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.
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.
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
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.
It’s been bothering me for a while – IAFR’s social media presence has been pretty weak. While not an end in itself, social media is an powerful free resource to raise awareness of refugee realities and create hope that God is at work in the midst of human vulnerability and suffering.
I started posting more regular updates to the IAFR Facebook account a couple of weeks ago (www.facebook.com/refugeeministry). This week I resurrected the IAFR Instagram account (@IAFRefugees). It’s encouraging to see our list of followers quickly growing.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to follow IAFR on Facebook and Instagram – and encourage your friends to do the same.
I’m praying that IAFR will find a person with the passion and ability to run our social media, but until we find that person, I will do what I can to keep it going.
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.
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.
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!”
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.