I last saw him about 3 years ago while visiting Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. So you can imagine how surprised I was to bump into Anthony at church this morning. I had not heard that he and his family were resettled to the US – much less to St. Paul, Minnesota, a couple of months ago.
Anthony is originally from DR Congo’s volatile eastern provinces. Last I knew, over 2 million people had been forced to flee the country. They have been scattered all over Africa and the world.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for Anthony to move from a forgotten refugee camp’s mud houses without running water and electricity to downtown St. Paul – in winter.
But refugees are defined by being people on the run – people on the move. So Anthony seems to have taken his latest move in stride, as if transcontinental moves were normal.
Now he’s looking for a job that will pay their bills. Fortunately, Anthony worked hard to learn English and can speak it well. That will help. But the transition will still not be quick or easy.
A family from our church had already invited him to their home for lunch. Wow. That is the church at its best. And it is an important offer of new friendship and community for Anthony, without which it is nearly impossible to recover from forced displacement.
My mom turned 88 the same day Minnesota celebrated its 160th year of statehood (May 11). As she’s wheelchair bound, my wife arranged special transport so she could join us at our home to celebrate Mother’s Day with the rest of the family.
We sat in our porch eating burnt hotdogs and hamburgers smothered in condiments. She smiled and laughed and soaked up the happy chatter of sons, grandchildren and their spouses around the table.
These times of all being together are increasingly rare. I am thankful.
There is a lot of confusion out there when it comes to why people become refugees.
Many people fail to differentiate between normal migrants and refugees. What makes refugees different is that they have, by definition, been forced to flee their homes and countries due to man-made humanitarian crisis (e.g. war, political persecution, failed states, etc.).
It is situations like the one I read about on the BBC today that force people to leave everything behind and run for their lives.
“The group crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo into [Burundi]. They went house to house with guns and knives, burning homes, witnesses said. Correspondents say the attack may have been an attempt to disrupt next week’s referendum which could extend the president’s term until 2034.”
Click to see source report
I have no doubt that this sent many new women, children and men onto the Refugee Highway. They are running for their lives and praying that someone will understand, have mercy and offer them refuge.
We received without asking. I know it’s not supposed to happen, but it did. And more than once.
We are thankful to the Tyndale House Foundation for their financial partnership. Last year, they gave us an unsolicited grant “to be used where most needed“. Wow. That kind of support is both precious and rare.
I spent part of today working with Jake Tornga, IAFR US Director of Project Management. We are in the final stages of reporting to Tyndale how we invested their grant. It was encouraging to remember how the grant helped further the kingdom of God along the Refugee Highway.
WHERE DID IT GO?
Church buildings were built by our refugee partners – both in refugee camps and in the surrounding host communities in which the refugees have planted churches.
We built a new chicken coup in an IDP camp to help our IDP Partners expand their poultry business from 500 to 1000 chickens. The business is pulling them out of extreme poverty.
A refugee pastor was receiving death threats, being persecuted and unjustly tried in Malawi. We were able to cover most of his legal fees. The court found him innocent. The attacks have since stopped.
I’m grateful for every single one of our financial partners. And I’m thankful to God for giving us the privilege of participating with him in answering the prayers of our refugee friends.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3
We spend our time among people in crisis. If we’re going to make it in the long run, we have to establish a healthy pace and rhythm to life and ministry.
It’s been too long since I had a day off. At IAFR we mandate our teammates to take at least 1 day off in every 7 – and encourage them to take 2 days/week when possible.
I need to practice what I preach. So today I stayed home and did some bird watching (saw a pair of Rose Breasted Grosbeaks), changed the oil and air filter on our lawn mower, mowed part of our lawn, sawed off some dead pine tree branches, contracted a yard service to try and overcome our creeping charlie and Japanese beetles – and then took an hour ride in the countryside on my motorcycle before stopping by to visit my mom who turns 88 tomorrow.
I feel the rest sinking into my bones. I’ll be better for it when I return to the office tomorrow morning.
LEAVING THE TABLE
We sat around a table representing expertise and networks related to Human Rights, Humanitarian Response, Creation Care, Peacemaking and Reconciliation, Strategic Diplomacy, Refugees and more. We discovered that our work often overlaps and that there is a need for interdisciplinary responses to these issues. We leave and go our separate ways today with the seeds of collaboration sown. I look forward to seeing what springs to life because we came together this week.
CHALLENGED & ENCOURAGED
I leave feeling the challenge to dream and pursue bigger dreams. I leave encouraged to find brothers and sisters eager to work together in creative new ways.
That’s pretty general, so let me give an example or two… In talking with Chris (Creation Care), we identified the real possibility of helping establish a solar power grid to one of the refugee camps in which IAFR is serving. In talking with Wissam (Human Rights, Geneva), we may have found a way to influence the system so that churches (and other faith communities) might finally get plots on which to build houses of worship in a refugee settlement that presently offers no place for such structures.
Now it’s time to train back to NYC and fly back to our respective homes to continue the work.
Thanks to Christine MacMillan, Timothy Goropevsek, Rebecca Olsavska, Wissam al-Saliby, Chris Elisara, Ed Brown, David Boan, Christopher Chou, Michael Mutzner, Albert Hengelaar, Johannes Reimer, Ruth Zhou, Jason Clarke and Deb Fikes for making the time so valuable!
“He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3
How fitting to start my day here looking out a dining room window at this peaceful beauty before heading to meetings with a group of dedicated Christians passionate about helping the church engage some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.
We spent the day considering how we can better collaborate in ways that help the church further the life-giving, peace-bringing, and mind-body-soul-healing kingdom of God to a violent, wounded and dying world desperately in need of divine rescue.
We started the day reflecting on Philippians 2 and moved on into discussions about furthering the kingdom of God together with his church through humanitarian service, creation care, refugee engagement, human rights work, advocacy, peace and reconciliation work and diplomacy. It is encouraging to be together with brothers and sisters who God has called to serve in these ways. The world God loves needs the church to fully engage the issues of our days.
Photo: NYC from the air
I got up at 4:15 AM today to head to NYC for WEA meetings. Among other things, we will be considering WEA input into the draft U.N. Global Compact for Refugees that is trying to find a new way forward in responding to the global refugee crisis. Present UN and international responses and strategies were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s in response to the refugee crisis created by WW2.
No one thinks present “solutions” are working. It’s time to look for 21st Century solutions. I thank God for having the privilege of participating in the process.
Photo: Esperance (source: UNHCR)
How cool. A friend of ours in Kakuma refugee camp is featured in a UN news report. She and her family (2 kids) are refugees from DR Congo. I see her on nearly every visit to Kakuma as she often translates for me when I visit a Somali friend, Mama Fartun.
When I told her about the report via Facebook, she replied: “I like what I’m seeing right now! I can’t believe this!” I’m sure it was nice to get some good news today 🙂
Click here to read the UN report about her and how innovative and hard working many refugees are when it comes to starting businesses in refugee camps like Kakuma.