Overwhelmed

I chatted (above) with an Iranian leader with whom we partner in Greece. Winter is setting in. Refugees in the camp are suffering from cold and lack of food. The team is doing what they can to help. A church in the Netherlands just shipped 7 tons of rice to the team. Last fall they shipped several tons of beans to the team.

Another IAFR teammate received a request for help in Mali, where there is a massive number of people internally displaced due to escalating violence. The needs are overwhelming. We have no presence there and no ability to help.

We do what we can, but it isn’t enough. This weighs heavily on us all.

Father in heaven – Father here with us, have mercy on these displaced friends. Hear their cries.

Happy New Year!

I took this photo last night as a snowstorm was dropping it’s last flakes. It was so beautiful and tranquil outside.

I wish I could say that I expect peace to reign in 2020. But as we approach the New Year, it is looking like it will be another stormy one.

Still we engage the growing global mess with hope and not despair. For we know that God is alive and well and that he is active and engaged in time and space – and that he is good.

So let’s lean into what’s coming while embracing our privilege and calling to partner with God in the redemption and renewal of all things.

Writing

I took the day off at home. It was snowing hard outside, blanketing the house in the cozy silence of winter. It was a perfect day to spend several hours channeling my memory through a keyboard and saving it in the cloud.

I am slowly writing down some of the stories from my life – to help me remember – and to pass them along to my children without gloss or embellishment. I am first seeking to capture key defining moments in my life.

Today I wrote down the rather strange story of how faith took root in my life – and how I learned that evil must yield to the authority of Jesus. The story goes something like this…

A life derailed – broken bones – a vision of sorts – a thirst awakened – revelation by dandelion – spiritual awakening – a witch – a rescue – a traffic violation – a life transformed.

If someone told me such a story, I would question its veracity. But I know it to be true. And this was just the beginning.

Feeling used

It was “open mic Sunday” at our church today. So I braced myself for the worst before heading inside.

Pastor Jenna invited people to share a way that God showed up in their lives this past year. A beautiful series of stories surfaced as brave souls raised their hands.

A sister in our church shared how hard it has been to re-enter life in the US after several years of ministry in South Africa. She then said God showed up this year when we met during our annual church retreat.

She recounted telling Donna and I about her struggle. Apparently we responded by saying that “it can be tough when everyone here is sure that it is great to be back“. That was it – the words she needed to hear at that time. She felt seen and understood.

That was a significant God moment for her this year. And neither Donna or I had a clue just how much that simple encounter meant to her until today.

I have to confess, it feels good to be used of God in someone’s life.

I wonder how often God uses you and me like that – without our ever knowing? I hope and pray it is often.

28 December 1985

This was 34 years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. I flew in from Austria a week or so before the wedding.

We flew back to Austria ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น about a month later and settled into our first home in the tiny village of Bad Kreuzen, Austria, where the streets have no names and the houses were numbered according to the order in which they were built. We lived in Nr. 80 for our first year. Our team office was in Nr. 3.

The castle ruins in town date back to the 900s. The village itself dates back to 1180. I lived in the Bad Kreuzen region from 1982 – 1995, during which time I pioneered ministry among refugees in the camp and local inns.

Merry Christmas ๐ŸŽ„

Donna and I pray that your Christmas was filled with joy and peace as you celebrated the birth of Jesus the Christ.

May God grant us all faith and courage as we determine to love mercy, do justly and walk humbly throughout the coming new year!

Justice, compassion and sacrifice

Justice without love is hatred by another name. Dressing hatred in the mental trappings of justice leaves us feeling both right and powerful. This renders it toxic.

Compassion without justice is corruption. Clothing corruption in robes of compassion leaves us feeling both good and loving. Yet it is poisonous.

Words are powerful. A slight twist in meaning can lead to violence and death at the hands of people convinced they ride a white stallion.

When justice and mercy complete one another they beget sacrifice not attack.

—–

Father in heaven, let your justice and compassion flow into our hearts and through our lives. Let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Place

Falingi (above with flag in hand) became an American today along with 731 other people from 81 different countries of origin.

This is a big deal, because Falingi has been a refugee for most of his life. Unchecked violence made his homeland uninhabitable. As he was without parents, his uncle took him into his family. I met them over 10 years ago in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi – among the world’s poorest nations.

Dzaleka was a political prison before it was turned into a refugee camp in 1994 (in response to a wave of refugees fleeing genocide in Rwanda). Life is hard in Dzaleka.

Above: Dzaleka refugee camp. There are 40,000 Falingis in Dzaleka today.

This is why refugee resettlement to countries like the USA is so important. It offers people like Falingi a chance to regain place in the world and rebuild his life.

It is a travesty that the US has slashed refugee resettlement numbers from an average of 75,000/year to just 18,000 this year.

I spoke with several of the new US citizens today. They were so happy and so proud. Like Falingi, they want to work hard and be a net contributor to society.

In there eyes I saw an America that gave me hope and inspiration.

Death on the highway

My heart is heavy. I received tragic news this week from a pastor/friend in Kakuma, Kenya. A soccer game in the refugee camp went wrong. Ethnic fighting broke out leaving six refugees dead.

Kakuma is around 60 miles from the border of Kenya and South Sudan. Years of ethnic violence plagues South Sudan. It is no surprise that such outbursts would happen in the camp that is host to tribes that are at war with each other just over the border.

Hopelessness doesn’t help. Many of our friends in Kakuma have been there for decades with no hope of ever leaving. Yet as refugee camps are temporary by definition, neither can they stay forever. The resulting emotional stress is impossible for people like you and I to comprehend – unless you’ve experienced it firsthand yourself.

Add to the stress of having no place in the world, insufficient food rations, restrictions on movement, rationed water, hostile climate, overcrowded schools, etc. and it is a wonder that more such violence doesn’t occur.

May God use the refugee church in Kakuma to help bring reconciliation and restore peace and safety to the camp. Amen.

YMCA

I met Henry Crosby today. He’s the Sr. Director of Social Responsibility at the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities this morning. We met at the Y’s Equity and Innovation Center in downtown Minneapolis. A friend from a past church brought us together. I’m glad she did.

I was so impressed with Henry and the Y’s Equity Center. God knows our city needs the kind of services they offer with the aim of bringing people together. I really appreciate the heart, passion and humility of the Y’s staff.

The Y’s New Americans program is an initiative that is helping refugees and asylum seekers and other migrants find their feet and their place in our society. I’m hoping our local Jonathan House residents will one day benefit from some of their programs!

I discovered that Henry lives near my childhood home in Golden Valley! We’re around the same age so we took a brief detour down memory lane talking about a place in which we share history. Once again Inexperienced how shared place is a powerful connecting force between people.

Sone unlikely threads came together today – a friend from a former church, Golden Valley and a concern for the welfare of displaced people. That was special. And it just might lead to mutual blessing down the road.