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.
Above: a refugee church worships together in the little shade they can find. They will soon have a metal roof under which they can gather, thanks to our IAFR financial partners contributions to the Refugee Church Building fund.
Above: another refugee church getting a roof in Kalobeyei refugee settlement near Kakuma, Kenya.
These communities of faith play an indispensable role in helping people survive in Kakuma.
One of our partners sent his thanks via WhatsApp:
“Amen!! Glory to God, and so much blessings to the donors and to those who put in enormous energy and dedication to channel these funds to these points of need.”
*Photos sent to me via WhatsApp from our refugee partner in Kakuma
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.
I am so thankful for our growing team of partners that generously invest in the welfare of refugees through the work of IAFR.
Because of them, I had the joy of initiating an international transfer of funds to our refugee church partners in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) yesterday. The funds will soon be transformed into 14 new refugee church buildings!
The buildings are desperately needed as the climate is harsh and our brothers and sisters need a shaded and protected space in which to gather and worship together. These communities of faith play a critical role in keeping hope alive and affirming the dignity of people who have been stripped of everything.
IAFR partners have put a roof over the head of 28 refugee churches this year! That’s a record!
What a great Christmas gift! Not only does it meet a critical need, it also is a tangible expression that they are not forgotten by the church at large!
But there’s even more good news! Our financial partners empowered us to set another international transfer to Kakuma. This one covers the 2020 high school fees for 5 girls that we are sponsoring! This investment has the potential to radically change the future prospects of these girls – and their families!
Can you tell I’m excited? And so thankful? None of this happens unless we partner together.
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.
I’ll be visiting Kakuma refugee camp again later this month. As always, I consulted with my friend and IAFR colleague, Pastor Gatera, to offer perspective on my trip priorities.
Pastor Gatera spent 20 years of his life as a refugee there and now lives here in the Twin Cities. He is a man of great wisdom and faith. What a joy to partner together!
This visit to Kakuma will include several days of theological training with a group of 25 Christian leaders (men and women). Professor George Kalantzis from Wheaton College will be doing the training as he has for the past several years.
I’ll also be following up on active IAFR projects in Kakuma (refugee scholarship program, IDP water project, KISOM building project, Shelter for refugees, Refugee youth camp, 2020 refugee pastors’ conference and more).
Of course the best part of any visit is reconnecting with our friends there.
The association of refugee churches with whom we partner in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) has grown from 7 to over 160 churches since 2000. But they have not updated their organisational systems and structures to cope with the growth.
I spent most of today consulting with Pastor Gatera, former Chairman of the association of churches in Kakuma, to discuss some basic organisational structures/frameworks for them to consider.
It was time well spent as they now own land, a building and have a growing arsenal of ministry resources (including a solar projector).
While such discussion isn’t exactly exciting, it turns out that the long-term effectiveness of their work depends upon clear and strong organisational systems – no easy feat in a refugee camp environment.
My role is not to tell them what to do or how to do it. They are fully able to make such decisions. But they are cut off from the rest of the world and they value outside perspective and input as they think such things through.
I’ll be visiting them again next month and suspect that we will spend some concentrated time discussing these things in depth together.