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 🌎
Photo: IAFR’s Pastor Gatera speaking to a diverse group of pastors and people engaged in ministry among refugees in St. Cloud, MN
IAFR Board member, Pastor Brian Doten, set up a meeting with Calvary Community Church Outreach Pastor, Steve Eckert, in St. Cloud with a group of people there that are engaged in ministry among resettled refugees.
They invited Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera and I to introduce him and the work of IAFR to the group.
It was an encouraging Saturday afternoon together. There appears to be a good possibility for some ministry partnerships to grow out of the time together.
We are praying that meetings like this will help form the support team needed to partner with Pastor Gatera in his ministry. He is a remarkable leader – both gifted and experienced. I can’t wait to see him more fully released into the vision God has given him.
Photo: This morning’s speaker (Dr. Sam George, Lausanne Movement) at the COMIBAM gathering
It’s been a rich couple of days here in Costa Rica. I’ve been so impressed with how God is moving in churches and missions in Latin America concerning refugees.
I’ve met with a guy who has networked with Christians from Panama to Canada to help the church show up in the lives of refugees and migrants on the move in Central America.
I’ve reconnected with a friend from Brazil who leads a ministry that serves refugees in the country, assists refugees with resettlement to Brazil and that is serving refugees in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
I heard how a mission in Argentina has a vision “One Church, One Family” that is connecting churches with refugee families in ways that offer a welcome, extend community, and assistance with integration.
…and that is just a small sample of what these brothers and sisters are doing.
I had the privilege of speaking last night about the unique role of the church in helping refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. I’ve also been give 4x 1 hour small group sessions to introduce the work of IAFR, the Refugee Highway Partnership and World Evangelical Alliance to folks here as resources to support them as they seek the welfare of refugees.
Can you tell I’m encouraged?
I spent a good part of today trying to trim everything that I could say down to what I can say in 45 minutes (including translation).
I found pencil and notepad more helpful in the creative process than keyboard and monitor.
I know I still need to do some trimming before heading to San Jose on Wednesday morning. I speak Thursday evening. Prayers welcome 🙏🏻
A Tooth Story 🦷
I also went to the dentist to get my permanent crown set into place today. The procedure was a bit more challenging than anyone anticipated as the temporary crown did not want to leave my mouth. Once they got it extracted, the permanent crown didn’t want to go in. A lot of whirring and buzzing and sanding down a neighboring wisdom tooth was needed before it finally agreed to take up its place. My mouth is still recovering.
I took advantage of a chilly Sunday afternoon and prepared a few key slides for my Spanish-speaking audience later this week in Costa Rica.
I’m thankful for the help I got from Eldon Porter as he (or someone he knows) sent me the translation of the words we use on the IAFR Continuum of Response- a tool we created to help assess refugee contexts and develop ministry strategies to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.
I’m looking forward to the gathering of Latin American Missions (COMIBAM) this week. I hope my plenary talk and opportunities to consult with our brothers and sisters there will prove encouraging and helpful.
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.
“Can you send me the names of 5 mission agencies that might be able to help place missionaries from Latin America into ministries among refugees internationally?”
This question was put to me today.
It sounds like an easy question to answer. I wish it was. But the reason I founded IAFR in back in 2009 was because I could not find an international Christian mission agency with a clear commitment to serve refugees and other forcibly displaced people.
I do know of many outstanding local ministries serving refugees. I know of a few refugee ministries with a national scope. But it’s tough to find international missions engaging refugees. YWAM and OM are exceptions.
Of course, there are big Christian humanitarian agencies out there like World Vision and World Relief, but they are not missions in the sense of being missionary sending agencies. They do tremendous work in helping people survive disasters. World Relief does a wonderful job of helping refugees find their feet in the US. But where are other international missions helping the church-at-large engage with refugees in life-giving ways?
My ignorance isn’t for lack of exposure. Through my involvement with the Refugee Highway Partnership (a global network of people, churches and missions serving refugees) and from my role as Ambassador for Refugees with World Evangelical Alliance, I have a pretty good idea of what is out there. And I am hard pressed to come up with 5 names to pass along to my friend.
I’ve heard rumors of a few large missions starting their own refugee ministries. I guess it’s time to take a closer look at this and see if I can come up with 5 to pass along.
Perhaps you know of such a mission? Please let me know as soon as possible! Just leave their name and website in a comment to this blog post.
I serve with IAFR because it is focused on serving the world’s most vulnerable people – often in overlooked and remote places. IAFR does this in ways that I feel look like Jesus – in ways that are tender, thoughtful and gentle and also wild, progressive, creative and very challenging. I’m drawn to IAFR because of the way I see God’s heart playing out in what we do.
-Kelsey Briggs, preparing to serve in Ventimiglia, Italy
This is a paraphrase from an online video interview I made with Kelsey today. I plan to show to our board next month. Kelsey is in her 20s and eager to finally get to Italy to pioneer ministry in a context to which the media pays little attention, but in which there are thousands of vulnerable women, children and men desperately trying to find a way to survive.
I’m praying that God would send 1000+ young women and men of faith – people like Kelsey – to join IAFR and step out onto the refugee highway in places like Ventimiglia.
Every one of our leaders is asking for more teammates. Would you join me in praying that God would call people to join with us?
I know God can do it. I was 22 when God called me into this ministry back in 1980. So as I pray, my faith is strong and my hopes are high.
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.
A ministry called Sparkhouse just released a small group discussion resource that helps people explore refugee realities and how Christians and Churches are engaging with refugees.
I was pleased to have been among the people interviewed for the companion video series that offers several 10 minute segments offering insights into a specific aspect of this controversial issue.
I recommend it. More info at Sparkhouse.