Today was my monthly video conference meeting with IAFR Regional Leaders supporting our ministries in Africa, Europe and the USA – plus our Director of Training (photo).
It was encouraging to hear our Europe Regional Leader (Paul Sydnor) report on the annual Europe Round Table of the Refugee Highway Partnership, with which he serves as part of the core leadership team.
I asked why people go to the Round Table and he quickly said: “It’s for encouragement and networking with like minded Christians serving refugees. There is nothing else like these Round Tables that brought together over 250 people serving refugees in 26 different countries in Europe this year.“
IAFR missionaries have played a key role in launching the Refugee Highway Partnership and in helping it gain momentum over the years. We feel this is an important part of our mission – to strengthen such networks. For we know our vision and mission is bigger than we can ever hope to accomplish on our own.
Our US Regional Leader (Sarah Miller) then debriefed her recent research trip along the US southern border. We are prayerfully discerning how God might use IAFR to help people there survive and recover from forced displacement.
It’s not easy to get around a refugee camp that covers 12 square miles with a population of over 160,000 – many of whom have been stuck there for decades. That’s the situation in Kakuma refugee camp, in remote northwestern Kenya.
So it is understandable that our friends there would ask if we could help them get bicycles for 15 of the key leaders of an association of 162 churches in the camp and surrounding host community. The request came by WhatsApp this morning.
We’ve worked together for a decade and I know the need is legit. I wrote up a project proposal for our board’s consideration at our meeting later this month.
15 bicycles @ $180/bike = $2,700
The bikes they want are called “Buffalo bicycles”, presumably because they’re tough. I’ve seen them in the camp where the roads are rough and unkempt. It’s pretty much an off-road bicycleland.
Each bike will be used to connect, encourage, equip and assist churches throughout the camp and in the host community (in which living conditions aren’t much better than in the camp).
I’m hoping and praying that we can come up with the funding quickly.
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.
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.