Annual Board Meeting

I am thankful for the dedicated Board of Directors that stands behind everything IAFR does. I’ve heard some peers speak in terms of fear and trepidation when they plan their board meetings. I thank God for the team of Directors who may not always agree with me or one another, but who unquestionably have the good of IAFR in mind in all they do.

While we meet monthly through online video conferencing, September is the month when we have our Annual face-to-face Board Meeting here in Minnesota.

Our first board meeting was held outside of a Famous Dave’s restaurant in Minneapolis back in 2009, so we will maintain tradition and start off our Annual Board Meeting weekend with an informal meal by Dave’s in our porch on Friday evening.

We will then convene at the IAFR office all day Saturday. We will assess the past year of ministry, solve some challenges and take care of necessary business. This is not the shiny part of the work – but it is ever so important as the board assures we are faithfully pursuing our God-given mission of helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.

I welcome your prayers as I make final preparations for the weekend – and for the Saturday board meeting itself.

Save the date

15 NOVEMBER 2019

You might want to be in the Twin Cities that evening. There is going to be a celebration 🎉

Curious? There just might be a helpful clue in my preceding post.

Be sure you are signed up for IAFR emails (just go to www.iafr.org and click the sign up link) for more details!

IAFR Conference

Most of the IAFR team converged on Minnesota for a few days to retreat together this past week. It was a rich time of reconnecting, worship and learning. I am so grateful to be part of this amazing fellowship of the Highway.

The Geek Hat

One of the challenges of pioneering a new organization or starting a new business is the need to wear many different hats.

Earlier this month I put on my geek hat as I migrated IAFR’s email accounts from one service provider to another. The trick in doing something like that is to pull it off without losing too many emails along the way.

I was on a big learning curve, but pushed the button and migrated everything over the July 4th holiday. There were a few bumps, but nothing too serious was lost in the process.

Perhaps the most painful bump was related to one of our most important email accounts – finance@iafr.org – through which donors contact us as well as our missionaries concerning all things related to funding. We seem to have lost about a week’s worth of email between 3 – 10 July.

I feel pretty helpless in ever being able to recover those emails and I truly hope no serious issues result from it.

The good news is that everything is running smoothly again.

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I want to give Microsoft for Nonprofits a big shoutout as they accepted us into their nonprofit program and are giving us Microsft Office 365 and email services at significantly discounted prices. It is an unbelievable service to young growing nonprofits like IAFR!

10

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!

IAFR Canada 🇨🇦

I spent the past few days in Toronto meeting with the executive leadership of IAFR Canada. We meet face to face twice annually in order to invest in our relationship, assess progress and challenges, listen to God and confirm our commitment to partnering internationally as we pursue our common mission.

We ended our time together last night gathered in the backyard of one of the board members for a tasty supper of Lebanese kebabs (photo).

It was encouraging to have met some of their new teammates as well as sit in on their board meeting. It is a joy and privilege to be serving together along the Refugee Highway.

Dignity and hope

You guys are all about restoring dignity and hope to people.”

That’s what a professional consultant and marketer told me after spending six hours together with him and a handful of friends last weekend. They had come to hear about the ministry of IAFR. After a 30-45 minute overview, they pummeled us with questions about refugee realities and what the work looks like on the ground. It was so encouraging.

It was clear the consultant/marketing guy was running all we said through his filters as he tried to identify IAFR’s unique contribution to the world of refugee response. And I think he nailed it.

Human dignity and hope are no small thing,
just ask someone who has lost them.

He also offered to help us sharpen our communication about the mission and impact of IAFR. I look forward to taking him up on it.

Humanitarian space

I often describe the mission field in which we work as “humanitarian space”. Its no surprise that people struggle to understand what I mean, so I thought I’d use this blog to try and clarify.

This will likely be the first pondering of many on this subject. Hopefully it will become clear that missions in humanitarian space is not missions as usual. Missions is about contextualization and failure to understand the unique mission field of humanitarian space has ramifications.

IAFR was founded with this as a core conviction – the church belongs in humanitarian space. She has a vital, unique and essential role to play in the lives of forcibly displaced people. But the church at large has been slow to recognize that its mission includes humanitarian space. I’ll come back to this later. For now, let me try and describe what I mean by humanitarian space…

Humanitarian space is created to save lives. It is a space created in response to humanitarian crisis. It offers a safe place (refuge) to forcibly displaced people.

It is a created space. It is not a natural place. It only exists when people offer it to those in need. It has to be carved out of existing places. That is no easy task. Whether inhabited or not, we love our places and do not easily open them up to others – especially to people who are not like us. It is not easy to create space for others within the places we call our own.

It is supposed to be a temporary space, opening up as a refuge and then closing once the affected people can move on – ideally returning to their homes. In cases that do not offer the option of returning home, it offers refuge until some other kind of solution is made available – a solution that offers people place again.

But what happens when humanitarian space is needed for decades? What happens to people who are restricted to such space for generations? What happens to people who cannot return home and who are given no other option but to call humanitarian space their home? What happens to the hundreds of thousands of children born in humanitarian space and who have never known what it means to be from a place? What happens to children who see their father die in a refugee camp after spending 41 years in humanitarian space as did my friend Pastor Nomani?

I strongly caution my brothers and sisters to not set foot into humanitarian space before having contemplated such questions.