Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea

If you want to thrive in Balistan, you must respect our ways. Haji Ali said, blowing on his bowl. The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you share a cup of tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything….”

I have to confess that before reading this book, I had only one opinion of the Muslim world. They all hated us, all wanted us dead, and they would do anything to achieve this goal.  After reading Three Cups of Tea, I now see many nuances to the Muslim faith. Mostly, I see a people who, like us, love their family, love their village, and want better things for their children.

The first cup of tea
After failing to scale the second highest mountain on earth, exhausted and suffering from exposure, Greg Mortenson makes a wrong turn and stumbles into the remote Pakistani village of Korphe where he is providentially placed into the hands of the tribal chief, Haji Ali. There he is welcomed as an honored guest and is lovingly restored to health by the community. Korphe’s sincerity and generosity are not lost on Mortenson.

Before entering the village, Mortenson is a free-sprit who works
just enough hours as an ER nurse to earn money to go on exotic mountain
climbing adventures. He enjoys a carefree lifestyle with most of his
possessions fitting into a storage unit. Yet, there is a deeper side to
him. Having been raised in Africa by Lutheran missionary parents,
Mortenson is at ease with the people of Korphe and while recovering in
Korphe he uses his nursing skills to bring comfort to those in need.
This seems small compared to the things they have done for him. In
gratefulness, Mortenson promises Haji Ali that he will return and build
a school.

The second cup of tea
After returning back to the U.S.,
Mortenson immediately begins what will become his life’s work, bringing
“balanced education” to the remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He soon realizes that no matter how hard he works, he will not be able
to keep his promise apart from outside help. After a failed
letter-writing campaign, Mortenson is introduced to Jean Hoerni who
agrees to sponsor the school in Korphe.

Again, providence steps in when Mortenson meets Tara Bishop, the daughter of the National Geographic photographer
who was with the first American party to reach the top of Mt. Everest.
After a brief courtship, they are married and with Tara’s support,
Mortenson begins making his dream a reality.

The third cup of tea
Mortenson’s mission is not without
its challenges. At one point he is kidnapped by the Taliban, and a
fatwa is issued against him along with numerous death threats. In spite
of these overwhelming obstacles, Mortenson manages to construct 78
schools in one of the most remote regions on earth, earning the love
and respect of these tribal people.

Still, Mortenson is no saint; constantly torn by his need to do more
for the region and his need to be at home with his young family, Greg
never fully finds balance. He is often gone too long from his Montana
home and, when home, he spends much of his time traveling to promote
his mission.

Personal thoughts
Greg Mortenson sees his
mission of building “balanced” schools in the troubled areas of
Pakistan and Afghanistan as the answer to the region’s troubles. While
his life’s work is admirable, it is not everlasting apart from Christ.
However, those of us who have read the book see God’s hand clearly at
work and Greg Mortenson’s labor as a pre-evangelism tool, paving the
way for missionaries to bring the Gospel to this region sometime in the

It is Greg Mortenson’s genuine passion for these people and his
untiring labor that has won their hearts. It is now up to us to extend
that burden and faithfully pray for this region, asking God to send his
true Word to the people. Only then will they truly have a “balanced
education” and everlasting peace.