I’ll be speaking at Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield, MN, tomorrow morning. I’m taking Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera with me as the church asked me to share about the refugee church and Pastor Gatera spent 20 years of his life in Kakuma refugee camp – and many of those years as a refugee pastor. I can think of no better way to introduce them to the refugee church than to give them the privilege of listening to Pastor Gatera.
Photo: This morning’s speaker (Dr. Sam George, Lausanne Movement) at the COMIBAM gathering
It’s been a rich couple of days here in Costa Rica. I’ve been so impressed with how God is moving in churches and missions in Latin America concerning refugees.
I’ve met with a guy who has networked with Christians from Panama to Canada to help the church show up in the lives of refugees and migrants on the move in Central America.
I’ve reconnected with a friend from Brazil who leads a ministry that serves refugees in the country, assists refugees with resettlement to Brazil and that is serving refugees in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
I heard how a mission in Argentina has a vision “One Church, One Family” that is connecting churches with refugee families in ways that offer a welcome, extend community, and assistance with integration.
…and that is just a small sample of what these brothers and sisters are doing.
I had the privilege of speaking last night about the unique role of the church in helping refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. I’ve also been give 4x 1 hour small group sessions to introduce the work of IAFR, the Refugee Highway Partnership and World Evangelical Alliance to folks here as resources to support them as they seek the welfare of refugees.
Can you tell I’m encouraged?
I spent a good part of today trying to trim everything that I could say down to what I can say in 45 minutes (including translation).
I found pencil and notepad more helpful in the creative process than keyboard and monitor.
I know I still need to do some trimming before heading to San Jose on Wednesday morning. I speak Thursday evening. Prayers welcome 🙏🏻
A Tooth Story 🦷
I also went to the dentist to get my permanent crown set into place today. The procedure was a bit more challenging than anyone anticipated as the temporary crown did not want to leave my mouth. Once they got it extracted, the permanent crown didn’t want to go in. A lot of whirring and buzzing and sanding down a neighboring wisdom tooth was needed before it finally agreed to take up its place. My mouth is still recovering.
Photo: The long and winding ramps of the Canadian Museum of Human Right take you on an uphill journey through a history of human oppression and crimes against humanity with frequent calls to learn from the past and to treat each other with dignity and respect.
Photo: The museum includes Jesus as a proponent of love and respect for our fellow man.
Walking through the museum felt very up close and personal. I was with a pastor of a local church that is 90% former refugees and a Somali Christian who fled persecution and is hoping to find refuge in Canada. Our Somali friend bought our entry tickets.
It is a walk through darkness and light. It remembers mankind at our worst while calling us to be our best. It is a testimony to our brokenness and exposes our twisted hearts. It awakens hope that we can somehow overcome our bent toward evil.
There are reminders in the daily news that we can still call down darkness and partner with the enemy who is determined to convince us that we no longer bear the image of our Creator.
But we do.
I left with fresh conviction to do what I can to call people into the life-giving kingdom of God within which hearts change and from which darkness flees.
It’s been bothering me for a while – IAFR’s social media presence has been pretty weak. While not an end in itself, social media is an powerful free resource to raise awareness of refugee realities and create hope that God is at work in the midst of human vulnerability and suffering.
I started posting more regular updates to the IAFR Facebook account a couple of weeks ago (www.facebook.com/refugeeministry). This week I resurrected the IAFR Instagram account (@IAFRefugees). It’s encouraging to see our list of followers quickly growing.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to follow IAFR on Facebook and Instagram – and encourage your friends to do the same.
I’m praying that IAFR will find a person with the passion and ability to run our social media, but until we find that person, I will do what I can to keep it going.
Welcome to the Cinq Etoiles (imagine an accent over the “e”) – or “Five Stars”. That is what those who inhabit this abandoned warehouse call it. They come from war torn and oppressive countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. They are looking for refuge from human-caused humanitarian crisis. They are among the people IAFR is called to serve.
Perhaps the most pressing need in the Five Star is for sanitation. A health crisis is imminent should this basic need continue to be unmet. But winter is soon coming and the lack of heat will soon add to the challenges of surviving in this space.
In most places, the locals would be screaming to get these people out of their neighborhood. But here, they advocate on their behalf. The French neighborhood in which the Five Star is situated recently protested when the government shut off the water to the building. It is remarkable to see them support the 200+ refugees living there. I saw people drop off food. I also saw a man teaching French to refugees. But there is still so much that needs to be done.
As IAFR’s Europe Regional Leader and local Ministry Leader in the city of Lille, Paul Sydnor is working to help these people survive and recover from forced displacement. He is in desperate need of teammates to come and join him in the work. Michael and Heather Jurrens have already joined IAFR to join the ministry in Lille. They’re busy raising support now.
So I have two requests. 1) Please pray with me that God would quickly grow the financial support team for Michael and Heather so they can get over to France soon. 2) Please pray that God would raise up reinforcements to join the work in Lille – preferably some young, faith-filled and fearless women and men of God.
Photo: the toilets in the “5 Star” Jungle
Everything about this place works together to strip people of their humanity.
200+ human beings live in this abandoned warehouse. They affectionately call it the “5 Star”. It’s anything but that. The smell of urine is strong upon entry. It’s a health disaster waiting to happen.
Paul Sydnor (IAFR) and the team are praying that portable toilets will be provided for these people ASAP. It’s clearly in everyone’s best interest.
We recognize that we might need to be the ones to provide the sanitation. We have no idea how. Still we pray, “Lord Jesus, please provide these people with sanitation- and if possible, please let us participate in your answer to this prayer.”
So be it.
Wild fires are consuming the northwest. Hurricane Florence is plowing into the Carolinas. Typhoon Mangkhut is pummeling the Philippines. And Minnesota is dry, warm and breezy.
It would be easy to think all is well, projecting the peace and beauty around me onto others. But we know that isn’t the case.
Bigger than all these natural disasters is the number of people uprooted by human causes – war, violations of human rights, failed states and persecution.
68.5 Million people were forcibly displaced at the beginning of the year. Another 44,400 people have been forced to flee their homes every day since then. It is an unspeakable tragedy and a rampant evil in the world.
It’s easy to look out my window and think all is well. It is not.
I didn’t have much of a ministry budget back in the late ’90s when I was serving as Director of Refugee Ministries with International Teams (now One Collective). So I taught myself the basic skills of website design so we could have an online presence.
This skill set has come in handy with IAFR. By serving as website designer, I free up funding for other purposes. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t love to see someone join our team to serve in this capacity. Days like today would have been spent differently if I didn’t have to make a backlog of edits and updates.
I’m sure the right person will come along at the right time. In the meantime, I’ll keep playing the geek.
Click here to check out the IAFR.org site.