A milestone

I am humbled and filled with thanksgiving for God’s faithful provision for IAFR ministry in 2018. It is the first year IAFR has received over $1 million in donations. I thank God for every person, church, foundation and business that has partnered with us in this way.

While donations are not an end in themselves, they are an important means toward our being able to accomplish our mission in the world – to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.

Our global reach and impact are directly related to our financial base. Therefore I celebrate this encouraging milestone. πŸŽ‰

Greece calling

A leader of a well established refugee ministry in Greece reached out to IAFR this past week to begin exploring the possibility of a close ministry partnership that would include IAFR sending missionaries and resources – basically relating to their organisation as we do our IAFR teams.

This seems to be a promising possibility, so I’m looking at my calendar to find time to pay them a visit this spring. It is important to see their work, understand their context and talk this over in more detail.

Would you please pray with us as we consider this together?

IRT

Photo: Sunrise in Minnesota today

I’m at a retreat center 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities this week, meeting with the executive leadership of IAFR Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ We call the meetings of IAFR executive leadership from the US and Canada our International Round Table (IRT).

They are in the final stages of establishing their organizational systems and will soon be ready to fully engage in ministry among refugees internationally.

While IAFR Canada is an autonomous mission agency, we share a common mission and operations values – so we work closely together toward that end.

While there is a lot of confusion and debate going on in the world concerning refugees, it is good to be together this week working on ways that bring hope and solutions to our uprooted friends.

We are up close and personal with refugees and asylum seekers in many parts of the world and we can testify that there is no need to fear them. There is good reason to partner with them in finding solutions to their displacement. That is where we are putting our time and energy.

Look out world 🌎

Fuel ⛽️

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.

Canada’s coming!

Among the highlights of 2018 was the registration of IAFR Canada, an autonomous mission agency that shares the vision, mission and values of IAFR and with whom we partner closely.

In order to strengthen our partnership, my Executive VP (Tim Barnes) and I meet monthly with our peers at IAFR Canada via video conference and twice a year face-to-face. Our first such meeting will be this week, at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center, about 30 minutes south of Minneapolis.

We’ve got a robust agenda as we anticipate a year that is likely to include new IAFR ministry sites in Iraq, Lebanon, Uganda, Italy (Ventimiglia) and Canada (Winnipeg). As IAFR CA just got it’s charity number in August, we will be discussing how we can continue to set up expectations, systems and agreements that help us partner well together as we seek to enable the church to help people survive and recover from forced displacement in the world.

Anyone who’s engaged in close international partnerships knows that they are more complicated than they first appear. I’m thankful for the highly experienced people that God has brought to the IAFR table. But we still need your prayers for wisdom and discernment as we meet.

Celebrating 33 Years

Photo: Donna and I outside of the place where we first met in Gablitz (near Vienna in the Wienerwald). We were able to visit Austria this year. It was the first time we’ve been back together since we relocated to the US in 2003. We weren’t sure we would be able to find this house again – but we did!

Although it isn’t until tomorrow, we’re celebrating our 33rd anniversary today by going out for a nice meal together in downtown Minneapolis..

We first met back in the summer of 1982. I was working in a refugee camp in the tiny village of Bad Kreuzen, 100 miles upstream from Vienna on the Danube river.

Donna had come to Austria with the summer missions program of Slavic Gospel Association to smuggle Bibles into what was then known as the “East Bloc” – Communist countries that were under the strong influence of what was then the Soviet Union.

I drove down to Vienna to help the summer workers settle into the former Jaegerhaus in Gablitz.

I still remember when I saw her first – on the back steps of the Haus. Whether you believe in it or not, it was love at first sight.

It took a year or so before we began dating by airmail between Bad Kreuzen and Columbia, Missouri. For years, we feverishly wrote letters back and forth on the thinnest paper known to man.

I finally proposed in 1984 during a Colorado ski trip with my family (they encouraged me to invite Donna). We timed our wedding around plans for me to go to seminary in 1985. We would marry during Christmas break.

Although those seminary plans fell through, our wedding plans did not. We married in Kansas City, took our honeymoon in the Collegiate Peaks of Colorado, and then settled into our first home in the lush rolling hills of the province of Upper Austria, in early 1986.

The rest is history :

Friendship

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.

Leaders

Leaders need encouragement and support.

I spent a good part of this week meeting with IAFR leaders for that purpose – and to discuss priorities for the coming year.

I am thankful for Paul who supports our ministry leaders in Europe, and Jake who supports our ministry leaders serving East Africa and Sarah who supports our ministry leaders in the USA. I am also grateful for Rachel, who is focused on developing our refugee ministry training that is an important engine in the movement of God in the world today.

They do not get paid more to take on leadership responsibility. The idea of working for money isn’t a concern they have. They lead and serve because of a deeply rooted burden that demands that they do so. They are pursuing a mission and a vision, not a paycheck or notoriety.

There are not many people like them.

It is a joy and privilege to serve and support them as we pursue our common calling.