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?