IRT

Photo: Sunrise in Minnesota today

I’m at a retreat center 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities this week, meeting with the executive leadership of IAFR Canada 🇨🇦 We call the meetings of IAFR executive leadership from the US and Canada our International Round Table (IRT).

They are in the final stages of establishing their organizational systems and will soon be ready to fully engage in ministry among refugees internationally.

While IAFR Canada is an autonomous mission agency, we share a common mission and operations values – so we work closely together toward that end.

While there is a lot of confusion and debate going on in the world concerning refugees, it is good to be together this week working on ways that bring hope and solutions to our uprooted friends.

We are up close and personal with refugees and asylum seekers in many parts of the world and we can testify that there is no need to fear them. There is good reason to partner with them in finding solutions to their displacement. That is where we are putting our time and energy.

Look out world 🌎

Canada’s coming!

Among the highlights of 2018 was the registration of IAFR Canada, an autonomous mission agency that shares the vision, mission and values of IAFR and with whom we partner closely.

In order to strengthen our partnership, my Executive VP (Tim Barnes) and I meet monthly with our peers at IAFR Canada via video conference and twice a year face-to-face. Our first such meeting will be this week, at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center, about 30 minutes south of Minneapolis.

We’ve got a robust agenda as we anticipate a year that is likely to include new IAFR ministry sites in Iraq, Lebanon, Uganda, Italy (Ventimiglia) and Canada (Winnipeg). As IAFR CA just got it’s charity number in August, we will be discussing how we can continue to set up expectations, systems and agreements that help us partner well together as we seek to enable the church to help people survive and recover from forced displacement in the world.

Anyone who’s engaged in close international partnerships knows that they are more complicated than they first appear. I’m thankful for the highly experienced people that God has brought to the IAFR table. But we still need your prayers for wisdom and discernment as we meet.

The immigration Officer

Photo: friends serving refugees in Winnipeg

The Canadian immigration officer was looking at my passport.

Officer: You travel a lot. What do you do?

Me: “I serve refugees.

Officer: Where do you travel?

Me: A lot of places, but I visit Kenya most frequently.

Officer: Where do you work in Kenya?

Me (wondering where this is going): Kakuma refugee camp.

Officer: Do you work in other places in Kenya?

Me (a light went on): We’re you a Refugee in Kenya?

Officer: Yes.

Me: Were you perhaps in Dadaab refugee camp?

Officer: Yes. Did you ever visit Dadaab?

Me: I have not. But isn’t it amazing that we are here together now – and you are welcoming me to Canada?

Officer: Yes. It is amazing indeed. Welcome to Canada.

Winnipeg

I’m flying up to Winnipeg (Canada) this morning. I’ll spend a couple of days visiting an IAFR teammate who relocated there from the US earlier this year. Once she gets her work permit, she plans to join IAFR Canada and pioneer IAFR’s work in Winnipeg.

My aim is simple. I hope to offer encouragement, gain a better understanding of the refugee context, and meet with our existing friends and network there.

IAFR Ministry Locations

World map showing movement of forcibly displaced people

I put this image together today in preparation for the annual IAFR missionary conference in August. I will also pull it out this Thursday evening during our Open House (you are invited!) – and again during our annual board meeting in September.

The background is taken from the Map of the Refugee Highway, that I design and produce every year. The major refugee-producing nations are shaded red while major refugee-hosting countries are shaded yellow.

Connecting people along the Highway

IAFR dreams of the day when churches and ministries scattered all over the world are able to work together in life-giving ways that help refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. An email this morning from a colleague serving with IAFR Canada shows what can happen when we are connected.

There is a 28 year old man from D.R. Congo seeking refuge in Malta (a small EU island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea). He somehow came across the general email address of IAFR Canada and wrote:

“I need help to have asylum seekers paper or refugee camps. I’m suffering in Malta. Please I need directions.”

IAFR Canada is now reaching out to our IAFR missionaries serving in Malta (Doug and Jacqui Marshall) to see if they can follow up personally with this man.

We’re off to a good start – but we imagine this kind of scenario playing out on a daily basis someday as we develop ministries and networks that connect refugees to people that they can trust.

Would you please breathe a prayer that God will further make this dream a reality?

Partnership

Another full day of meetings here in Toronto with the leadership of IAFR Canada. As they are still in the early stages of forming their organization, much of today’s discussion revolved around clarifying future ministry partnerships, ministry locations and the overall shared vision of IAFR – attempting to prayerfully imagine what IAFR might look like in 3-5 years.

I so appreciate partnering with people who share the same faith, values and mission. Starting a new international mission is not for the faint hearted.

I look forward to heading to the Toronto airport at 3:30 AM and getting back to Minnesota (and Donna) by 8:00 AM.

Refugee Feast

After a day of encouraging meetings with our partner IAFR organization in Canada, we went to a house sheltering asylum-seekers for a feast that included tasty Persian food, a birthday cake for a mother from Mexico and a father from Azerbaijan and a time honoring Muslim guests (from Nigeria and Sudan) as they ended the month of fasting called Ramadan. A Lebanese woman facilitated a beautiful time of friendship building, prayer and fun. The house was filled with diverse nationalities. And it was good.