Above: a refugee church worships together in the little shade they can find. They will soon have a metal roof under which they can gather, thanks to our IAFR financial partners contributions to the Refugee Church Building fund.
Above: another refugee church getting a roof in Kalobeyei refugee settlement near Kakuma, Kenya.
These communities of faith play an indispensable role in helping people survive in Kakuma.
One of our partners sent his thanks via WhatsApp:
“Amen!! Glory to God, and so much blessings to the donors and to those who put in enormous energy and dedication to channel these funds to these points of need.”
*Photos sent to me via WhatsApp from our refugee partner in Kakuma
I took this photo last night as a snowstorm was dropping it’s last flakes. It was so beautiful and tranquil outside.
I wish I could say that I expect peace to reign in 2020. But as we approach the New Year, it is looking like it will be another stormy one.
Still we engage the growing global mess with hope and not despair. For we know that God is alive and well and that he is active and engaged in time and space – and that he is good.
So let’s lean into what’s coming while embracing our privilege and calling to partner with God in the redemption and renewal of all things.
It was “open mic Sunday” at our church today. So I braced myself for the worst before heading inside.
Pastor Jenna invited people to share a way that God showed up in their lives this past year. A beautiful series of stories surfaced as brave souls raised their hands.
A sister in our church shared how hard it has been to re-enter life in the US after several years of ministry in South Africa. She then said God showed up this year when we met during our annual church retreat.
She recounted telling Donna and I about her struggle. Apparently we responded by saying that “it can be tough when everyone here is sure that it is great to be back“. That was it – the words she needed to hear at that time. She felt seen and understood.
That was a significant God moment for her this year. And neither Donna or I had a clue just how much that simple encounter meant to her until today.
I have to confess, it feels good to be used of God in someone’s life.
I wonder how often God uses you and me like that – without our ever knowing? I hope and pray it is often.
This was 34 years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. I flew in from Austria a week or so before the wedding.
We flew back to Austria 🇦🇹 about a month later and settled into our first home in the tiny village of Bad Kreuzen, Austria, where the streets have no names and the houses were numbered according to the order in which they were built. We lived in Nr. 80 for our first year. Our team office was in Nr. 3.
The castle ruins in town date back to the 900s. The village itself dates back to 1180. I lived in the Bad Kreuzen region from 1982 – 1995, during which time I pioneered ministry among refugees in the camp and local inns.
Left to right: Tom, Donna, Sarah, John Mark, Drew, Sinclair
This doesn’t happen very often as our kids live in LA and NYC. It was so good to be together here in MSP over the holidays.
Donna and I pray that your Christmas was filled with joy and peace as you celebrated the birth of Jesus the Christ.
May God grant us all faith and courage as we determine to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly throughout the coming new year!
Photo: A refugee church building funded by IAFR
I am so thankful for our growing team of partners that generously invest in the welfare of refugees through the work of IAFR.
Because of them, I had the joy of initiating an international transfer of funds to our refugee church partners in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) yesterday. The funds will soon be transformed into 14 new refugee church buildings!
The buildings are desperately needed as the climate is harsh and our brothers and sisters need a shaded and protected space in which to gather and worship together. These communities of faith play a critical role in keeping hope alive and affirming the dignity of people who have been stripped of everything.
IAFR partners have put a roof over the head of 28 refugee churches this year! That’s a record!
What a great Christmas gift! Not only does it meet a critical need, it also is a tangible expression that they are not forgotten by the church at large!
But there’s even more good news! Our financial partners empowered us to set another international transfer to Kakuma. This one covers the 2020 high school fees for 5 girls that we are sponsoring! This investment has the potential to radically change the future prospects of these girls – and their families!
Can you tell I’m excited? And so thankful? None of this happens unless we partner together.
Falingi (above with flag in hand) became an American today along with 731 other people from 81 different countries of origin.
This is a big deal, because Falingi has been a refugee for most of his life. Unchecked violence made his homeland uninhabitable. As he was without parents, his uncle took him into his family. I met them over 10 years ago in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi – among the world’s poorest nations.
Dzaleka was a political prison before it was turned into a refugee camp in 1994 (in response to a wave of refugees fleeing genocide in Rwanda). Life is hard in Dzaleka.
Above: Dzaleka refugee camp. There are 40,000 Falingis in Dzaleka today.
This is why refugee resettlement to countries like the USA is so important. It offers people like Falingi a chance to regain place in the world and rebuild his life.
It is a travesty that the US has slashed refugee resettlement numbers from an average of 75,000/year to just 18,000 this year.
I spoke with several of the new US citizens today. They were so happy and so proud. Like Falingi, they want to work hard and be a net contributor to society.
In there eyes I saw an America that gave me hope and inspiration.
My wife and I escaped the winter storm in Minnesota to spend Thanksgiving on the family farm in central Missouri. Apparently 8″ of white stuff fell on our home after we left on Tuesday.
I hope your thanksgiving is filled with gratitude for Gods faithfulness this week 🦃
Meanwhile I continue to read Richard Twiss’s “Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys”. It seems appropriate as we celebrate and remember the welcome and hospitality the early Europeans received from indigenous people here (and reflect on how those who received it quickly turned around and abused those who welcomed them).
We had a great time last night celebrating the first 10 years of IAFR ministry with around 90 friends, partners, refugees and asylum seekers. We remembered our beginnings and highlight some of the different ways we are all partnering together to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.
The evening included a photo gallery of high quality framed prints from some of the photos I’ve taken over the years (above).
We were so happy to celebrate how God has given us the privilege of participating with him as he answers the prayers of our uprooted friends.
While most of those who came were from the Twin Cities, we were thrilled to have people fly in from Washington DC (from National Presbyterian Church) and Seattle (our Board Chair and a friend from her churches’ mission board) and even LA (my daughter, Sarah, surprised me by flying into MN for the weekend).
Kudos to my colleague and IAFR Executive VP, Tim Barnes, for planning the program (above).
I came away with a thankful heart for everyone who makes IAFR possible!