When he only made it halfway up the world’s second tallest mountain, Greg Mortenson felt as though he failed.

When he only made it halfway up the world’s second tallest mountain, Greg Mortenson felt as though he failed.

After his defeat, Mortenson walked 58 miles, carrying 90 pounds, into Korphe, a tiny village in northern Pakistan. He was greeted by a short, stout man with a silver pointed beard who offered him tea and a place to sleep, despite the fact that he hadn’t bathed in 82 days, was emaciated and was wearing torn pants.

After cleaning up, he had tea with that man, who told him to get to know a person, sit and have three cups of tea with him. The first cup you share, you’re still a stranger. By the second cup, a friendship has formed. By the third cup and conversation, you’re family.

“You’re family if you take the time to have three cups of tea and really get to know them,” he said.

It’s at that point that the person will do anything, including die, for his new friend.

The man later became a father figure, mentor and guide in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he was part of Mortenson’s inspiration to form Central Asia Institute, a foundation that builds schools to further education for girls in Asia.

Mortenson, the co-author of “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time,” shared his stories at a nearly full Coronado Performing Arts Center Friday night. The free lecture was the second of four local appearances for Mortenson.

The Peace Choir, made up of more than 100 kids from area schools, sang four songs to open the event, including a song called “Three Cups of Tea,” inspired by Mortenson’s book.

It was announced Friday morning that the Rock River Valley reached its $50,000 goal in the Pennies for Peace campaign. A check for $51,400 was presented on stage to Mortenson before his lecture.

“And we’re still counting,” said Jim Keeling, Pennies for Peace organizer.

As of 2007, the Central Asia Institute has established more than 61 schools. It costs $50,000 to build and sustain a rural mountain village school for three to five years.

Much of the Rock River Valley was anticipating Mortenson’s 7 p.m. lecture. By 6:10 p.m., a line of people nearly reached the end of the block of anxious ticket holders ready to see the author.

Debbie Albrecht had a front-row seat for the lecture after driving about two hours from Lansing to see Mortenson.

She’s the director at the Lansing Public Library, and is excited to bring the One Book One Community to her town using “Three Cups of Tea.”

After reading the book in January, she knew she’d found the perfect story.

“This is it,” she said. “This is the book. The key is that one person can make a difference.”

She and Sandra Iosue, the head of the library’s adult services department, attended the event at the Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza Friday morning and were heading home after the lecture.

The pair sat next to Elise Cadigan of Rockford and bonded over the message of Mortenson’s book — education and making a difference.

“I just want to hear his story,” Cadigan said. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Cathy Bayer can be reached at (815) 987-1369 or cbayer@rrstar.com.