23 June 2008


I have recently read Three Cups of Tea, a book about Greg Mortenson and how he failed an attempt at climbing K2, the second highest mountain in the world. I want to find someone whose faith is similar to mine and discuss the book. It's had a strange impact on me.

One of the things that fascinates me about Greg Mortenson is that grew up a missionary kid in Africa. MK's are a unique breed. They are third culture kids. They never really belong to the culture they are from and always seem to stand out in the culture they go to. I loved working with the MK's at the Christian college I worked for and have officially adopted two of them, Chris and David. Chris and David grew up in the jungles of Ecuador. They are two white boys who speak perfect Spanish. One is from Maine, the other is Canadian. They came to a private college in California without a concept of American pop culture. Using lines from movies and television shows popular when they were young are lost on them.

The school I worked for was fortunate to have a couple who were parents and missionaries in Africa. They saw the difficulty of kids coming 'home' and not fitting in. They grow up as outsiders in the culture they are reaching and are citizens of countries they don't understand when they return. The couple started a ministry to help these students. The had a dream and the Lord blessed it. They eventually had a large home they ran as houseparents for MK's who wanted to come 'home' to go to college. Students from all over the world lived in the house and had support as they tried to matriculate in a culture that might as well have been from Mars. Janet and David, the couple with the dream are amazing people. I miss them.

There is a big difference between Greg Mortenson and the MK's I know. The MK's I know are solid Christians. They have their own ministries and continue the Lord's work even though they might not be missionaries in the familiar sense. Greg Mortenson seems to have a finely honed sense of integrity but not a drive to serve God. He is a brilliant and accomplished man who has managed to open more than 50 schools in Central Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan). What's more he has done it with the blessing and help of the Muslims who live there, even though they considered him an infidel.

Mortenson came very close to losing his life on the failed attempt at climbing K2. He was lost and rescued by locals who extended him hospitality in the Muslim tradition. He was quite taken with the way they lavished what little they had on him. Mortenson was a trained nurse and spent some time helping the villagers with the meager medical supplies he had. A compassionate and respectful man, his heart was broken as he saw the children of the village trying to educate themselves. Their government would not pay for a full-time teacher nor a building to house the young students. That didn't keep the children from going to school and practicing their homework, using sticks to write in the rocky soil. It was the only way they could work on the problems they were assigned when their teacher was there. The contrast between American kids loathing school and doing anything they can to play hooky, and these Muslim kids sitting outside doing their work without a teacher was striking.

A similarity between the MK's I know and Mortenson is the way they understand the abundance available to the majority of Americans. Also shared is the ability to do without things. A greater sense of need vs. desire is theirs which is something we privileged Christians could all stand to learn. Mortenson promised his rescuer host that he would return and build a school for the children. Three Cups of Tea chronicles Mortenson's adventures as he keeps that promise and makes many, many more.

I can't help but to marvel at the way God has orchestrated this. Greg Mortenson's failure to climb K2 has launched the opportunity and legacy of a lifetime. No doubt his early years as an MK in Africa gave him the skills and abilities to embrace his hosts and appreciate their cultural differences. He also watched his father build teaching hospitals in Africa, so he had perseverance and vision modeled for him. I have such mixed emotions regarding the successes of Mortenson's work. Lives are being changed because of educational opportunities now available to the children who have benefited from the schools Mortenson started. At the same time eternal opportunities are being missed as souls are being lost to hell. But...miracles have occured that have allowed Mortenson's dream of making a difference come true. I don't know what to make of it all. Part of the reason Mortenson has been so successful has been his respect of Islam. At the same time that respect and his apparent lack of faith in the sufficiency of Christ renders Mortenson useless in the eternal scheme of things. It is a conundrum only God can sort out. I just wish I had a solid Christian with whom to discuss the book.

Isaiah 55:8-98 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.9 "For {as} the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Psalm 115:33 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.(NAS)

1 comment:

Mike Pitzler said...

I'm not sure I'd read the book, rozie, but it's true that everyone wants the things of this world, some sort of peace in this world. The kids want to succeed. Mortensen wants meaning. No one wants God, and God saves whom he will. It is sad, isn't it?