The long run

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.

UN Global Compact on Refugees

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 ­čÖé

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.

Heading to NYC

Photo: deadwood

It’s a beautiful day here in the Twin Cities so I spent several hours clearing dead brush from under our pine trees.

But I need to turn my attention to packing my suitcase as I depart for New York early tomorrow morning. I’ll be wearing my World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Ambassador for Refugees hat during 3 days of meetings with the WEA Public Engagement Team. It is a privilege to be part of the team and a wonderful platform from which I can influence WEA affiliated churches and institutions around the world. The position also let’s me speak into the United Nations with a Christian voice. As it is not a paid position, I am most gratefully our financial partners that make it possible for me to serve in this capacity!

Our son lives in NYC, so I look forward to having lunch with him tomorrow before heading a couple of hours north of the city for the meetings.

A Friday

I spent my morning on my monthly video conference call with IAFR Europe Regional Leader (in France) discussing our ministry locations in Europe (France, Malta, Austria, Italy) and doing some problem solving together.

I had a lunch meeting with our Director of Church Training who recently returned from leading trainings in Germany and Italy – and her husband who serves as Assistant Director of Operations. They are based here in Minneapolis, but due to ministry travel schedules, this was the first time we’ve all met together in the past 5 weeks. It was important to debrief and reorient together.

I finished off my day in the office reviewing our FY 2017 audit and IRS 990 to prepare them for finalizing and submission. Not a lot of fun, but a critical part of protecting IAFR’s integrity.

Donna and I then drove out to the home of the pastor who went with me to Kakuma in April for a beautiful supper and debrief together. It was good for us to all decompress a bit more after re entry into life in the US. The pastor (Brian Doten) is also an IAFR US board member.

It’s late now and I’m pretty tired. But I head for bed with a heart filled with thankfulness for the remarkable team God has brought to IAFR.

Strengthening refugee churches

Photo: Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera

We sat at a table in a Caribou Coffee Shop (neither of us drinking coffee). I gave him an update from my recent trip to Kakuma refugee camp where he lived for 20 years. We talked of how to strengthen the union of 157 refugee churches with whom we partner there so that they develop the organizational capacity to manage large and complex projects and programs of which they are dreaming.

I asked him how his recent trip to Denver went. A Sudanese church recently flew him out there to consult with them. Several of the church leaders were formerly refugees in Kakuma and had gone through the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) run by the refugee church union. They were desperate for his advice concerning what it takes to be a recognized church with licensed clergy here in the US. They also had questions about how to navigate US Christian culture, much of which is in tension with their understanding of Christian faith and life style. Several members sought him out for marital counseling as well.

Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera listened and consulted with them non stop before boarding his flight back to Minnesota. They said they need him to return again soon.

There are other refugee churches in the US wanting his counsel as well. One is in Fargo, one in Iowa and another in Missouri. The need is great.

We talked about opening a Zoom account for him to offer regular online meetings with refugee churches.

Pastor Gatera joined IAFR last fall and is presently working full time cleaning office buildings. We’re praying with him that he will develop a team of financial partners to make it possible for him to devote himself full time to the ministry.

I left the Caribou with a grateful heart to have the privilege of working alongside Pastor Gatera as he pursues his calling.

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!