Mission: Possible II
Sunday, Jan. 25 (12:30 p.m. ET)
Our two American members have returned to the United States. They spent the last few days praying over the area and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ who work in the area. More on this trip will be reported soon.
Tuesday, Jan. 20 (9 a.m. local time)
We spent Monday morning packing our gear and saying goodbye to our sister. We left the guesthouse and headed up to the Yi village to see Lu. [CLICK HERE to read “Yi of little faith.”] Lu was apprehensive about us at first, but calmed down when we said we were just checking to see how he was doing. He still doesn't want anything to do with Christianity, so we dropped that subject. Lu said he is fine and his children have been going to school. They're all getting ready for the Chinese New Year.
We told him about the mountaineering school we were teaching. He was interested, and said next year we should invite him.
In the afternoon, we traveled back to a high-altitude Tibetan city. On the way we picked up some Tibetan hitchhikers. One of them invited us to his home for tea. Having tea in Tibet is like an exercise in etiquette. This was Mark's first experience in a Tibetan home. He was both excited and nervous about it.
Last night, we hung out with some missionary friends and we were able to share something about our trip. We will be spending the next few days here before we head back to the city we are flying out of at the end of this Evangelic Expedition.
Monday, Jan. 19 (10 a.m. local time)
Tsering, Mark and the guides they were teaching are off the mountain. They descended late Sunday after two solid days of training. “We have a few more days here so we're going to visit some people and continue to pray,” Tsering said.
Here are his reports from Saturday and Sunday:
On Saturday, Jan. 17, we woke up again to unbelievable warm weather (34 degrees in Base Camp). This turned out to be our most useful day as we spent the morning practicing various belay methods and also rappelling. This was done in the small courtyard outside the Base Camp cabin. We then spotted a 50-foot cliff nearby and decided to put their new skill to the test. Each guide rappelled off. All this was very new to them and became fun. Later the lessons were even more fun as we found a 60-degree snow slope that we practiced self-arrest on. When Mark taught them by falling headfirst the look on the guides' faces was one of shock because they knew they were next. It was a priceless moment. We also practiced anchor building with snow pickets and we made a snow bollard (a mound carved out of snow). The most fun was tying someone to the end of the rope and having the leader self-arrest while the person yanked as hard as they could. All in all it turned out to be one of the most jam-packed but very helpful days.
On Sunday, Jan. 18, the guides woke up late, but that was no problem as we went to check out a major ice flow that we planned to practice ice anchors, crampon technique and, believe it or not, self-arrest on ice. That morning we taught self-rescue by ascending the rope and also how to tie Kiwi coils for glacier travel. We also practiced rope-team management.
During lunch break, Tsering was confronted about his beliefs when one of the guides, a Muslim, started to preach about Islam and whom they believe Jesus is — that Jesus is “just a prophet, not to be worshipped as God.” Tsering quietly listened, waiting for God to prompt him at the right opportunity. Finally, after the guide stopped talking, another guide asked Tsering to explain who Jesus is and what the cross means. With little interruption Tsering was able to explain. In the end, he even shared some of his testimony. The Muslim guide interjected that he believes people just have to do good works to be judged by God. Tsering was then able to conclude the conversation that Christians differ on this issue because we don't rely on our own good works to gain God's favor, but we rely and trust in Christ.
In the afternoon, we headed to the ice flow to practice. The guides quickly learned how difficult it is to self-arrest on 30-degree hard ice. The lesson learned is that a belay station is necessary. After this lesson we headed back down the mountain to their village 4,500 feet below. We didn’t ascend much higher than Base Camp at about 13,500 feet because the winds were whipping pretty bad. The guides didn't want to make a summit push. But we weren't here for the summit.
Surprisingly even though we could barely keep up with the guides on the descent, the trip only took us 1 hour and 45 minutes. Despite the sore knees and aching muscles, we wrote up some certificates of participation and presented them to the guides. We also donated some much-needed gear to help them keep guiding safely using the techniques we have taught them. They are very grateful. Not just for the donations, but for the skills they have learned from us. They want us to come back and continue teaching other more needed skills, such as medical training and more advanced mountaineering skills. We are now praying that God will make a way and give us an open door for next year.
Friday, Jan. 16 (9 p.m. local time)
Yesterday, the teaching went smoother as Mark and Tsering were able to coordinate better. Only one new guide showed up and studied with us all day. We taught knots, rope care, makeshift harness making, belay techniques, and a z-drag setup all in the courtyard of our guesthouse. The other two guides, who trained with us on Wednesday, had to attend a wedding. We saw them at dinnertime as we ate at one of their homes. After praying for our food, the conversation became charged with questions about what we believed. Tsering was able to explain our beliefs and Who exactly are God and Christ. The household is Muslim, but the people were willing to listen politely as long as they could interject who they believe Jesus is. Later that night, around the fire, we had our opportunity to share when someone asked what was our most important holiday. Tsering said Easter, which in Chinese is Resurrection Day. Then the Gospel was explained: how Jesus died for sinners, but was raised from the dead and sits at God's right hand. Believers not only have their forgiveness of sin — because all fall short — but also the promise of sanctification and resurrection from the dead. Seeds are being sown.
Today, we hiked up to Base Camp with four guides. It was a 4,500-foot ascent that took us five hours. On the way, we had some opportunities to share our Christian values with the guides. The weather was great, even warm with the sun shining on us. Believe it or not, Base Camp consists of several nice cabins. The sleeping area is done up very nice with beds, fleece blankets and quilts. We ate dinner and practiced more knots and ropes with the guides. We are tired and are ready to go to bed, but tomorrow we plan on teaching self-arrest, team arrest, and belay techniques on some snow and ice slopes nearby.
Thursday, Jan. 15 (10 a.m. local time)
We were able to begin some teaching on Wednesday. Only two of the 10 promised guides showed up. We planned to start teaching them in the afternoon, but they wanted to start early. Despite the random schedule, God enabled us to teach important information such as rope care and knots. Much of this was new to the guides. Mark is really a blessing with his years of experience teaching, and really adds flavor when he uses local materials.
The guides are excited to learn safe ways to take clients up the mountain. Especially in light of a recent accident that took the life of one climber.
After the teaching session we took a short hike through a park behind the local mosque. We prayed for the area and affirmed that it is not in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit that people will hear the Truth. Peter didn’t knock on Cornelius’ door (in Acts 10), but God led him there. We prayed and look forward to when God leads us to those who are hungry for Him.
Our Mission: Possible 2008 team was surprised to find a mosque in this remote village. One third of the village claims to be Muslim. Most of the rest of the village is made up of animists (people who believe spirits or souls exist in humans, plants and animals). Animists use the park behind the mosque to burn fires in worship to the trees in which they believe their dead ancestors live, below.
Wednesday, Jan. 14 (8 a.m. local time)
We left early for a high-altitude Tibetan city. The view was wonderful as we got our first glimpse of the mountain we’ll be doing our training on. God really knows how to create! His glory surrounded us despite the spiritual battle that confronted us as we prayed.
That afternoon we ate lunch at the restaurant of a Christian sister, and then met with a foreign brother to see his outfitting business. God brought a breakthrough, and one battle was won when Tsering and our brother were reconciled after an argument from several months before. We also met with a local sister from the mountain who will be connecting us with the guides. We then drove until 8 p.m., arriving for a wonderful dinner of stewed beef and pickled radishes. Prayer was a major focus for the day, and has become so important to everything we do, just as Ephesians 6:18 teaches us.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” — Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)
Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 12 and 13 (5:30 a.m. local time)
Sunday morning we headed to church. In China, foreign Christians are legally allowed to worship in state churches. Tsering was able to see old friends. We were touched by the message of God's people Israel, who knew they were nothing without their God. That afternoon we met with Luke. He's been traveling to mountains for follow-up work and to climb. He is a novice climber and has been planning to come with us for the last six months. But he will be prevented from doing so because of unknown reasons. We are guessing it is for family reasons. We encouraged him to put his family first. He's disappointed, but we prayed for him. We know that God is moving in the mountains and Luke's role isn't over yet.
That night we bought more supplies. Monday morning we woke before sunrise to finish packing food and gear. We loaded up the rental Jeep and headed out on the road. The trip was full of testimony, prayer and much talk as we drove eight hours to a town near our final destination. May God's presence go with us.
Saturday, Jan. 10 (9:45 p.m. local time)
Our two American members landed in China this morning (local time). They were jet-lagged, but excited to be on mission. Tsering reported:
“We (Tsering and Mark) have arrived safely and on time in China. We plan on spending the next two days buying food, discussing teaching topics, and meeting with the third team member, Luke, a Chinese Christian mountaineer. Tsering and Mark have both grown in the Lord through each other's testimonies. We're also learning each other's strengths and preparing for the different roles we will assume on this trip. Tomorrow we meet with Luke and his wife after church to discuss what the Lord has been doing in the mountains and finalize last-minute planning.”
Thursday, Jan. 8 (11:30 a.m. local time)
Tsering reported: “Despite freezing rain and snow, the flight is on time. At times it may seem as if obstacles are being put in the way, but God allows them so we draw close to Him. There is an overwhelming confidence in all the members that God has gone before us to prepare the way. We are looking forward to the mountains.”