoro Lutheran Church in Marangu. Using Acts 1:8, we told them that Kibo was their Judea. They work in a mission field alongside non-Christian guides and porters. They can be a witness to their co-workers. But they also have the ends of the earth coming to climb with them. They can be a witness to all the lost trekkers among the 35,000-plus who come to Kilimanjaro each year.

By the end of the first meeting, we had 33 members in the Kilimanjaro Chapter and there are many more on the mountain and in the villages who will join. After listening and joining, village executive Thomson Mosha looked me in the eye and said, “This will work.” God's plan never fails.

Friday, Feb. 22 (9:30 p.m. local time)

Yusuf took us by taxi to Marangu, where we went to Pastor Mosha's church (Lyasongoro Lutheran). We were introduced to Dauson Chonjo, a guide who leads the church's prayer group and is a candidate to be our missionary or serve with us here. The prayer group he leads has been praying “about our team and the plans” God has for us. Dauson estimates about 1,000 guides in the 5,000-person guiding and porter community. Maybe half are Christian. The other half will be difficult to reach because “they have to stop feeling if they accept Christ.” As it is now, they cut corners, using fewer porters than they are contracted to take so they can keep more money for themselves. This means the porters have to carry more weight than they should. Dauson said those guides believe accepting Jesus is bankruptcy. They do not know the freedom He offers and the eternal promise of something far greater than a few extra tschillings.

We toured the school and then went to visit Floresta. Jim talked with Floresta, Tanzania manager Edith Banzi about the many environmental programs they are developing that “at the end of the day will help them (Tanzanians) take care of their land and their environment.” These include tree nurseries planted by confirmands, rain-water harvesting, reforestation outside Kilimanjaro National Park, and organic farming. In short, “advocating care for His creation.”

Friday, Feb. 22, 2008 (12:30 p.m. local time)

Tumaini Mkonyi, an assistant guide from Moshi who recently became a member of Climbing For Christ, came to meet with Jim and me at our hotel this morning. He brought his younger brother Humphrey. We talked about bringing the Christian guides and porters together in Moshi and set a meeting time on Monday, March 3, the day we are scheduled to come off the mountain. Tumaini, whose name means “Hope,” is from the Kiborilon Lutheran Church here in Moshi.

We are going now to Marangu to spend the next few days with Pastor Winford Mosha, a Climbing For Christ member, and the guides and porters at his church.

Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008 (11:30 p.m. local time)

Jim and I have arrived in Moshi, Tanzania. We landed here at 8 p.m. local time (noon ET). Diane, a member of the Journeys of Inspiration climb from Rochester, NY was with us on our flight from Amsterdam. Our friend Rick French of Pack, Paddle, Ski and guide Yusuf Hemed were waiting for us at the airport with big smiles and hearty “Jambos!” Climbing For Christ member Miguel Samper was waiting for us at the hotel in Moshi after his freelance photography job in the Sudan and an epic overland bus trip from Uganda to Nairobi, Kenya to Arusha, Tanzania and finally to Moshi.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2008 (8 a.m. EST)

Jim and I are traveling today from New York toward Tanzania. We will arrive Thursday evening, local time. We are excited to welcome Tumaini Mkonyi, a guide from Moshi, to Climbing For Christ. He joins guide Wilson Mosha and Pastor Winford Mosha of Marangu as the potential building blocks for a Kilimanjaro Chapter. Pray for our travels and our work. To His glory!

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008 (10 a.m. EST)

Our guide Frederick told us that when we reached the summit of Kilimanjaro we would have a look around, take some photographs, and stay for a little while to soak in the view. He said, “You do not know if you will be coming back to Africa again.”
It was February 1998. In my heart, I knew I would be back in Tanzania.
It was while training for that climb that God gave me the idea of Climbing For Christ. It took a few years before that seed came to fruition, but now Climbing For Christ is an active ministry with more than 650 members in 35 countries and missions going to mountainous places in six nations in 2008.
Ten years after my first journey to a developing country, I am returning again to Tanzania. We went there last year with a team of 10 climbers. This time, staffer Jim Doenges of Littleton, Colo. and member Miguel Samper of Rochester, N.Y. will join me as we spend time in Marangu with Pastor Winford Mosha at our partner church and meet with guides who are candidates to serve as a Climbing For Christ missionary. The long-range goal of Mission: Kilimanjaro is to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the community of guides and porters who work on Kilimanjaro.
We are also climbing Kili with the “Journeys of Inspiration” team – 40 climbers who themselves have experienced cancer or had someone close to them suffer from the disease. Our own Jim Doenges is a cancer survivor. Jim, Miguel and I will be joined on the Rongai Route by three “Journeys” participants (Ned, Kathi, and Laurel) and our friend, guide Saidi Ngaini, who was with us last year.
The rest of the Journeys team will be ascending on two other routes. The goal is for all three parties to meet on the summit. Our goal is to help these people – indeed, all people – get to higher places.

The Word

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
— Galatians 3:26-27 (NIV)


The Team

Jim Doenges, Littleton, Colo.; Gary Fallesen, Rochester, N.Y.; Miguel Samper, Rochester, N.Y.


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