Trauma Care connections

I thought it would be a 1 hour conference call. But conversation with like-minded brothers and sisters is precious. Two hours went by before we put the final amen on the call.

I first met David Schupack in 2001. He participated in the first Consultation of the Refugee Highway – a gathering in Izmir, Turkey, that launched what is now known as the Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP). He is working with a team of trauma care providers serving refugees in San Diego.

Rene, Nicole, Samantha and David share a deep love for refugees and a passion to serve them in life-giving ways in the name of Jesus. Although most of us met today for the first time, it wasn’t long before we all felt like we’ve been serving on the same team for years.

David heard me present the IAFR Continuum of Recovery last summer at the annual North American Refugee Highway Round Table. He has since found it a very helpful framework for developing their ministry and training in San Diego.

Image: The IAFR Continuum of Response

How encouraging to know that the tools we are developing are resonating in other ministry contexts and helping people and churches engage people in ways that help them survive and recover from forced displacement!

Two new projects

The IAFR.org website is the front door of our mission. It’s where most people first meet us and discover the unique ways that we are helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up website design skills. That has been an asset to IAFR as I design and maintain our site at no cost. Nevertheless, at some point we need to find someone else to take this part of our ministry on.

Today I had the joy of adding 2 new IAFR projects to our website.

NICHOLAS GAGAI – STRATEGIC WORKER (Kakuma)

Photo: Nicholas Gagai

The first project invites people and churches to consider supporting our first “strategic worker” – a Kenyan serving full-time with our refugee partner agency, United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC). I’ve known Nicholas Gagai since IAFR began working in Kakuma refugee camp (2011).For $375/month, he can be fully supported. Click here to learn more about him and the opportunity of supporting his work through IAFR.

SECONDARY SCHOOL REFUGEE SCHOLARSHIPS (Kakuma)

Photo: 3 of the 5 girls learn about their scholarships in Kakuma (4/2018)

In January, National Presbyterian Church (Washington D.C.) asked us if we would partner with them to scholarship 5 refugee girls through secondary school in Kenya. They were ready to commit the funds ($5,500 per girl for 4 years of secondary school).

While IAFR has invested in educational scholarships in Dzaleka refugee camp (Malawi), we had not yet done so in Kakuma (Kenya). After consulting with our NGO partner, National Council of Churches Kenya, we were ready to commit.

I’m praying that God would move people to commit to sponsoring another 5 girls through secondary school by April 2019.

Click here to learn more about this new scholarship opportunity.

Leadership development

Once a month I bring IAFR Regional Leaders together via online video conferencing to give ministry updates, share learning and strengthen basic leadership skills. We will focus on strategic planning this morning.

I’m thankful for the regional leadership provided by Paul Sydnor (Europe), Sarah Miller (USA) and Jake Tornga (East Africa) as they support our teams and ministries in these areas of the world. Rachel Uthmann also joins our monthly conference calls as she serves as IAFR US Director of Church Training – a service that benefits all IAFR regions.

We expect a lot from these leaders. The health and effectiveness of our missionaries and ministry locations is directly linked to them.  And so we must intentionally encourage and develop their capacities.

I thank God for the faithful financial and prayer partners that support our leadership.

Service Opportunities

Like every Monday morning, I checked in today with my Executive VP (Tim Barnes) and then the IAFR Service Team to review our priorities for the week.

Among other things, we realized the need to make known some key service opportunities with IAFR, including helping with…

  • Social Media
  • Publications
  • Graphic design
  • Webmaster

These are all important organisational capacities needed for us to advance our mission.

After putting together job descriptions and requirements, we will advertise these needs/opportunities on our website.

Please pray with us that suitable people would join with the IAFR team to serve in these important capacities!

Economics of refuge

The average refugee becomes a net fiscal contributor just eight years after arriving [in America].”

-From asylum-seeker to taxpayer, The Economist, April 21st 2018.

While we shouldn’t have to make economic arguments in order to justify assisting desperate people fleeing war, persecution and oppression, it is still worth noting that it is wrong to assume that refugees are a drag on the host economy.

Still, the myth that refugees are a long-term financial burden persists in the minds of many.

How can we overcome such misunderstandings?

Refugee pastor

So happy that Northwood Community Church (Maple Grove, MN) invited Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera to speak during their worship services today!

Pastor Gatera spent 20 years in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. While there, Gatera was the point person for IAFR’s partnership with an association of refugee churches called United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC).

In 2017, Pastor Gatera joined to serve full time with IAFR. He is presently focused on building a team of financial partners.

Just let me know if you’d like to meet Pastor Gatera or if you are interested in financially partnering with him.

Talking soup…

My wife and I met two young ladies after church today. One is a poet/writer and the other is starting a new job as a recruiter. They made the mistake of asking what we do.

They were curious about my work as a missionary among refugees. I shared with them the need for humanitarian help to keep people physically alive – but that there is also a pressing need to keep hope alive among refugees. For people who are alive without hope may well wish they were dead.

As it was fresh on my mind (see yesterday’s post titled “Soup”), I asked them…

If hope was a soup, what ingredients would be needed?

They fully engaged the conversation (even scribbled notes into the little notepads they had brought to church!).

Before we parted ways, they said that they wanted to have coffee sometime to talk this over in greater depth. I told them that I’m praying that God will raise up a bunch of people their age to join in the ministry of IAFR. I gave them my card and asked them to let me know when they have time to continue the conversation.

It’s encouraging to see how deeply the mission of IAFR resonated with them.

Disparate places

It’s my first Sunday back at my church in Minnesota since my last trip to Kakuma refugee camp. I chose to wear these shoes today as they are still covered with the mud of Kakuma. It’s a small way of connecting these two very disparate places in my life.

Beginnings

It was the summer of 1979. I had originally signed up to do a short-term missions stint in Alaska but was rerouted to serve in the Canary Islands. Alex Deikun (middle of photo) was serving there with Slavic Gospel Association. His mission was to find creative ways to get the Bible into the hands of sailors and fishermen from the Soviet Union and its East European satellite nations when their ships docked in the ports if Las Palmas.

We spent weekends with Dimitri, Nicholas and Jorge – refugees from Romania and Bulgaria that had somehow managed to escape their countries by sneaking aboard ships and hiding in lifeboats. When they were certain they had left Communist Europe, they swam to shore and found themselves in the Canary Islands. The Red Cross gave them shelter as Spain tried to figure out what to do with them.

They were the first refugees I remember meeting.

After 10 weeks in the Canaries, I returned to the US to finish my degree in Social Work. I didn’t have a clue that ministry among refugees would become my life’s calling.

Soup

It popped into my mind this sunny Saturday morning…

If hope was a soup, what ingredients would it include?

As a missionary working among people caught in humanitarian crisis, this is not a rhetorical question.

Like an nagging old friend, the question is with me every day. I search for answers in the pages Scripture, in lives of the refugees and in the ministries of teammates and like minded agencies.

I’ve been at it for 38 years now and believe key ingredients to include:

  • Supportive relationships & community
  • Life-giving faith
  • Emotional well-being
  • New capacities for a new context
  • Opportunities to make meaningful contributions to society
  • and a place one can call home

There is a lot packed into each ingredient. What do you think? Is something missing?