He was originally from Somalia, but when things fell apart there, he was forced to flee to Kenya. He spent something like 25 years in Kakuma refugee camp. No wonder he calls it home. And that’s where we got to know each other. I always looked forward to visiting him when I was in Kakuma.
A few years ago he was resettled to the US and now lives about 25 minutes from my home in Minneapolis. I think we both thought that we would see a lot more of each other here. But it turns out we are both pretty busy with life. It was nice yesterday when we finally managed to meet for a long overdue cup of tea followed by lunch at his favorite local Somali restaruant.
Our conversation went all over the place as we caught up together. But there was a recurring theme: “We’ve got to do something to bring our people together here.”
He’s right. I know people from “my world” that are afraid of Somali people. He knows people in “his world” that feel rejected and even hated by people here. We agreed that if this continues, it will not lead to anything good.
It is challenging to try and bring our different worlds together. But when we think less in terms of the masses and more in terms of our friends it becomes doable. Still, even bringing our friends together is likely to prove difficult – mostly because people are so busy and spread apart. We will still give it a try.
I’m going to start by connecting with the growing group of friends here who have traveled with me to Kakuma.
If we can spread a table and bring our worlds together a few lives at a time, the false assumptions, fears and distance between us might just begin to fall away. And that just might help usher in a day when our worlds become one.
A group of churches in Jakarta (Indonesia) asked IAFR to meet with them on a Zoom conference call this past week. They have all found themselves engaging in refugee ministry and feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. The purpose of the call was to bring them together for the first time around this issue – and to get some perspective from IAFR. Rachel Uthmann (IAFR Director of Training) and I had the privilege of meeting with them for a couple of hours.
I was encouraged to hear how these churches are doing what they can to help asylum-seekers survive while in Jakarta. As Indonesia is not a signer of the UN Convention on Refugees, the situation for asylum seekers and refugees is extremely tenuous. They are not legally allowed to work and they are technically not supposed to be in country. Yet there are an estimated 14,000 women, children and men seeking refuge there. Most are from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but there are also refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea ,Somalia and other countries.
Churches are hosting refugee fellowships, teaching English, helping with food and housing, and sharing the gospel with them. They are struggling with identifying a clear goal for their ministries as there doesn’t seem to be an option for refugees to stay or for them to move on. There isn’t a pathway for them to legalize their status and rebuild their lives. They are stuck in survival mode.
What does it look like for local churches to minister to such people in the long term?
The convener of the call asked IAFR if we would consider coming to Jakarta to meet with churches there and offer some basic training. Indeed we are.
A young man in a Middle East war zone asked a friend of his living in Central America if he knew of any trustworthy friends in a country in North Africa. He plans to flee there soon.
The friend in Central America messaged me last night to ask if I know of any such brothers and sisters. I reached out to some friends in the North African country and am waiting to hear back.
The church is a remarkable global community.
I pray there is a brother that will be able to meet this young man when he arrives in search of refuge.
Photo: Rob Hoskins talking about missions and social change at Celebration Church in Georgetown, TX.
It was a privilege to be part of a Missions Roundtable of mission leaders from mega churches in the US. They meet regularly to explore what missions looks like in the 21st Century.
I learned a lot as I listened to them share their vision and challenges related to promoting and engaging their members in missions effectively.
I’m thankful to Rob Hoskins of One Hope for inviting me to share and be sure refugee ministry was on their radar. Their response and affirmation was encouraging. We will see where God takes this from here.
I leave the green grass of Georgetown, Texas, for the snow of Minnesota on a red eye flight tomorrow. My 3:00 AM alarm is set so I’d best catch some sleep before it goes off…
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.
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?
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.
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.
Photo: This morning’s speaker (Dr. Sam George, Lausanne Movement) at the COMIBAM gathering
It’s been a rich couple of days here in Costa Rica. I’ve been so impressed with how God is moving in churches and missions in Latin America concerning refugees.
I’ve met with a guy who has networked with Christians from Panama to Canada to help the church show up in the lives of refugees and migrants on the move in Central America.
I’ve reconnected with a friend from Brazil who leads a ministry that serves refugees in the country, assists refugees with resettlement to Brazil and that is serving refugees in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
I heard how a mission in Argentina has a vision “One Church, One Family” that is connecting churches with refugee families in ways that offer a welcome, extend community, and assistance with integration.
…and that is just a small sample of what these brothers and sisters are doing.
I had the privilege of speaking last night about the unique role of the church in helping refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. I’ve also been give 4x 1 hour small group sessions to introduce the work of IAFR, the Refugee Highway Partnership and World Evangelical Alliance to folks here as resources to support them as they seek the welfare of refugees.
Can you tell I’m encouraged?
I spent a good part of today trying to trim everything that I could say down to what I can say in 45 minutes (including translation).
I found pencil and notepad more helpful in the creative process than keyboard and monitor.
I know I still need to do some trimming before heading to San Jose on Wednesday morning. I speak Thursday evening. Prayers welcome 🙏🏻
A Tooth Story 🦷
I also went to the dentist to get my permanent crown set into place today. The procedure was a bit more challenging than anyone anticipated as the temporary crown did not want to leave my mouth. Once they got it extracted, the permanent crown didn’t want to go in. A lot of whirring and buzzing and sanding down a neighboring wisdom tooth was needed before it finally agreed to take up its place. My mouth is still recovering.