I spent part of the day preparing to tell the IAFR story on Sunday evening as we begin the annual IAFR Missionary Conference.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I decided I would highlight the defining moments in the story.
- 1980 – The unmistakeable calling to serve refugees
- 1997 – The vision of the Refugee Highway
- 2001 – The global consultation on the Refugee Highway in Izmir, Turkey
- 2009 – IAFR is conceived in Kenya
- 2009 – IAFR is born
- 2010 – Paul Sydnor joins IAFR as our second missionary
- 2013 – Tom Albinson is appointed Ambassador for Refugees with World Evangelical Alliance
- 2014 – The first draft of the Continuum of Response was drafted. It has become our core strategy for ministry and training.
- 2017 – IAFR Canada is established
That’s the outline. Now to figure out a way to share it so that it makes sense and captures the interest of others…
This is one of the earliest photos of me from 1980. It was taken shortly after I had touched down in Europe for a 6 month short-term mission stint right after graduating from college.
I thought I was going to spend those months visiting unregistered Christian youth camps and bringing Bibles to our brothers and sisters in what was then the East Bloc of the Soviet Union. And I did.
But that isn’t what changed my life forever.
The leadership of the mission sent me to see if there was opportunity to serve people in a refugee camp 100 miles from Vienna. I actually complained and asked them to send someone else as I wanted to spend my time in Eastern Europe. But they didn’t change their minds (for which I am forever grateful). I made several visits to the camp while in Austria that year. It wasn’t until I returned to the states in December 1980 that I experienced the surprising and unmistakable call of God to return to Austria and serve refugees full-time.
This photo was taken before all of that while in Germany en route to Austria. I had no idea what was around the bend. I probably still don’t.
The cheapest way to fly to Europe back then was via Icelandic Airlines to Luxemburg. We then drove iconic VW vans to Austria with an overnight stopover in Germany. The boy’s name is Arnie.
Photo: with Herr Kaltenböck
I will never forget Mr. And Mrs. Kaltenböck. They were the first people to take me in when I was a young stranger in a remote rural area of Austria known as the Mühlviertel. I was fresh out of college and 6 months of German school (in Bavaria) and following the unmistakable call of God to serve refugees in a nearby village. There weren’t many rooms for rent in the region – and even fewer people willing to consider renting to a young foreigner. But Herr Kaltenböck and his family took me in. Frau Kaltenböck even did my laundry and invited me to join their family every Sunday for lunch.
Such hospitality is never forgotten.
It was a blessing to be able to visit Herr Kaltenböck while on vacation in Austria this past week. He’s 94 years old now. Sadly, his wife passed away a few years ago.
It did my heart good to tell him thank you – for I was a stranger and you invited me in.