I wonder now why I got involved in climbing the Andean mountains when I was in high school. It was not because they were easy. I lived in Quito, Ecuador which is surrounded by beautiful, perpetually snow-capped mountains. But that wasn’t the attraction. It also wasn’t the reason allegedly given by a famous mountain climber who said he climbed mountains, “because they were there.”
I joined my first expedition mostly because it seemed like a challenge; a way to expend excess energy in a way that did not end up in the principal’s office. For a seemingly endless miserable night at about 13,000 feet above sea level, I asked myself “why” over and over. Trying to get my home-made gear on in driving sleet the next morning increased the frequency of that question. Finally, at about 18,000 feet on the glacier, we had to tunnel into the snow to escape an electrical storm that made the wool on our face masks stand out straight. My lungs struggled to breathe enough air to oxygenate my cramping muscles. I had no real mountaineering clothing. My jeans, stretched over two pair of long-Johns, began to melt the snow draining my last vestiges of energy.
Signing-up to be Sent
At our last board meeting, Jaime gave us an update of ITEC training trips already on the schedule for 2019 with a brief description of the ITEC programs we have been asked to teach Christ-followers in those countries. I thought, how does a Christian organization like ITEC find, recruit, and motivate highly qualified professionals to sign-up to be sent to places that are not only extreme destinations but are openly hostile to foreigners with our spiritual world view? (I hesitate to name several of those destinations because authorities there troll the internet looking for Christian activities they oppose).
Our staff will swelter in some places and freeze in others. They may sleep on cots, concrete floors or on grass mats on the dirt. We try to let local Christian hosts be responsible to house and feed our trainers. We are their partners. We train them not only so they can open doors to Christ’s Gospel, but also so they, themselves, can become trainers. We are in the trainer training business. Our staff members usually have to endure discomfort. Our training equipment is sometimes taxed or even confiscated. But, our hosts face being ostracized for their faith, and some are openly persecuted by religious leaders and government authorities. Why go? Because when we can teach local Christ-followers to meet physical needs, it opens doors for the Gospel and gives them standing with the very people who otherwise oppose them, and the strange message that people don’t have to work for access to “Paradise.” It is a free gift already paid for.
Meeting Basic Needs, Opening Doors to the Gospel
It is amazing how well received the local Christians usually are when they can offer dental (I-DENT), medical (I-MED), and eyesight (I-SEE) care to communities that have little or no access to health-care services. People normally suspicious or hostile to Christ-followers turn friendly when local Christians can help them fix their mopeds, chainsaws, and electric generators (I-FIX). Our trainees not only have doors open to plant churches, but we also offer them a means of credibly supporting themselves.
Learning to make their own videos (I-FILM) gives Christ-followers in frontier areas of the world a voice they have never had. We in the “developed world” have been part of a sight and sound culture for so long that we no longer realize the power of messages acted out on screens. Check it out. Spend an hour or two in a fast food restaurant and see how many people under 35 read a book or carry on a conversation with friends uninterrupted by screen time. Putting cameras and editing capabilities in the hands of Christians at the end of the road and beyond roads is a tool that has culture shattering impact potential.
Please thank God with us for our rapidly expanding staff. Please pray for good national partners that are steady in faith and ready to deliver God’s offer of redemption through Jesus to the geographically, culturally and spiritually hostile worlds they live in. Thank you for making what we do possible!