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!
Strengthening the core of IAFR has been the priority this month.
We had a 2 day leadership training followed by our Annual Missionary Conference.
I’ve put considerable time and thought into assessments and preparations for our upcoming Annual Board Meeting in mid September.
I’ve also been putting down the foundation for our 10 Year Celebration (IAFR turned 10 this year!) on 15 November 2019 in St. Paul, MN.
I’m finalizing plans for my upcoming visit to Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya). I’m taking a team of 3 with me again this time. And I’m already working on plans for my Kakuma visits in March 2020 and again in April 2020.
I’m trying to put together a delegation of Christian leaders affiliated with World Evangelical Alliance to participate in the UN Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December. Sadly my attempts to find financial supporters have not been fruitful to date. Still I hope and pray for a breakthrough as I believe it is important for well informed Evangelical voices from around the world to speak into the forum.
I continue to consult via WhatsApp with a brother who was forced to flee to Kenya a few weeks ago.
I’m thankful for these opportunities to serve. I pray that these investments will bear fruit in ways that assure our forcibly displaced friends that God is with them and that he loves them.
I can’t let this day pass without thanking people like you that have encouraged, prayed for and supported IAFR during our first 10 years of ministry!
We registered as a nonprofit in Minnesota on 30 June 2009. At the time, I was filled with questions concerning where God would take us. All I knew was a clear sense of calling that it was time to establish an international mission designed for ministry in humanitarian space.
I look back today and see God’s fingerprints all over the journey.
How thankful I am to have the privilege of serving refugees since 1980!
Ilir and Kate Cami joined the IAFR team this month. They are no strangers as we served together many years ago. They’ve been serving refugees in Athens for more than 2 decades. Their joining IAFR will enable them to continue serving with a Greek nonprofit called One Heart – the Founder/Director of which I have also known for decades.
Ilir came to Greece as a refugee from Albania back in the 90s. He became a Christian there and later received a calling from God to serve refugees. Kate is originally from the US and met Ilir while serving refugees in Athens. Ilir is among the most passionate people I know when it comes to introducing people to Jesus. Kate brings organisation and stability to both their ministry and family.
I have also known Sahar, the founder/director of One Heart, for many years. Originally from Iran, she also came to Athens as a refugee and became a follower of Jesus there. She began serving refugees as a missionary shortly afterwards. Today, she not only provides leadership to One Heart. She and her husband (from the Netherlands) lead a Persian church in Athens that brings together about 100 people from Iran and Afghanistan for worship and mutual encouragement. Of course, Ilir and Kate are also supporting this fellowship.
IAFR is partnering with One Heart by sharing both missionaries and resources because we are pursuing the same vision with similar values and a common faith in Jesus.
Click here to learn more about this new IAFR ministry location!
It seems that there are seasons – and even days – when everything seems to come together and things finally break loose as hoped. Today was one of those days…
A missionary family ready to join our work in Lille, France, were refused their visa by the government in March. This lead to a flurry of activity and a new application (submitted with a lot of prayer). The family received word today that France granted them their visa! Whew! They have already sold their house and quite their jobs so they are ready to go. Thank you, Jesus!
I also received word from a family serving refugees in Greece that they want to apply to join IAFR in order to continue their ministry with an agency that understands this kind of work. You will hear more about them at a later date. Let it suffice to say now that they will be a wonderful addition to the IAFR team.
It was 10 years ago at this time of year when it became clear to me that it was time to move on from the mission with which I had served for 17 years, the last 15 of which I had served as Director of Refugee Ministries.
A US refugee resettlement agency was hiring a new Executive Director, so I applied for the job. To be honest, the idea of serving refugees without needing to raise personal support was quite appealing. While on a telephone interview with the board, an unmistakable sense of conviction washed over me. This was not the job to which God was calling me. I protested. “Why not?” But I knew that voice. It was to be trusted – and obeyed. I told the board that I was no longer a candidate. The call ended soon afterwards.
But what then?
I felt that God was calling me to work internationally with refugees. But I couldn’t find any mission agencies that had a focus on ministry among refugees internationally.
I asked a group of respected friends to help me navigate this stretch of my journey. I needed their prayers, counsel and advice. I remain most grateful to Wes, Bruce, Stephen, Allan, Dan and Jim for walking through this with me.
An unthinkable thought surfaced. “If it doesn’t exist perhaps you should start such a mission.” It was both persistent and disturbing. I tried my best to ignore it.
It was April of 2009 that the next milestone was reached. Friends serving refugees in Kenya invited Donna and I on a safari in Kenya (see photo) – a safari during which we imagined what a mission agency specifically designed for refugee ministry might look like.
While following rhinos, elephants, giraffe, lions and countless gazelles in the shadow of Africa’s second highest mountain, a vision was emerging. It seemed both far fetched and compelling.
The seed from which IAFR would soon grow had been planted.