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Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011


By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ

  • CLICK HERE for Trip Report, “Light in the African darkness”

Wednesday, March 23

The team has returned to the United States, landing in New York City at 1 p.m. local time. Everyone is headed to thier respective homes this evening to finish a 17-day Evangelic Expedition.

We shared our last team devotional this morning in Amsterdam. It was called “Homeward Bound.” We have encouraged each participant to share with others what they have seen and experienced in the hope of continuing to raise awareness and support (both prayer and financial) for the work that will continue a half a world away in Tanzania and Malawi, Africa.

“...Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.”
— Mark 5:19

Tuesday, March 22

We began our final day in Africa reflecting on the mission with a personal devotional called, “What's in a name?” This was based on 2 Timothy 2:19 and the fact that our heavenly Father knows our name.

“You have learned many names on this trip,” I told our team, and we mentioned several of them from our time in Tanzania and several others from Malawi. “May each of them follow you home.”

The team was challenged: “What are you going to do with this name ... with this person?”

We discussed the many faces of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011 and the incredible work God has been doing in and through our Climbing For Christ team.

We then flew from Lilongwe, Malawi to Nairobi, Kenya, and after a long layover had an overnight flight scheduled to Amsterdam before returning to the States on Wednesday afternoon.

“...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 1:6

Monday, March 21

Randy took an early-morning prayer walk around the Searchlight Ministry grounds, where we've been staying since Thursday. Along the way he encountered several of the orphans, who were up with the sun and wearing and playing with the gifts we delivered. Damson, who helps care for the orphans, told us they would not go to bed Sunday night because they were so excited.

Damson again assisted us with the children when we did our third and final day of Bible school teaching. Elaine taught about the Good Samaritan and our team turned drama troupe and acted out the Luke 10 parable, much to the delight of the more than 40 students.

We sang songs together and each team member said a personal goodbye. We have gotten to know the 15 orphans more personally and they are special children in our eyes and, of course, the eyes of God.

Damson, left, leads students in applause after the team (including Elaine and Shelly) sang with the class.

After they sang for us their “Thank You” song it was time for us to begin the long physical journey back to the States. We drove for more than seven hours into the African night to Lilongwe, where we are staying overnight and will fly from on Tuesday.

Duncan and Damson came with us as Damson will be returning to classes at Bible college here next week. Climbing For Christ continues to provide the support to put him through college as well as funding the orphanage in Migowi and preparing to partner with Duncan on what prayerfully could become C4C Malawi.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans...”
— James 1:27

Sunday, March 20

We are exhausted with joy after an incredible day of worship and then giving to the orphans we are visiting in Malawi. Our desire at the start of the day was to encourage the church at Migowi and God blessed us in our time with nearly 200 worshipers.

We had two church “meetings” (what they call a service) — one for 2½ hours in the morning and another, after a lunch break, for two hours in the afternoon. I introduced each member of the team and they spoke briefly, sharing how they were blessed to be here.

Before preaching, I asked worship leader Damson to sing my favorite song: “Up, up with Jesus; down, down with Satan.” The congregation rocked the house of worship with this upbeat song. I then spoke about hurting and healing, using Isaiah 61:1-3 and Psalm 6:2 and 55:22, and closed by praying for the people here. By the time we were done we were bathed in sweat from the African heat and energy.

Mike preached in the afternoon about the sovereignty of God and the gospel of grace. He used Daniel 4:35, Proverbs 16:33, and Matthew 28:19 and 13:44. “God is in control,” Mike told the people. “If God is in control, who should we fear? No one, amen.”

After Mike's message, Pastor Duncan made an alter call and four people came forward to accept Christ. Bob and Shelly prayed with them while Duncan and church leader Philip translated. It made the praise music being sung throughout the day even sweeter.

Orphans (left to right) Kondwani, Zinenani, Mphatso, Ephraim. Jacquiline, Dafter and Phiri receiving gifts from sponsors.

Our blessed day was not finished after these amazing worship services. We returned to the orphans' compound to hand out gifts packed by Elaine and Shelly for the 15 children from the Far & Wide home, which is supported by Climbing For Christ. We also delivered presents, cards and letters from those in North America who are sponsoring eight of the orphans. I promised that by the next visit all of the orphans will be sponsored and we will be adding to their number. (There are an additional 25 orphans awaiting support to be housed at Far & Wide.)

The children were thrilled to receive so much and it was our privilege to be the bearers of this love as well as the Good News that God allowed us to share with the church. It was one of those special days in the mission field. Thank You, Father!

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.”
— Matthew 14:44(a)

Saturday, March 19

Elaine taught the children about miracles and focused on Jesus feeding the 5,000 (John 6) during our second day of Bible teaching with the Malawi orphans. The team distributed toast pieces to represent the loaves and swedish fish to each of the more than 70 students in class. This came after we discussed compassion and Jesus caring for the multitudes in our morning team devotional.

There was much singing and praying with the children at Far & Wide in Migowi. We are praying for their hearts as there is a good deal of darkness in the area. Witchcraft is practiced by many people here.

In the afternoon, Pastor Duncan took us to his ministry's Mothers & Babies Health Center in nearby Msema. The center does not offer anything in the way of medicine, but is a place for more than 100 mothers to gather for encouragement and to work together. The center was built by an Australian group, but is no longer funded. The women are praying for support.

This is a recurring problem and need for much of Duncan's Searchlight Ministry, which consists of four churches (in Migowi, Msema, Ntcheu, and Milatu, Mozembique), a primary and a secondary school, the orphanage, and the Mothers & Babies Center. We are looking at ways God may have us help in addition to our Project 1:27 funding of the orphanage.

We were mobbed by children at the Mothers & Babies center, and Bob saw an opportunity to share a teaching using his Gospel bracelet and then prayed for the scores of children. The children repeated his prayer.

There were so many children around us it was almost overwhelming. But an evening worship with the youth, which rocked with praise music and Spirit-led speaking, again showed us how great is our God. He is big enough to handle all the many problems and challenges found in this remote area deep in southern Malawi.


Friday, March 18

The long drive into a rainy night on what turned out to be another 24-hour travel day Thursday was made worthwhile when we walked into the Far & Wide Children's Home classroom to song and joy-filled smiles from our Project 1:27 Malawi orphans.

Damson Samson, who we have been sending to Bible college in Lilongwe, had 60 children greet us. He then translated for us as we spoke to and taught the children. Fifteen of the 60 are full-time residents at Far & Wide and supported by Climbing For Christ, while the others attend the school. Seven of the 15 orphans are sponsored by members and friends of C4C and eight still need monthly sponsorship to defray costs. As soon as all 15 are sponsored we will be adding more orphans to care for here in Migowi. [CLICK HERE to learn more about Project 1:27.]

The children were excited to learn about the 12 disciples during a Bible lesson by Elaine. She also taught them to sing "Praise Ye the Lord." We introduced each of the team, all of whom are disciples of Jesus, too, and then asked them to tell us each of their names. During the disciples study and later, when Bob taught about the Gospel bracelet and we gave each child one to wear, we were impressed with the spiritual depth of the children.

Damson said many of the children would meet with him each night when he was living full-time in Migowi and ask to study the Bible. He told us in front of the class that the students absorbed the Word, like little sponges. This amazed and pleased us.

The team could see why Jesus said to let the children come to Him because they are precious. Shelly was thrilled to meet her sponsor child, 13-year-old Phiri (who goes by her middle name, Esnart), and everyone felt their travel weariness lifted by the energy of the orphans.

“Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Thursday, March 17

A big travel day, starting out from Moshi, Tanzania at 4 a.m. and touching down at Nairobi, Kenya; Lusaka, Zambia; and Lilongwe, Malawi. It included a plane change and delay due to a mechanical problem and concluded with a long drive nearly the length of Malawi on a rainy night. The team is extremely tired but excited about seeing the orphans at Far & Wide Children’s Home.

Wednesday, March 16

Kilimanjaro on Tuesday as our team was walking away from the mountain.

We descended off Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking out the last 11 or so miles and coming down another 6,000 vertical feet to the Marangu Gate. It went from the 30s at Hrombo Hut when we awoke before sunrise to the 80s as we exited via the rain forest this afternoon. During our 6 1/2-hour trek out we saw monkeys eating and playing in the trees. It was another blessed day in His creation.

Pastor Mosha, his wife, and an evangelist from his church met our team at the gate. They welcomed us and congratulated everyone on an excellent climb.

We traveled for one hour by the trekking company's bus from Marangu back to Moshi with our guide Yusuf and most of his crew. In all, we had a group of 23 guides and porters. We met with them upon returning to our Moshi hotel. Each member of our team spoke, thanking the guides and porters for all they've done for us these past seven days.

I talked about how most of them had been with our Mission: Kilimanjaro 2007 team and reminded them of the day on the mountain four years ago when we photographed each man. I said Climbing For Christ members have been praying for them since: for protection as they worked on Kili and provided for their families, and for their hearts. Each of these men are Muslim.

Yusuf then spoke about our team and how we follow God — and how most people he takes on the mountain do not believe in God. “It will be hard to see you go because, to me, you are like family,” Yusuf said.

The team is eating dinner tonight at Yusuf's house with his family, capping what has been a sweet time with our friends in this part of Tanzania. But there's no rest for the weary: we have to be out of our hotel at 4 a.m. Thursday for a 6 a.m. flight to Malawi and the next phase of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011.

Tuesday, March 15

Mike, Randy and Shelly reached the 19,341 foot summit of Kilimanjaro with guide Yusuf and assistant guide Muhammad at 8AM after seven and a half hours of climbing on a clear, cold night. “What a night, what a day,” Randy said. “Amazing,” Shelly added. “Wow,” said Mike.

Yusuf said it wasn’t too cold (“comfortable”), compared to other ascents. He estimated the summit temp at minus-7 degrees. “It was challenging,” Yusuf said.

Bob turned back above 17,000 feet with altitude sickness and was accompanied down to Kibo Hut by Yusuf’s assistant Yahaya. Elaine also suffered altitude sickness after reaching Kibo Hut on Monday. I stayed with her at the 15,400-foot High Camp when the others set out for the summit at 12:30 a.m. This was my fourth climb of Kilimanjaro and I was blessed this time to share the mountain with my wife.

Yahaya and I trekked with Elaine and Bob down to Hrombo Hut at 12,300 feet after the sun rose beautifully over Mawenzi. Both were feeling better after the six-mile, 3,100-foot descent. We were joined at Hrombo by the others at 4PM. Everyone is in good spirits, knowing that God has a purpose and a plan for all things.

Monday, March 14

Day 5 on the mountain saw us hike across the moonscape, that is the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo Hut. It was about five miles and took us four hours. We reached this high camp at 15,400 feet at 1 p.m. The rest of this day is devoted to rest and waiting to head out toward the summit at midnight.

Mike passed his personal high (Mount Rainier) on our move up to Kibo Hut. The walk continued a good discussion on Islam and Christianity.

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”
— Psalm 62:6

Sunday, March 13

Team ascending toward Mawenzi.

Day 4 on the mountain saw us ascend another 2,000 vertical feet from our third camp to Mawenzi Tarn Hut at 14,100 feet. This camp, my favorite on Kilimanjaro, is below Mawenzi- one of Kili’s three summits. There is a pond near the campsite, which has been in the clouds most of the day. Elaine and Bob passed their previous personal highs (both around 12,200 feet), as we ascended toward the jagged ridgeline of Mawenzi. Everyone is doing well in the increasingly thinning air.

Saturday, March 12

Day 3 was short and sweet as far as trekking. We ascended only about 600 vertical feet in our four-mile hike from Second Cave to Kikelelwa at 12,100 feet. The walk took less than three hours and we beat a torrential rain storm that soaked our camp and left us in the clouds and a fog for the afternoon.

Another Christian climber, Nathaniel, who hails from Wyoming but currently is working in Russia, has joined our fellowship. He is trekking Kilimanjaro solo and was happy to spend time with us, and us with him.

Friday, March 11

Day 2 on the mountain saw us ascend from Simba Camp to Second Cave, a hike up 2,650 vertical feet that took about three hours. For Randy, it marked a personal high as we climbed up to 11,500 feet. It was sunny and hot with clear views behind us out over the plains of Kenya. Along the way we discussed Christianity and Islam with our guide Yusuf. We spent the afternoon and evening in fellowship together as the day's heat cooled and the temperature dove to freezing.

Thursday, March 10 (7 p.m. local)

We hiked about three hours up through the Rongai Forest from the gate (or trailhead) to Simba Camp, an ascent of about 1,000 vertical feet to 8,850 feet. Our guide, Yusuf, brought 22 other assistants, cook staff and porters, which is common for our size trekking group. It was warm and sunny during our afternoon walk, during which we saw monkeys. An elephant was heard near our camp as we prepared for dinner.

A national park staff member who is a friend of Yusuf's arrived with a semi-automatic weapon, which he carries in case of animal attacks. Yusuf told us he is a Christian and we listened as his friend immediately went to work sharing with the many Muslims in our crew.

This was Day 1 on Kilimanjaro.

Bob told us this morning how the mountain was diminishing in his sight. Even though he came here to explore bringing at-risk youth to climb and he was physically moving closer to Kibo, he has seen the Lord's work of this Evangelic Expedition grow in importance. That has been our prayer for the team: that each member would recognize it's about the mission, not the mountain; the people, not the peak; the service, not the summit.


Thursday, March 10 (1:30 p.m. local)


We have arrived at the Rongai Gate and are preparing to begin our seven-day trek on Kilimanjaro. All are well, and full of nervous excitement. Onward and upward.


Wednesday, March 9


“Worship can be powerful,” Shelly told the guides and porters attending our Kilimanjaro Chapter evangelism training at Pastor Winford Mosha's Lutheran church in Marangu. She pointed to 2 Chronicles 20 and the story of how King Jehoshaphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him” in order to defeat opposing armies.


“There is power in worship,” Shelly said.


Shelly was concluding our teaching with a short section on music. It was one of the tools we were encouraging our brothers in Christ to use as outreach on the mountain. Dawson Chonjo, one of our chapter leaders, attested to what Shelly was saying. He told the story of a struggling group that he was leading being “pushed” up the mountain. They asked him, in disbelief, how they made Kilimanjaro's summit. He told them it was the Holy Spirit.



Elaine Fallesen talking with Pastor Mosha about the Gospel bracelet.


We began the teaching with a review of the Gospel bracelet. Last year our team taught the guides and porters how to make them and how to share them. This time we delivered bracelets from the “Threads of Hope” ministry and Elaine taught them again about the significance of the colors (gold, black, red, white and green).



Mike Heitland sharing on the Word with Pastor Mosha translating.


We then encouraged them in their own spiritual walks and in witnessing to others. Each team member told a “love story” — or why the Lord led them to be here at this time. We followed that with a teaching on prayer and Mike discussed the importance of the Word (and how they might be the only Bible someone on the mountain ever sees).


There was a good deal of praying together and a song shared. There were only six guides and porters able to attend as many were working on the mountain, along with several church members and three Zaire refugees who came from Congo to get resources Mike brought for another ministry. But we rejoiced in the opportunity to share before returning to Moshi to make final preparations for the start of our climb on Thursday.


We know God has divine appointments awaiting and, like our Kilimanjaro Chapter guides and porters, we are equipped to share Christ's love with those we encounter.

Tuesday, March 8

We landed safely and without incident this evening at Kilimanjaro International Airport, located between Arusha and Moshi, Tanzania. Dear friend Yusuf, who again will be our guide on the mountain, was waiting for us and accompanied us on our 45-minute ride to the hotel in Moshi. Our arrival capped about 28 hours of travel from the Eastern and Central U.S.

As we sat outside in the warm 80-degree evening, reflecting on how God brought us here, Shelly led the group in singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness. I then told them the HIStory of Climbing For Christ and the part this place played in it. In 1998, while I was training for my first trip here, God instructed me to start a Christian climbing organization. That direction from the Lord has resulted in a ministry of more than 1,360 members in 53 countries and mission projects in 12 nations, including Tanzania and Malawi. This is our fourth Mission: Kilimanjaro in five years and 20 C4C members from outside East Africa have been involved so far. The Lord's work here is only beginning.

Monday, March 7 (4 p.m.)

The team is all together — all six of us! — and on a plane from New York City to Amsterdam. After that (on Tuesday), a flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport. We'll check back in on Tuesday. See you then.

Sunday, March 6

Michael starts this Evangelic Expedition in motion today, traveling from his home in Fargo, N.D. to New York City. The rest of the team will meet him there on Monday. Everyone is excited about the trip ahead. It has been months in the making. Of course, God had this day waiting before time began.

The goals of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011 include:

  1. Teaching in evangelism to the guides and porters who are part of the Kilimanjaro Chapter. We will provide encouragement and instruction on Wednesday, March 9. We are building on what was started during Mission: Kilimanjaro 2010. Hopefully God will use us to speak to our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Tanzanian villages of Marangu and Moshi.
  2. Answering divine appointments on Kilimanjaro. We will be climbing the Rongai Route from March 10-16, witnessing to our guides, porters, and other trekkers on the mountain. We also hope to conclude the descent on March 16 with a prayer hike with members of the Kilimanjaro Chapter and/or Pastor Winford Mosha’s Marangu church, who will meet us on the trail. There is an area near the bottom of the Marangu Route, which we are descending, where local animists come to practice witchcraft and worship demons. We will pray for an end to the evil in that place.
  3. Visiting, teaching VBS to and loving on the orphans who are part of our Project 1:27 in Malawi during the last week of the trip.

“ 'See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.' ”
— Exodus 23:20 (NIV)

The Word

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'”
— Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)


Members of Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011 are:

Elaine Fallesen, Hilton, NY;
Gary Fallesen, Hilton, NY;
Michael Heitland, South Fargo, ND;
Bob Kuebler, Buffalo, NY;
Randall McGarvey, Rochester, NY;
Shelly Torres, Chicago, IL.

CLICK HERE for Team Bios.


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