Passion for the Peaks
In the Philippines
“Ace” Concordia clung to the rock face as he inched his way slowly up the steep ridge. Tired but determined to reach Tacadang, he placed one foot carefully ahead of the other.
Members of Climbing for Christ give the expression, “stepping out in faith,” a whole new meaning. Incorporated by Gary Fallesen in 2004, this organization combines mountain climbing with passion to bring the Gospel to regions that missionaries cannot or will not go.
Adreian “Ace” Concordia of Las Pinas, Philippines was at Hope Lutheran Church on November 9th to share how C4C (Climbing for Christ) touched the lives of 2,000 people scattered over the rugged terrain of Tacadang, a village in the Kibungan Province, located in the Cordillera Mountains. Ace’s leap of faith got its push when he told Fallesen, “I wish there was an organization like yours here.” Gary responded “You said you wished there was an organization like this in the Philippines; well, there is. You’re a member of Climbing for Christ there, so you can start to grow the ministry there.”
Ace, an avid mountain climber, joined C4C so he could share Christ with others. He began his ministry with seven people on October 19, 2007. Now C4C Philippines has 110 members from north to south and on every island.
Ace talks about growing spiritually when he speaks of the chapter’s growth. He tells potential members, “You cannot be climbing for Christ, if you do not have Christ. You cannot give what you do not have….There is a deep hunger from many of the members to really know Christ.”
Base camp meetings began in the local coffee shop and quickly turned into weekly Bible study sessions. Experienced mountain climbers began to find new purpose when climbing for Christ. “It’s not the mountain; it’s the people on the mountain that have become important.” Ace explained.
Ace and his friend, Jhun, decided to climb the Cordillera Mountains to a remote village called Tacadang. The trip took all day. The ascent was treacherous with foot holds dubious at best but negligible in the rain that poured down on them. Ace and Jhun had begun optimistically but now, late in the afternoon, were alarmed when their guide halted and muttered, “Hmm. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
“I looked at Jhun and said ‘This is bad.’”
The guide brought news that the trail was blocked and they would need to take another route. By now the rain had erased their path and a deadly fall awaited one misstep.
“I could image the newspaper headline announcing the death of a climber off the Cordillera Mountain,” Ace recalled.
The villagers appeared amazed when Ace and Jhun finally walked into Tacadang. It had been 20 years since missionaries last visited. It was a poor settlement and the natives offered the visitors an empty schoolroom to shelter them from the howling wind. There was no electricity, light or heat in the room. Wet and tired, they huddled together. Jhun was beginning to shiver with fever. Ace lit the one candle they had been given and took stock of their situation. His friend was sick. They needed to go back the next day. They had totally underestimated the climb. They bedded down for what sleep they could get. Ace thought, “Lord, send me somewhere else. I don’t want to come back here.” He was restless, sleep eluding him. At two o’clock in the morning, he surrendered, saying, “Lord, if you want me to come back here, I will.” He slept.
The local midwife approached them the next day. “So you are climbing for Christ. Do you have Bibles? We need Bibles.” The list of items grew from Bibles to medicine, school supplies, and flip flops for the barefoot children.
Promising to return, they began the trek back. Ace recalled that, as he stood on a ledge, clinging to grass and trying not to look at the abyss below, he felt God telling him, “Don’t you think I can get you through this….get you back?” When they did return, a man in the village admitted, “The first time when there were only two of you who came, we talked among ourselves and considered that you might not return.” With word that they had actually arrived spread, all came and heard God’s love preached. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Ace said.
“Because we want(ed) to reach out to the whole of Kibungen province, we visited Badeo, a village atop another mountain with a population of 600. Only 20 (were) Christians, yet all (came) to hear about Jesus Christ,” Ace said. Getting to Badeo was a traverse, crossing three mountain ranges to get there and another path to exit.
These challenges attract other mountain climbers. Some join Ace’s team to replace poor life style choices with positive experiences. Thirty six climbers joined C4C members in “Mission Possible” to raise money for a hospital. As they stood atop the mountain, they shared bread in a “prayer peaks” Sunday service. After that, the mountaineers wanted to know when they could do another climb together.
Climbing for Christ is not limited to scaling mountain ranges. Recent storms ravaged the Philippines; a year’s worth of rain challenged the sewers. Water stagnated over submerged streets, attracting disease carrying mosquitoes. Ace was determined to help and e-mailed Fallesen who had been following events in the Philippines with growing concern. They named their endeavor to assist, “Project Good Samaritan”, and limited their aide to 30 families at the beginning. God’s grace continued with more donations so that 120 families were ultimately helped.
“Now we know we can do relief…it is something else God has added.” Ace said.
With over 1,000 international members, Climbing for Christ requests prayers since there is no mountain too high for these disciples in their service to the living God.
With permission from The Good News