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.
I took advantage of a chilly Sunday afternoon and prepared a few key slides for my Spanish-speaking audience later this week in Costa Rica.
I’m thankful for the help I got from Eldon Porter as he (or someone he knows) sent me the translation of the words we use on the IAFR Continuum of Response- a tool we created to help assess refugee contexts and develop ministry strategies to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.
I’m looking forward to the gathering of Latin American Missions (COMIBAM) this week. I hope my plenary talk and opportunities to consult with our brothers and sisters there will prove encouraging and helpful.
I’m writing an article on How God is at work among forcibly displaced people for the New Urban World Journal of the Urban Shalom Society. I’m connected with them and their work through my Ambassador role with World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
While I find writing hard work, I also find it to be a helpful discipline as it forces me to put words on issues and convictions.
My hope is that this article might be used to create new space in the hearts and minds of people for refugees. I believe that this is among the most important challenges of this decade, during which many societies have begun to perceive refugees as a threat to their well-being rather than vulnerable people in need of safety.
I suspect that writing will become an increasingly important part of my ministry in coming years.
The UN Refugee Agency Annual NGO Consultations are over. It was good to bring a faith-based (Christian) presence and voice to the gathering.
The workshop dedicated to the role of faith in humanitarian response strongly confirmed the UN’s respect and appreciation for faith based communities and their unique contributions to helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.
I look forward to reading this new book published with the intent to help secular agencies understand how to partner with local faith based communities. While it is clear that we do not always understand each other, we can still appreciate and value the contributions each brings to humanitarian crises.
Meetings upon meetings. It’s been good to be here in Geneva for the UN Consultations. It’s helpful to hear the perspectives of the UN and some of the big players on the Refugee Highway. I’ve had some good personal encounters as well between meetings.
Today the former director of the Red Cross in Ethiopia gave me a gift bag with a large container of Ethiopian honey and Ethiopian coffee beans (best coffee on the planet). Amazing hospitality and kindness.
The Ethiopian Relief an development agency on whose board he now sits would like IAFR to see some of their work and explore opportunities for partnership. I told him that we are stretched pretty thin at the moment and can’t expand – but hopefully we will increase our capacity in the future to take him up on his offer.
Heading to Geneva, Switzerland, today for the annual UN Refugee Agency’s NGO Consultations is his week.
I will be wearing my Ambassadors for Refugees hat (World Evangelical Alliance). I’m especially looking forward to a day of meetings related to partnering with leaders from the refugee and host communities. That is one of IAFR’s sweet spots and I think we have some meaningful contributions to make.
Please pray for me and my IAFR colleague Tim Barnes as we participate in these meetings.
LEAVING THE TABLE
We sat around a table representing expertise and networks related to Human Rights, Humanitarian Response, Creation Care, Peacemaking and Reconciliation, Strategic Diplomacy, Refugees and more. We discovered that our work often overlaps and that there is a need for interdisciplinary responses to these issues. We leave and go our separate ways today with the seeds of collaboration sown. I look forward to seeing what springs to life because we came together this week.
CHALLENGED & ENCOURAGED
I leave feeling the challenge to dream and pursue bigger dreams. I leave encouraged to find brothers and sisters eager to work together in creative new ways.
That’s pretty general, so let me give an example or two… In talking with Chris (Creation Care), we identified the real possibility of helping establish a solar power grid to one of the refugee camps in which IAFR is serving. In talking with Wissam (Human Rights, Geneva), we may have found a way to influence the system so that churches (and other faith communities) might finally get plots on which to build houses of worship in a refugee settlement that presently offers no place for such structures.
Now it’s time to train back to NYC and fly back to our respective homes to continue the work.
Thanks to Christine MacMillan, Timothy Goropevsek, Rebecca Olsavska, Wissam al-Saliby, Chris Elisara, Ed Brown, David Boan, Christopher Chou, Michael Mutzner, Albert Hengelaar, Johannes Reimer, Ruth Zhou, Jason Clarke and Deb Fikes for making the time so valuable!
“He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3
How fitting to start my day here looking out a dining room window at this peaceful beauty before heading to meetings with a group of dedicated Christians passionate about helping the church engage some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.
We spent the day considering how we can better collaborate in ways that help the church further the life-giving, peace-bringing, and mind-body-soul-healing kingdom of God to a violent, wounded and dying world desperately in need of divine rescue.
We started the day reflecting on Philippians 2 and moved on into discussions about furthering the kingdom of God together with his church through humanitarian service, creation care, refugee engagement, human rights work, advocacy, peace and reconciliation work and diplomacy. It is encouraging to be together with brothers and sisters who God has called to serve in these ways. The world God loves needs the church to fully engage the issues of our days.