Friday, May 15, 2009

No Little People in Bozeman

The first time when I set my eyes on the snowcapped mountain in Bozeman, I was captivated by its majesty and awesomeness. Bozeman is literally surrounded by mountains. It is naturally a touristic town. Winter is giving way to spring and holidaymakers are still coming to ski and to snowboard. The more serious mountaineers are scaling the steep slope, challenging nature with the view to conquer the summit. Such a place normally produces tough-minded people.

Having conversation with Pastor Jeff Hamling in a cafĂ© was a delight. I was intrigued by his story of pastoring a church in Bozeman. Jeff was a youth pastor at Rocky Mountain Community Church in Billings. He left Billings to plant a church in Bozeman. I could see in his sparkling eyes that he enjoys what he is doing. Church planters are no ordinary people. They have to surmount unbelievable obstacles in order to see a church planted. It is equated as a spiritual mountaineering, only the determined one will want to venture out to the unknown. Jeff presented to me a DVD of a 5-day vacation Bible School Program “Peacemaker Clubs for Kids.” He has been conducting the Vacation Bible School for the kids in Bozeman since he came to this town. He loves the people particularly the children. He is helping the children to be peacemakers, teaching them to deal with conflicts in their lives. His is a quest for transformation of the town- one child at a time. Such calling causes him to stay on passionately doing his work. Jeff’s story was not known and was not told. But there is another story which was written into a book and it became the US No. 1 bestseller.

The first time when I saw the cover of the book “Three Cups of Tea- One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a time, I knew intuitively that this is not an ordinary book. I bought it and I have been reading it and enjoying it immensely. The author Mortenson is from Montana. When I googled to find out more, I discovered to my pleasant delight that Mortenson is also from Bozeman. It’s a fascinating story of how the failed attempt to climb K2, the second hardest mountain to climb in the world, Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram Mountains. Little did he realize that his encounter with the hospital village folks in Korphe changed his life forever. What he saw was the pathetic condition of the village school, in which the children studied in the open space without any proper facilities. The children didn’t even have pencils! Touched by the inhabitants’ kindness, he promised to return to build a school. For more than a decade Mortenson worked tirelessly raising funds, buying building materials, sourcing teachers and he succeeded in building not just one but fifty-five schools in this forsaken region of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here is an American who through education counters the forces of terrorism. He offers every student an opportunity to be educated, to know what is good from evil, rather than to be influenced by the extremist madrassa. The war of terror is not won through military might but by winning the hearts of these Muslims children one at a time.

I find the moral and spiritual congruence of these two ordinary men who hail from the same town, Bozeman. They give their lives that others might live in peace.

God brought me to Bozeman that I might be changed.

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