Newsletter #412 – Three Cups of Tea

The book’s been on my shelf for months but at last I have read Three Cups of Tea, the incredible story of a mountain climber named Greg Mortenson. After failing to scale a major peak, Mortenson drifted into an impoverished Pakistan village and was so moved by the inhabitants’ kindness that he promised to return and build a school. Working in “the forbidding terrain that gave birth to the Taliban,” Mortenson overcame local mistrust and has been able to build over 100 schools (so far), especially schools for girls built where females were not thought worthy of any education.

Mortenson works on the assumption that bombs rarely bring peace. Ultimately we defeat the Taliban by building relationships, getting cooperation, and drawing people into the modern world through education. Perhaps this is simplistic but Three Cups of Tea tells how one man with no money has put this perspective into practice, gaining the trust of skeptical Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials, uneducated mountain people and U.S. members of Congress. The book is required reading for senior U.S. military commanders, Pentagon officers in counter-insurgency training, and Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan. Mortenson’s follow-up book, Stones Into Schools continues this real-life story that reads like a novel.

Three Cups of Tea is a “must read” book for anyone interested in building people, bringing together faith and practice or impacting the world. Among other conclusions this book shows:

  • The role of persistence, passion, determination and sacrifice in people who make a difference.
  • How one person can build trust, respect and cooperation even when there is initial distrust and resistance?
  • The importance of relationship building, interpersonal sensitivity, respect for cultural differences, and a spirit of humility.
  • The value in stepping outside of our own comfort zones and stepping into partnerships with others whose perceptions and ways of doing things may be different from ours.

Please read this book and ponder how Christians in the west can learn new and sometimes better ways to be people builders and change agents. Especially if you’ve read Three Cups of Tea, please share how Mortenson’s example and message might influence your work. .


  1. Thanks so much for your review of this book. I haven’t read it but after reading your post, I will definitely look forward to adding it to my reading list.


  2. This is one of the best books I read in the past year. A must for everyone to read. There are many insights for missionaries to learn about how to relate in another culture. I underlined many things in the book.


  3. Mountains Beyond Mountains is a somewhat similar story about a Harvard epidemiologist who began medical care for poor Haitians. His work has grown into interventions in several other countries for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases among the poor with limited medical resources.

    Rodger Bufford


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