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 🌎

Fuel ⛽️

I end this day with a heart filled with gratitude for our generous IAFR partners – individuals, churches, businesses and foundations – that make this ministry possible.

IAFR is a vehicle helping people survive and recover from forced displacement. And our partners are the ones putting fuel in the tank so we can show up along the Refugee Highway in life-giving ways.

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.

More than a board meeting

Left to Right: Tom Albinson, Tim Barnes (Executive VP, not board member), Brian Doten, Kristel Lehner, Jill Elefritz, John Swale, Dan Thompson

We had our annual face-to-face IAFR board meeting in Minneapolis yesterday. I am deeply grateful for the passion, wisdom and commitment these brothers and sisters have for the mission and work of IAFR.

We always start off the weekend of our annual meetings by gathering in our porch and eating Famous Dave’s ribs together. It’s a fun tradition that goes back to the first IAFR board meeting 10 years ago during which founding board members John Swale, Dan Thompson and Tom Albinson met outside of the Famous Dave’s in Uptown (Minneapolis). It’s a great way to reconnect and deepen our relationships before the next day of intense meetings.

It is a joy to serve with people who honestly believe that God loves the world and is active and engaged in time and space. The board is quick to acknowledge our utter dependency upon God and recognize that Jesus is seated at the table with us. Faith and hope permeate our meetings. Time together is punctuated with biblical reflection and prayer.

Our board meeting yesterday was more than doing business together. It was a rich time of worship and fellowship.

Growth

Graph: IAFR growth in terms of missionaries

I spent much of Friday preparing for our upcoming Annual Board Meeting in September. While our board meets monthly via video conferencing, Our annual board meeting is when we all gather together in the same space for a day.

I was encouraged as I updated this graph and reflected on the relatively rapid growth we’ve experienced in recent years. It is especially remarkable as we have not recruited anyone! Every one of our teammates somehow managed to find us on their own. Rumor has it that God is involved in directing people to join our team.

Communion

We ended the 2018 IAFR Missionary Conference tonight with a time of sharing, singing and communion together. It was a rich few days together in a beautiful setting. I come away with deep gratitude for the privilege of serving with these brothers and sisters.

We break camp tomorrow to head back to our various ministry locations.

The IAFR Team (2018)

Photo: IAFR Conference group photo from this afternoon

What a joy and privilege to be serving forcibly displaced people with these remarkable brothers and sisters! Sadly, a few of our folks weren’t able to make it for the photo.

25

Photo: The 1st IAFR Missionary Conference in 2013


It’s the calm before the storm. 25 IAFR missionaries are gathering this week for our 4 day annual conference. I make my first airport pick up tomorrow morning.

We held our first annual conference outside of London just 5 years ago. All 4 of our full time missionaries were there.

We welcome your prayers as we spend time listening to God, sharpening our ministry skills, and having fun together.

We have set aside Tuesday evening to take time for lament together. Our mission field is wherever people are flowing out of the deep unhealed wounds in the world. We all carry heavy stories and have seen a lot of suffering. It is good to bring this to Jesus as a community. He is acquainted with grief. He will meet us there.

Telling the story

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…