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.

KISOM update

Photo: The Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) building project today

Nicholas Gagai, a Kenyan serving full time with our refugee partner in Kakuma refugee camp, sent me the above photo last week via Facebook. It is encouraging to see the KISOM building rising out of the semi desert at long last. Everything looks on schedule to complete this phase of building before the end of the year.

Nicholas serves as the director of KISOM. IAFR has been helping him and the school strengthen their curriculum when it comes to theology and trauma care. Wheaton College and it’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute have been partnering with IAFR to assist KISOM.

IAFR is putting a lot of time, resources and energy into this part of our work in Kakuma as we believe KISOM plays a critical role in equipping refugee pastors and church leaders. We are thankful to our financial partners who have made it possible!

Photo: the KISOM building project during my visit in 10/2018

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.

The Cinq Etoiles

Welcome to the Cinq Etoiles (imagine an accent over the “e”) – or “Five Stars”. That is what those who inhabit this abandoned warehouse call it. They come from war torn and oppressive countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. They are looking for refuge from human-caused humanitarian crisis. They are among the people IAFR is called to serve.

Perhaps the most pressing need in the Five Star is for sanitation. A health crisis is imminent should this basic need continue to be unmet. But winter is soon coming and the lack of heat will soon add to the challenges of surviving in this space.

In most places, the locals would be screaming to get these people out of their neighborhood. But here, they advocate on their behalf. The French neighborhood in which the Five Star is situated recently protested when the government shut off the water to the building. It is remarkable to see them support the 200+ refugees living there. I saw people drop off food. I also saw a man teaching French to refugees. But there is still so much that needs to be done.

As IAFR’s Europe Regional Leader and local Ministry Leader in the city of Lille, Paul Sydnor is working to help these people survive and recover from forced displacement. He is in desperate need of teammates to come and join him in the work. Michael and Heather Jurrens have already joined IAFR to join the ministry in Lille. They’re busy raising support now.

So I have two requests. 1) Please pray with me that God would quickly grow the financial support team for Michael and Heather so they can get over to France soon. 2) Please pray that God would raise up reinforcements to join the work in Lille – preferably some young, faith-filled and fearless women and men of God.

Amen.

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.

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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.