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?