Strengthening refugee churches

Photo: Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera

We sat at a table in a Caribou Coffee Shop (neither of us drinking coffee). I gave him an update from my recent trip to Kakuma refugee camp where he lived for 20 years. We talked of how to strengthen the union of 157 refugee churches with whom we partner there so that they develop the organizational capacity to manage large and complex projects and programs of which they are dreaming.

I asked him how his recent trip to Denver went. A Sudanese church recently flew him out there to consult with them. Several of the church leaders were formerly refugees in Kakuma and had gone through the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) run by the refugee church union. They were desperate for his advice concerning what it takes to be a recognized church with licensed clergy here in the US. They also had questions about how to navigate US Christian culture, much of which is in tension with their understanding of Christian faith and life style. Several members sought him out for marital counseling as well.

Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera listened and consulted with them non stop before boarding his flight back to Minnesota. They said they need him to return again soon.

There are other refugee churches in the US wanting his counsel as well. One is in Fargo, one in Iowa and another in Missouri. The need is great.

We talked about opening a Zoom account for him to offer regular online meetings with refugee churches.

Pastor Gatera joined IAFR last fall and is presently working full time cleaning office buildings. We’re praying with him that he will develop a team of financial partners to make it possible for him to devote himself full time to the ministry.

I left the Caribou with a grateful heart to have the privilege of working alongside Pastor Gatera as he pursues his calling.

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