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!

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.


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.


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!