I updated this 1 minute 35 second media presentation today as I’ll be speaking in Texas (Georgetown) in February and something like this might be a helpful opener or closer. There is also a version of the same images and content that moves quicker and lasts 1 minute 15 seconds. You are most welcome to download it or share these with others using their links.
Pastor Gatera’s parents were forced to flee Burundi back in 1972 when war broke out in the region. They were refugees in Rwanda when he was born. Although everyone identifies him as a Burundian even today, he’s never lived there.
I guess it is possible to be from a place we’ve never been.
The 1994 genocide forced him to take flight again. He was separated from his parents in the midst of the violence and chaos. He found refuge in eastern Congo. But war and violence followed him there too…
He was in the middle of his sophomore year of high school when he fled to Tanzania. He tried to resume his studies in the refugee camp there. But the political winds in Tanzania changed and refugees were no longer tolerated. They were to return back to their countries of origin. As strange as it may sound, for him it would mean returning to a place he’d never been.
He knew that was not safe, so he took to the bush and walked over 300 miles (off road so that he would not be caught and arrested) to neighboring Kenya. He was in need of safe shelter and didn’t know where to turn. So he went to a police station and asked to spend the night in the jail. You can imagine their surprise. Thankfully, they came up with a better option.
His first request for refuge was denied in Kenya. The authorities thought he should “return” to Burundi – a place they said he was from, although he had never been there.
He decided to make his way to Kakuma refugee camp in the remote northwest corner of Kenya. Because he was not recognized as a refugee, he was not legally supposed to be in the camp. But he saw no other option.
A refugee church took him in. They cared for him for the next three years. They helped him find shelter and shared their food rations with him. It was during this time in his life that he embraced Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
He says that Jesus completely changed his outlook on his life – past, present and future.
He ultimately received formal refugee status in Kenya and was able to live legally in the camp. It was there that he met his wife (from Rwanda) and raised their three children. He also served as a refugee pastor and gained widespread respect throughout the refugee, NGO and local community.
He was instrumental in the flourishing of an association of churches from within the refugee and surrounding host community. It continues to serve as a powerful force for good today. It is with this Association (United Refugee and Host Churches) that IAFR partners in Kakuma today. They are over 160 churches strong.
After 20 years in the camp, he and his family were resettled to the USA in the fall of 2016. Today he is a missionary with IAFR.
If you ask him,”Where are you from?“, he is likely to say he is from Burundi. A place to which he’s never been.
Is it really possible? -to be from a place we’ve never been?
If I read my Bible correctly, those of us who follow Jesus are citizens of the kingdom of God. It is a citizenship that transcends all other identities we might carry. It is a kingdom more real than any other. It is a kingdom coming. I guess I too am from a place I have not yet been.
Would you like to become a financial partner with Pastor Gatera and his remarkable ministry with IAFR? If so, it’s easy! Just click here and make an online donation today.
I picked up website design skills over the years and serve as IAFR’s webmaster. I had the joy of adding 3 IAFR projects to the website yesterday – all part of our work in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi.
All three projects make a significant contribution to a person’s ability to recover from forced displacement.
The Vocational Training Project helps people develop practical skills and abilities that are likely to lead toward meaningful employment.
The Refugee Scholarship Project is helping disadvantaged people qualify for meaningful employment and increases their potential to become social influencers for good.
The Small Business Venture Project is helping people start businesses that will help them survive and make ends meet. These businesses can change the future trajectory of a family.
We’ve already seen how these projects make a tremendous life-giving difference in people’s lives.
We are now opening up the possibility for more people to share in the joy of making such a meaningful difference in the lives of the people in Dzaleka.
Learn more at www.IAFR.org/projects
I end this day with a heart filled with gratitude for our generous IAFR partners – individuals, churches, businesses and foundations – that make this ministry possible.
IAFR is a vehicle helping people survive and recover from forced displacement. And our partners are the ones putting fuel in the tank so we can show up along the Refugee Highway in life-giving ways.
Photo: a woodland trail near our home that I frequent. Taken at a warmer time of year.
We may not know what awaits us in the New Year, but we have recently celebrated “God with Us”, and that is enough to keep moving forward with hearts full of anticipation and hope in both good and hard times.
Photo: hydro geological survey results
I spent part of the day reading over a hydro-geological survey that ends with this chart pointing to a promising borehole site in Kakuma, Kenya.
This is the crucial step before drilling down over 1 football field deep in hopes of finding plentiful drinkable water.
And that water will ultimately be pumped to an IDP Camp several miles away where over 2000 internally displaced people (mostly women and children) live without a local source of water.
Drilling could start before the year runs out! What a wonderful end to the year!
Click here to learn more about this project!
After assessing a pile of Christmas cards, I made this. I find myself imagining how different the world would be if these words marked our lives. From what the prophet wrote, it is in everybody’s best interest to look out for the needs of those who are most vulnerable.
Photo: Bruce and Janet McNicol with Donna and I today sitting on our “Wes and Judy Roberts Memorial Sofa”.
We got an unexpected text last night. Bruce and Janet McNicol were in town and wanted to see if we were free to connect. Indeed we were.
It was really good to reconnect with them in our home this afternoon.
We were first introduced to each other by our friend Wes Roberts sometime between 1995-1996. Bruce was working on some life-changing training with Bill Thrall and John Lynch. They had founded the Leadership Catalyst. Ascent of a Leader, TrueFaced and The Cure are a few of the books they’ve published over the years. The Heart of Man movie 🍿 is a penetrating expression of some of their work (although is wont be easy for you, you MUST see it! – it’s available on Netflix).
Bruce is one of the few men who have left a permanent mark on my life for good. I’m not the same person I was because our lives crossed back then. Thank God.
I hope God has graced your life with a Bruce too.
Photo: Stephen and Tim heading into the sunrise to find breakfast this morning
I’m thankful for the chance to have had breakfast with Tim Barnes and Stephen Freed this morning. They are two of the finest people and leaders I’ve served with in my 38 years of ministry.
Friendship is essential to life.