Photo: a woodland trail near our home that I frequent. Taken at a warmer time of year.
We may not know what awaits us in the New Year, but we have recently celebrated “God with Us”, and that is enough to keep moving forward with hearts full of anticipation and hope in both good and hard times.
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?
Photo: The long and winding ramps of the Canadian Museum of Human Right take you on an uphill journey through a history of human oppression and crimes against humanity with frequent calls to learn from the past and to treat each other with dignity and respect.
Photo: The museum includes Jesus as a proponent of love and respect for our fellow man.
Walking through the museum felt very up close and personal. I was with a pastor of a local church that is 90% former refugees and a Somali Christian who fled persecution and is hoping to find refuge in Canada. Our Somali friend bought our entry tickets.
It is a walk through darkness and light. It remembers mankind at our worst while calling us to be our best. It is a testimony to our brokenness and exposes our twisted hearts. It awakens hope that we can somehow overcome our bent toward evil.
There are reminders in the daily news that we can still call down darkness and partner with the enemy who is determined to convince us that we no longer bear the image of our Creator.
But we do.
I left with fresh conviction to do what I can to call people into the life-giving kingdom of God within which hearts change and from which darkness flees.
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?
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.
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.
Wild fires are consuming the northwest. Hurricane Florence is plowing into the Carolinas. Typhoon Mangkhut is pummeling the Philippines. And Minnesota is dry, warm and breezy.
It would be easy to think all is well, projecting the peace and beauty around me onto others. But we know that isn’t the case.
Bigger than all these natural disasters is the number of people uprooted by human causes – war, violations of human rights, failed states and persecution.
68.5 Million people were forcibly displaced at the beginning of the year. Another 44,400 people have been forced to flee their homes every day since then. It is an unspeakable tragedy and a rampant evil in the world.
It’s easy to look out my window and think all is well. It is not.
“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.