Meet Team Kilimanjaro!

WOO HOO!! This is my stellar, God-ordained and compiled team for my trip to Tanzania!! As you’ll see, I am the youngest (makes me a bit nervous) and with the least amount of climbing experience (even a bit more nervous!!). Two of my teammates are the founders of Climbing for Christ, the missions organization I’ll be traveling with. I’m so excited to be with these sisters and brothers in the Faith. Please continue to pray for us and for the work we will be doing in Africa!

As I was reading last night, these passages just made me weep, for this is the same reason I am compelled:

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” …“People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’”

Oh, that people will see Him, hear Him and then proclaim Jesus!, who has done all things well~

Mission: Kilimanjaro 2011

Team Bios

Elaine Fallesen

Age: 54. Residence: Hilton, NY, USA. Family: Married to Gary and mother of two — Jesse Dane, 21, and Hayley Hope, 16. Occupation: Marketing Communications associate for MVP Health Care. Church: Hope Lutheran, Greece, NY. Missions with C4C: Third (first to Africa).

How long have you climbed? Since the early ‘90s when our kids were small and we began discovering as a family the beautiful outdoors. Type of climbing you do: Hiking, nothing hardcore. Highlight of climbing career:As I’m vertically challenged, it’s a toss-up between almost summiting Mount Fairfield near Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, and making the hike down the steep hillside of Gentilhomme, Haiti to the riverbed and back up again!

How long have you been a Christian? All my life. Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: Vice president of Climbing For Christ, senior high youth counselor and creative team member for worship planning at Hope. Served with senior high youth on missions to Washington, D.C., New York City, Toronto, Canada, and the Adirondack Mountains; and with Flower City Work Camp, a yearly Rochester, NY youth outreach to let the city see Jesus.

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): For my first C4C mission trip to Tanzania and Malawi, I am inspired by a message on serving by Pastor Larry Stojkovic and in particular, Matthew 14:17-18, where the disciples balked at the Lord’s instruction for them to serve a meal to an intimate gathering of 5,000 men, plus probably just as many women and children. “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. Whatever seems impossible, just bring it to Him. No matter how inadequate I feel about climbing Kili or helping orphans in Malawi, I just need to bring to God what little I do have. Jesus can take it and, in His hands, make miracles happen.

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: This past summer, on the last night of our senior high mission to the Adirondacks, I had the privilege of washing the feet of the eight teens in my work crew. After washing each one’s feet, I prayed with him or her. It was a special experience that gave me a deeper appreciation for Jesus’ servant heart.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? This ministry is a unique blessing and calling that the Lord has placed in my life, my marriage, my family and my future. I am privileged to help fulfill His command to “Go” with the Good News into the highest, most remote places of the world.


Gary Fallesen

Gary Fallesen with Project 1:27 orphans in Malawi. (The orphanage we’ll be working with!)

Age: 51. Residence: Hilton, NY, USA. Family: Married to Elaine (bio above) and father of Jesse, 21, and Hayley, 16. Occupation: Founding president of Climbing For Christ. Church: Hope Lutheran in Greece, NY. Missions with C4C: This will be my 23rd Evangelic Expedition (the fourth Mission: Kilimanjaro).

How long have you climbed? Since 1996. Type of climbing you do:Mostly hiking/trekking and mountaineering. Highlight of climbing career:One would be the summit of Kilimanjaro in 1998. It was while training for that Kibo climb that God put this ministry on my heart. I have climbed on the wondrous slopes of Kilimanjaro on three occasions, including 2007 with my son Jesse, who was 17 at the time.

How long have you been a Christian? Since 1983. Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: Acts 1:8 — being His witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Also, serving on a worship creative team at our family’s home church, where I got my first taste of ministry leadership as drama director.

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): 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”). A reminder that the victory has been won and all we need to do is continue to trust in the Victor.

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: Twice, since we’ve gotten involved with Far & Wide Children’s Home, the government has threatened to close the doors of that orphanage in a remote corner of Malawi. And twice God has provided us with the financial resources to keep the orphanage open. First, in January 2010, we were able to pay US$8,250 for a water project. Then, in August and September, we were empowered to send US$7,500 to pay for housing renovations. This was, for me (and the rest of our Board of Directors), a “mile marker and celebration.” Bill Hybels, the senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, IL, USA, says: “What keeps people on the journey is the hope that we’ll get there someday.” Every now and then we need to pause and “refill our mission buckets.” Right now, my bucket is full. I have the hope that we will get there someday. During the dog days of summer, you start to wonder sometimes. Giving goes down, but spending continues to go up. The math doesn’t work. Then, after a couple of hard weeks of prayer and working at it, you reach one of those mileage markers on the journey. Having been serenaded by the children of Far & Wide in January 2010, this was a very special moment to celebrate.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? Finishing strong.


Michael Heitland

Age: 35. Residence: South Fargo, ND, USA. Family: Married to Michelle with three daughters — Makayla, 15; Maleah, 12, Molly, 2. Occupation: Chief Technology Officer, V3 Technologies. Church: Bethel EFC, Fargo ND. Missions with C4C: First.

How long have you climbed? 8 years. Type of climbing you do:Mountaineering, rock and ice. Highlight of climbing career: Climbing Mount Rainier via DC route in 2007. I climbed as part of a benefit climb for Big City Mountaineers.

How long have you been a Christian? I consider my spiritual birthday to be September 1996. This was the start of a long road of sanctification and God has been faithful in working to conforming me to Christ’s image. Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: I currently intern in Bethel’s men’s ministry. My focus has been with alcoholics and drug addicts, although I have worked with and alongside others from pretty much every socioeconomic background you can imagine (homeless, blue collar, white collar, gold collar).

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): There are so many and it changes each year, but right now Philippines 3:8 has provided motivation and conviction to grow deeper and suffer more. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: When my youngest daughter was born I was faced with the reality of just how much work God had done in my heart. He took something that was completely broken and transformed it in a way that to this day amazes me.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? It is a testimony that all things can be used for God’s glory. That a passion for climbing can be God’s sovereign way of preparing a person to go where others cannot, to the most remote regions on earth.

  • CLICK HERE to check out Michael’s Mission: Kili 2011 Web site.


Bob Kuebler

Age: 55 at time of trip. Residence: Buffalo, NY, USA. Family: Unmarried father of three — Joseph, 28; Steven, 26, and Michelle, 17. Occupation: Youth Ministry. Church: Last Days Fellowship. Missions with C4C: First.

How long have you climbed? 20 years. Type of climbing you do:Trekking/hiking. Highlight of climbing career: Baldy Mountain, New Mexico with my son Steve and a Boy Scout troop

How long have you been a Christian? More than 50 years. Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: I am the director of Youth With A Purpose, Inc (YWAP). We serve inner-city youth 24-7. In the home, in the school, in the hood, and in the mountains. They will always hear, “Jesus loves you and so do I.”

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): Romans 8:28 (“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”). Many bad things happen to our youth. We see kids die from violence on a regular basis. By teaching kids that God is in control even during the bad times, they somehow understand that He loves them through our actions.

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: A young girl named Roxy had a dream. In her dream, she saw me handing out Message Bibles at a youth meeting. I “cast” her dream to a man named John Mika at Kingdom Bound Ministries. He gave me a case of Message Bibles. On our next mountain trip, 14 young people were given a Message Bible to carry up Algonquin Peak (5,114 feet) in the Adirondacks. One girl told me a story of how her dad never made her his “princess.” I said that a dad who does not make his daughter his princess is “princessless” himself. From the top of the mountain I called Roxy and told her about Princessless. In the next two weeks, she wrote a song called “Princessless.” She recorded the song with a sister and a cousin. She performed the song on the day before Father’s Day at a banquet honoring 100 men who made a difference in the community at the Buffalo Convention Center. She told men what it’s like growing up with a dad who doesn’t keep his word. God gives children dreams and visions and it is up to us to cast those visions.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? An opportunity for Holy Spirit collaboration. By sharing gifts and talents, we can share the Gospel in a more expedient fashion in these accelerating end times. I cry when I read the news of what God is doing through C4C. He is moving in a powerful way to reach those that many consider unreachable. I believe that there is a spiritual metaphor in the work that C4C does. Most people would not go where C4C goes because the places may be considered unreachable. Sometimes we write people off spiritually because they don’t measure up to our spiritually righteous standards. We consider them unreachable. God desires that none should perish that’s why He directed Gary to start C4C. Jesus loves you, Gary, and so do I.


Randall McGarvey

Age: 43. Residence: Rochester, NY USA. Family: Married to Denise, with two grown children, Emily and Forrest. Occupation: Software Engineer at General Code. Church: LifeTree Fellowship in Pittsford, NY.

How long have you climbed? 17 years. Type of climbing you do:Backpacking in the Adirondack high peaks in New York. Highlight of climbing career: Practically running to the summit of Mount Skylight in the Adirondacks in June of 1993, the first of many mountaintop experiences.

How long have you been a Christian? As long as I can remember. Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: Healing and improving marriages through FamilyLife by helping to bring the annual “Weekend To Remember” marriage getaway to Rochester.

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): For this trip it’s, Hebrews 10:36 (“For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised”).

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: There are many to choose from, but if I had to pick one, it would be a trip to Juarez, Mexico where our team built two houses under the leadership of the Casas Por Cristo ministry. We are so blessed with what we have, and being able to use our time and resources to help families in a less fortunate culture is life-changing.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? It means an opportunity to unite my faith and my love of the outdoors, and it presents a great opportunity to gather with others from around the world to send (or take) the message of Jesus to remote places.


Shelly Torres

I definitely didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to send in a “hard core” picture!! Haha!

Age: 29. Residence: Chicago, IL, USA. Family: Single. Occupation: Office Manager for Premium Surge Promotions (our company makes the Burger King kids’ meal toys). Church: Chicago Tabernacle. Missions with C4C: First.

How long have you climbed? Well, climbing more so recent — I’d say, the last 3 years. Hiking/backpacking, I’ve been doing for about 10 years now.Type of climbing you do: Rock climbing. Highlight of climbing career:Climbing in the Snowies of Wyoming last year. Absolutely challenging, but most incredible experience of sheer struggle and witnessing beauty through it!

How long have you been a Christian? Wowsers, 16 years! Type of ministry you are blessed to serve in: Oh my goodness, just about any! Well, let me say this — I’ve learned it’s not what you do, but Who sees you and I had that backwards for a while. Now, I’d do just about anything (I think! Gotta be careful with that!). I do love working with women, children, mentoring and intercession. I really love helping people and have a desire for them to know the Lord — I guess that’s the ministry I’m most blessed to serve in.

Favorite Scripture verse (and why): Genesis 1-Revelation 21:27! OK, OK, these questions are so hard for me. I have so many favorites. The one that is absolutely blowing me away in this season is Ephesians 1:4-14. I’m learning more about God’s heart as a Father and that He’s a Pursuer and it was His pleasure to choose me as His daughter before I was born. WOW! I’m also learning through this passage what union “in Christ” means and that that’s not just a one-time thing, but daily, minutely and second by second we are presently united in Christ. This is changing the way I see moments in a day! Also, in these verses, we learn our identity: Chosen, Holy, LOVED, Children of God, and Redeemed — amen! I also LOVE Isaiah 61:1-7. I love it all!

Special “God moment” you’d like to share: Which one? Hmm. One of my favorites is being able to share with people that although I was the first Christian in my family, since then, everyone in my family has come to know the Lord. And one of the sweetest blessings is that my mom became a Christian just four months before she passed away from cancer. Looking back, it’s one of the most precious gifts from God.

What does Climbing For Christ mean to you? I absolutely love the mission statement of C4C — to take the Gospel where most missionaries cannot or will not go. The Lord has laid the nations on my heart and specifically people in mountainous regions. I’ve been challenged by the stories I’ve read in recent years in The Climbing Way and I am so excited to serve with the Body in this way! I’ve also had the wonderful privilege of hearing Lygon Stevens’ story through C4C and it has both spiritually enriched my heart and challenged me to serve my King with all I have.


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2 thoughts on “Meet Team Kilimanjaro!

  1. Wow, Shelly – I learned even more wonderful things about you …. so precious about your mom. Ernie’s mom was an unbeliever and got saved 3 days before she died at age 81…. another miracle and gift from God! He still has other unsaved relatives though we need to see reached for Christ. Bless you!

    • Thank you for sharing Becky — how grateful I am that God hears our prayers and even through all the years of praying for my family, God knew specifically the best for it all. It’s incredible…so much came out of that time. I honestly wouldn’t be here in Chicago today. Truly, God directs and guides in mysterious yet magnificent ways! Love you so much 🙂

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