You might be surprised by some of the requests we get from our refugee friends. This request came via WhatsApp this morning – it’s for a Bible Dictionary. It’s a demonstration of the critical role faith plays in the lives of displaced people. Sometimes a Bible Dictionary is more valuable than food.
Nicholas Gagai sent the message. He is a strategic full-time worker living and serving with our refugee partners in Kakuma refugee camp. He’s Kenyan and ended up in Kakuma after fleeing post election violence in the country back in 2008.
He serves as the director of KISOM (the refugee established School of Mission) as well as the director of their interdenominational Refugee Youth Ministry.
You can financially partner with Nicholas in his strategic ministry by clicking here.
Photo: Nicholas Gagai in Kakuma
The IAFR “Service Team” came to the Minnesota office last week for our annual assessment and planning sessions. We are a decentralized team, with two in Peoria, IL, two more in Grand Rapids, MI, and four of us here in the Twin Cities. While we get a lot done working remotely and leveraging Zoom video conferencing, we occasionally need to meet face to face for more in-depth assessment and decision-making.
A highlight of our meetings last week was the shared conviction that the Service Team measures our success by the effectiveness of our missionaries in the field, who in turn, measure their effectiveness by their life-giving impact in the lives of refugees where they serve.
I thank God for the privilege of working alongside of these devoted colleagues!
The Service Team includes IAFR’s…
- US Regional Leader – supporting our teams in Colorado, Georgia, and Minnesota
- Director of Training – both internal missionary training and external training opportunities for other missions and churches
- Our Director or Project Management – assisting with the development of new projects and tracking active projects
- Assistant Director of Operations – assisting the Executive VP, primarily with mobilisation
- Executive Team Assistant – assisting the President and Executive VP as needed
- Executive Vice President – Overseeing Finance, HR, Service Team
- President – Overseeing Regional Leader support, IAFR US – IAFR Canada collaboration, Board Development, Development, Publications, Website, engagement with World Evangelical Alliance
- Director of Social Media – she’s presently in training and raising support. We hope to see her active by early 2020
I begin another trip to Kakuma refugee camp in remote northwestern Kenya today. I am looking forward to seeing how our friends there are doing. I’m taking three people with me, including Jenna (a pastor from my church), Wendy (on staff with a local refugee resettlement agency) and Paul (IAFR’s Europe Regional Leader).
We’ve got a full schedule that includes…
- A day seminar on Christian Stewardship with leaders from churches in Kakuma camp and surrounding host community. This is at their request.;
- Sunday worship with churches in the camp and surrounding host community;
- A 2 day women’s ministry conference with women from the camp and host community;
- A day gathering of a diverse slice of people living in the camp to learn from them about daily life in Kakuma;
- A day gathering with church leaders in nearby Kalobeyei refugee settlement to deepen our relationships as so much of our previous time has focused on projects;
- A visit with our friends and partners in the nearby camp for internally displaced people (i.e. Kenyans) with whom we have been building shelter and working on providing a local supply of clean water;
- Visits with friends in the refugee camps, the IDP camp, and the host community;
- Documenting progress on the many projects we are pursuing in the Kakuma context (i.e. IDP Water Project, IDP Shelter Project, KISOM School Building Project, Refugee Youth Camp Project, Refugee/IDP High School Scholarship Project, Refugee Church Building Project)
It’s important to note that we never do more than 50% of the teaching/speaking at conferences/seminars with our refugee brothers and sisters as we have at least as much to learn from them as they do from us.
We need and welcome your prayers for safe travels, good health, and fruitful ministry while in Kenya!
I plan to post a few updates from Kakuma to the IAFR Kenya blog – so be sure to check it out. You can also see posts from previous visits.
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.
Father, please fill us with the knowledge of your will,
giving us spiritual wisdom and understanding
so that the way we live always honors and pleases Jesus
and our good works bear good fruit
and our relationship with you grows deeper and deeper.
May we be strengthened by your glorious power
so that we persevere with endurance, patience and joy with thanksgiving
for you have enabled us to share in the inheritance of the saints living in light.
Based on Colossians 1:9-12
While reading from Colossians 1 this morning, I was reminded how we can help shape each other’s spiritual formation through intercession. So I remixed Paul’s prayer a bit and put it on a digital sticky note. I have already found it helpful in moving me to pray more consistently for my IAFR teammates.
People sometimes ask how they can best pray for missionaries. I find this prayer a good place to start. I welcome your prayers for me along these lines!
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 church is complaining a lot about your absence in Makawi for a very long time!!
This came via WhatsApp today from a refugee pastor and friend named Olivier. He and his family have been in Dzaleka refugee camp for a long long time.
We often keep in touch via WhatsApp – often just a “hello” or an accusatory “did you forget me?” starts a brief interaction.
No one likes being forgotten – especially during a prolonged period of uncertainty and suffering.
He sent me a bunch of photos of his church worshipping in the camp. It is good to see them – and to seem them making due with their roofless church building for now. We hope to help them solve that challenge soon.
Thankfully, two of my IAFR colleagues visit Pastor Olivier in Dzaleka at least twice each year. So he knows he isn’t forgotten by us.
As I already travel to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya an average of 3 times per year, I just don’t have the bandwidth to add a visit to Malawi. Although I am hoping to somehow find a way to get there in 2020.
A variety of calls and messages from missionaries and refugees in Kenya, Greece, Costa Rica and Uganda lit up my WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger yesterday.
A family from Costa Rica updated me concerning their ministry among refugees from the Middle East passing through their country. They had been quite sick earlier in the week and were struggling to find the strength to serve refugees. They wanted me to know that God was answering prayers and that they were feeling better.
A Somali refugee mother in Kakuma refugee camp wanted to know if the rumors in the camp about the US opening up again to refugees were true. I had to tell her the bad news that nothing has changed on this end of the refugee highway. The door to the US is all but closed.
Meanwhile a missionary (and former refugee from Iran) connected with me via Facebook Messenger to ask for prayer concerning a series of difficult decisions before her related to the growing ministry in Athens. It seems no matter how she proceeds, there will be pain.
While I was chatting with her, another refugee/missionary started messaging me from Uganda. He’s originally from DR Congo and is a Christian leader in the refugee settlement he calls home. Someone has falsely accused him of being a Rwandan spy pretending to be a church leader. The accusation has been published to an online news source. Such an accusation puts his life in danger.
Meanwhile another refugee from Kakuma started messaging me. I know him from the annual refugee youth camp there, as he is one of the leaders. He’s been suffering from debilitating headaches for 3 years. He missed this year’s youth camp due to headaches. The camp hospital seems unable to help. He doesn’t know what to do.
The day ended at 11:30 PM with a series of WhatsApp texts from a dynamic young Christian from Iran who just wanted to say hi.
Just another Friday…
Photo: the Kakuma airstrip
I packed my bags today as it is time to head back to Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya). You can follow my trip by visiting the Kenya blog. You can also see posts and photos and videos from previous visits.
This month’s trip has a lot going on – everything from theological training to following up on a school building project to checking on progress of an well/water project.
While I don’t relish the thought of going from 0 F to 100+ F in the coming days, I do look forward to reconnecting with friends and church leaders in Kakuma.