So much to do

A message from Europe asking if we can help a refugee ministry in Cyprus…

A call with a person with significant profile and influence in the world of refugees exploring the possibilities of gaining some frontline ministry experience…

An email from Switzerland connecting me with a person at the UN Refugee Agency to whom I sent a report about how churches in Lille, France, are working together to provide shelter and education to minors seeking asylum in the country.

Some initial planning for my next visit to Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp in early 2019…

These are some of the things that I’ve been working on in the past couple of days.

There is so much that needs to be done – and that can be done – to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. The main challenge we face is finding financial partners who will support those ready and willing to serve with us along the Refugee Highway.

Pray with me that God would raise up the missionaries we need AND the financial partners needed to pursue our pressing mission.

Let there be water

Photo: IDP walk miles to fetch water unfit for human consumption

I got word tonight from a partner church that they are taking on the IDP Water Project as their Year end missions project!

We need around $10-25,000 more to have enough to finish this massive project in the semi desert of Kakuma, Kenya.

I love how the supporting church is concerned about what IAFR will do if they raise more than what is needed to complete the project! These are generous people and joyful givers. Beautiful.

I admit that when IAFR launched this project, my faith was weak. The cost estimate quickly went from $18k to $125k as the realities sank in of the costs of finding, pumping and piping water several miles across semi desert.

Yet here we are, on the edge of seeing God answer 10 years of prayer for water from the internally displaced people in Kakuma.

Lunch with Gatera

Photo: Pastor Gatera in Kakuma refugee camp

I had a long overdue lunch with my friend and IAFR colleague, Pastor Gatera. We first met when he was pastoring a refugee church in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya). He now lives less than a 15 minute drive from my office in Minneapolis.

We spoke of family, leadership, theology and ministry (both in the US and in Kakuma).

He shared how he has spent his life immersed in multicultural settings. His ministry has always been interdenominational in nature. His posture is always of a learner.

His calling is clear. He has a vision to help strengthen interdenominational associations of churches in refugee contexts. Refugee churches play a life-saving role in keeping hope alive in desperate places. But they get very little support and encouragement from the church-at-large – much less from a highly respected Christian leader who spent 20 years in a refugee camp himself.

He is in the early months of support raising. He needs help developing a network of financial partners.

Would you pray with me that God would raise up a circle of generous donors to release him into ministry? He needs about $5500/month.

Click here to donate to his ministry today!

Legal counsel

One of today’s challenges was to get legal counsel concerning how we process applications for housing in the shelter ministry we operate for asylum seekers in the Twin Cities. Things are often not as simple as they first appear.

I’m thankful for the excellent leadership of Sarah Miller, our local Ministry Leader. I’m also thankful for the wisdom and perspective of Jenn Urban, our legal consultant at Legal for Good on such issues.

Toilets

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.

Seeking refuge in France

Photo: Paul Sydnor (IAFR) talking with a refugee in the abandoned warehouse

This is one of many rooms in an abandoned warehouse that has become a makeshift refuge for 200-300 refugees and asylum seekers here in northern France. Conditions are terrible. Overcrowding and lack of sanitation make this a place in which sickness is inevitable. It is temporary home to mostly men, but some women as well. Nights are said to be somewhat frightening. But these people have nowhere else to go.

During our brief 1-2 hour visit, we met people from Gambia, Cameroon, Mali, Albania and Afghanistan. I have no idea what other nationalities are represented in the space.

A group of Afghan men invited us to sit with them beside their tents in the building. One was disappeared when we accepted their invitation. He returned moments later with a bowl filled with fresh fruit to share with us.

Photo: with two of the Afghan refugees by their tents

They spoke openly of their difficult journeys from Central Asia to Europe. One of the men shared with me has he has been denied asylum repeatedly by different countries – and how he is into his 4th appeal here in France. He’s been searching for refuge for 24 years now – including 10 years in Iran.

When I told them that I would pray for them – that God would lead them to a place that they could call home. Their eyes brightened. “That is What we need! Thank you!”

Amen.

—–

Please pray with us that God would call people to join with our team in Lille, France, full-time to help these friends survive and recover from forced displacement together with the church.

Rerouted

It happened. Hurricane Florence changed my course today.

Photo by NASA HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (9880899b) A handout photo made available by NASA on 13 September 2018 shows Hurricane Florence seen from a camera outside the International Space Station (ISS), in space, 12 September 2018, as the storm churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour. The National Hurricane Center forecasts additional strengthening for Florence before it reaches the coastline of North Carolina and South Carolina early 14 September. Hurricane Florence seen from space, Atlantic Ocean, USA – 12 Sep 2018

Although she’s over 1,200 miles away, Florence changed my course.

My flight to Brussels via JFK was delayed to the point I wouldn’t make my connection and so Delta kindly re booked me to Brussels via Amsterdam (and gave me a courtesy upgrade to business class!). It means I’m going to sit here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport for a total of 9 hours – but at least I should ultimately get to my intended destination by tomorrow night.

A new route to the same destination.

It’s a good reminder that I am not in control. The words that James wrote the first generation of Christians come to mind.

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow… Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.'” 
James 4:13-16

There are a lot of powerful forces at work in the world. It is important to keep perspective as no amount of planning changes the reality that I am not in control. But God is. And he is the ultimate force. Knowing that God is good, this reality is both reassuring and humbling.

Lord-willing, I’ll get to our team in Lille, France, sometime tomorrow evening.

A good day

I hope I didn’t ruin your day.”

That’s what the driver of the street sweeper said today. He had parked the sweeper in front of our house with the sweeper sweeping and the blower blowing. It was raising up quite a dust storm. I had just finished washing all of our windows.

I admit it. I was pretty frustrated when I walked out to ask him to please move the sweeper. But I hope it didn’t ruin my day. It should take a lot more than that to ruin a day.

I walked back to my door thinking about my friends who have been forced to flee their homes and countries, often leaving everything behind. They’ve suffered the loss of loved ones. Some have endured torture and all kinds of abuse. Many of them have been stuck in forgotten refugee camps for decades. Their future remains completely uncertain. Yet when we meet, there are always smiles. When we gather together in their mud brick church buildings, there is always heartfelt worship.

Refugees have given me perspective.

My clean windows may have received a fresh coating of dust. The lawyer with whom I had an appointment may have cancelled due to illness. Our home router may have broken down.

But all in all, it has been a good day.