A Friday

I spent my morning on my monthly video conference call with IAFR Europe Regional Leader (in France) discussing our ministry locations in Europe (France, Malta, Austria, Italy) and doing some problem solving together.

I had a lunch meeting with our Director of Church Training who recently returned from leading trainings in Germany and Italy – and her husband who serves as Assistant Director of Operations. They are based here in Minneapolis, but due to ministry travel schedules, this was the first time we’ve all met together in the past 5 weeks. It was important to debrief and reorient together.

I finished off my day in the office reviewing our FY 2017 audit and IRS 990 to prepare them for finalizing and submission. Not a lot of fun, but a critical part of protecting IAFR’s integrity.

Donna and I then drove out to the home of the pastor who went with me to Kakuma in April for a beautiful supper and debrief together. It was good for us to all decompress a bit more after re entry into life in the US. The pastor (Brian Doten) is also an IAFR US board member.

It’s late now and I’m pretty tired. But I head for bed with a heart filled with thankfulness for the remarkable team God has brought to IAFR.

Strengthening refugee churches

Photo: Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera

We sat at a table in a Caribou Coffee Shop (neither of us drinking coffee). I gave him an update from my recent trip to Kakuma refugee camp where he lived for 20 years. We talked of how to strengthen the union of 157 refugee churches with whom we partner there so that they develop the organizational capacity to manage large and complex projects and programs of which they are dreaming.

I asked him how his recent trip to Denver went. A Sudanese church recently flew him out there to consult with them. Several of the church leaders were formerly refugees in Kakuma and had gone through the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) run by the refugee church union. They were desperate for his advice concerning what it takes to be a recognized church with licensed clergy here in the US. They also had questions about how to navigate US Christian culture, much of which is in tension with their understanding of Christian faith and life style. Several members sought him out for marital counseling as well.

Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera listened and consulted with them non stop before boarding his flight back to Minnesota. They said they need him to return again soon.

There are other refugee churches in the US wanting his counsel as well. One is in Fargo, one in Iowa and another in Missouri. The need is great.

We talked about opening a Zoom account for him to offer regular online meetings with refugee churches.

Pastor Gatera joined IAFR last fall and is presently working full time cleaning office buildings. We’re praying with him that he will develop a team of financial partners to make it possible for him to devote himself full time to the ministry.

I left the Caribou with a grateful heart to have the privilege of working alongside Pastor Gatera as he pursues his calling.

Two new projects

The IAFR.org website is the front door of our mission. It’s where most people first meet us and discover the unique ways that we are helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up website design skills. That has been an asset to IAFR as I design and maintain our site at no cost. Nevertheless, at some point we need to find someone else to take this part of our ministry on.

Today I had the joy of adding 2 new IAFR projects to our website.


Photo: Nicholas Gagai

The first project invites people and churches to consider supporting our first “strategic worker” – a Kenyan serving full-time with our refugee partner agency, United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC). I’ve known Nicholas Gagai since IAFR began working in Kakuma refugee camp (2011).For $375/month, he can be fully supported. Click here to learn more about him and the opportunity of supporting his work through IAFR.


Photo: 3 of the 5 girls learn about their scholarships in Kakuma (4/2018)

In January, National Presbyterian Church (Washington D.C.) asked us if we would partner with them to scholarship 5 refugee girls through secondary school in Kenya. They were ready to commit the funds ($5,500 per girl for 4 years of secondary school).

While IAFR has invested in educational scholarships in Dzaleka refugee camp (Malawi), we had not yet done so in Kakuma (Kenya). After consulting with our NGO partner, National Council of Churches Kenya, we were ready to commit.

I’m praying that God would move people to commit to sponsoring another 5 girls through secondary school by April 2019.

Click here to learn more about this new scholarship opportunity.

Refugee pastor

So happy that Northwood Community Church (Maple Grove, MN) invited Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera to speak during their worship services today!

Pastor Gatera spent 20 years in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. While there, Gatera was the point person for IAFR’s partnership with an association of refugee churches called United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC).

In 2017, Pastor Gatera joined to serve full time with IAFR. He is presently focused on building a team of financial partners.

Just let me know if you’d like to meet Pastor Gatera or if you are interested in financially partnering with him.

Disparate places

It’s my first Sunday back at my church in Minnesota since my last trip to Kakuma refugee camp. I chose to wear these shoes today as they are still covered with the mud of Kakuma. It’s a small way of connecting these two very disparate places in my life.