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Three Cups of Tea

5 January, 2011

Boxing Day.  Family and friends cramming into our lounge room to open presents.  There is one for me.  Two books.  Three Cups of Tea.

“What did you get? What did Grandma give you?”

“Three Cups of Tea.”

Greg Mortenson was a devoted mountain climber.  He took casual work, and the nursing shifts no one else wanted to free him up to climb at every available opportunity.  Offered the opportunity to climb the formidable K2 mountain in Pakistan as a medic, he jumped at the opportunity.

Close to the top, he and another climber had to perform a risky rescue of a fellow climber, right after making an arduous climb and descent.  After the rescue he was depleted and too weak to summit the peak.  Dejected and trying to make peace with his failure to summit the peak, he wandered off the track and away from his guide, into a secluded village in an isolated part of Pakistan.

After accepting the hospitality of his Pakistani hosts, he becomes aware of how little they have.  Before leaving, he promises to come back and build them a school.

Three Cups of Tea follows Mortensen through the ups and downs of building cross-cultural relationships, reconciling the differences between his “home” in America and his “home” in Pakistan, and building dozens of schools across Pakistan.  He is abducted, threatened, lied to and blocked by religious rulers but he perseveres to fulfill his promise and builds schools across Pakistan.

Three Cups of Tea puts ones own life in harsh perspective.  One man, while taking incredible risks, has been able to change the lives of tens of thousands of Pakistani and Afghani children through education.  It becomes easy to question the significance of your own life, in comparison to the life of Greg Mortensen.  Personally, I need to remember that my life may not be as significant on a global scale, but it is still important.  The work I do, the person I am, the life I lead, is vitally important to my family, my friends, and (most importantly) God.  I may never do anything of note, even on a national level, let alone an international level, but what I do has eternal significance.

It is also helpful to remember that there are many, many people behind the scenes that made Greg Mortensen’s life and mission possible.  He had parents and grand parents and great grandparents who are an essential, if hidden, part of the story.  Greg has a wife, children, and many, many financial supporters whose contributions make his mission possible.  People writing encouraging letters at significant times have spurred him on when he was tempted to give it all up.  Individuals who purchase books or review the book to spread the word are playing a very small but important part in supporting his mission.

The Bible talks about God’s people being a body (1 Corinthians 12).  We can’t all be a hand or an eye or a nose.  We can’t all be a leg or a mouth.  We can, however, be a hair, or a blood cell or a neuron.  Without our contribution, small or large, the body would be less without it.  Very few of us will have a life worthy of a best-selling book, but we all have a role to play and a story to tell.


To support the mission of Greg Mortensen and Three Cups of Tea go to  the Three Cups of Tea Website or the Central Asia Institute Website.

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