Water in the desert

Photo: hydro geological survey results

I spent part of the day reading over a hydro-geological survey that ends with this chart pointing to a promising borehole site in Kakuma, Kenya.

This is the crucial step before drilling down over 1 football field deep in hopes of finding plentiful drinkable water.

And that water will ultimately be pumped to an IDP Camp several miles away where over 2000 internally displaced people (mostly women and children) live without a local source of water.

Drilling could start before the year runs out! What a wonderful end to the year!

Click here to learn more about this project!

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.

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.

Creating safe space

I’m packed and ready to head to Lille, France. We have a local ministry there that is opening a Centre that will serve as a safe space in which locals and refugees can connect in mutually beneficial ways.

A local French church is renovating a service garage and turning it into a ministry center. IAFR will begin leasing the space to use for refugee ministry in January.

One of the big challenges in the French context is finding spaces in which refugees and locals can meet. This Centre will serve that end.

We’re thankful that local churches see the value of creating this safe space in their community.

Skyping Kakuma

Today was punctuated by an email conversation with people in Washington D.C. and Kakuma, Kenya. I’m coordinating a Skype conference call for Sunday morning (at 3 PM in Kenya, 8 AM in D.C. and 7 AM here in Minneapolis).

I am looking forward to seeing our ministry partners in Kakuma and talking with the 5 girls that the D.C. church is sponsoring through high school (in partnership with IAFR). The girls are from South Sudan, Burundi, DR Congo and the IDP camp sheltering over 2000 Kenyans.

The sponsoring church is eager to meet the girls via Skype. I am encouraged that they want to do what they can to personalize the sponsorship.

We’re tentatively planning on having someone from the church join me on my April 2019 visit to Kakuma so they can meet the girls in person – as well as get a first hand look at some of the other IAFR projects that the church is sponsoring.

Assuming everything works according to plan, the girls should start their freshman year in January 2019.

A good Friday

Finally. We set something life-giving in motion – three international transfers of funding made possible by the sacrificial generosity of many people, most of whom will never meet – people who pooled their resources together to joyfully partner with God as he answers the prayers of our displaced brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.

Finally. IAFR sent the funding to our partner agency in Kenya (National Council of Churches Kenya – NCCK) so that…

The KISOM building project can now enter phase one!

The IDP Water Project can get under way!

We also wired the first monthly contribution to our partner refugee agency (URHC) so that they can begin offering ministry support to the Kenyan missionary – Nicholas Gagai – leading their Interdenominational School of Mission and their refugee youth ministry.

Many refugee lives will soon change.

Pastors, evangelists, missionaries and church leaders will have a dedicated safe space in which they can gather for training and equipping for their calling.

Thousands of women, children and men – an entire village of internally displaced people – will have a local supply of clean water! This will greatly improve their health. It will also improve their security as the present 6-7 mile round trip through semi desert bush to fetch dirty water entails many risks. It will also increase their capacity to hope, as God demonstrates that he hears their cries and provides for their needs.

And our faithful brother, Nicholas, serving full-time with our refugee partner organisation, will finally have some regular support to enable him to more fully invest himself in equipping refugee church leaders for ministry and in mentoring refugee youth, encouraging them to live faithful lives serving Jesus. He has been serving for nearly 10 years without any source of regular income. This has taken a toll on his health over the years.

All this was set in motion yesterday. It was a good Friday.

A time to build.

KISOM = The Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission

KISOM was established by churches in Kakuma refugee camp back in 1997. It’s 2 and 3 year programs prepare pastors, missionaries and evangelists for ministry. It has graduated over 1,000 students, many of whom are now pastoring churches in the camp and surrounding host community – and even in other countries, both in Africa and beyond. The stated mission of the school is “To reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ from Kakuma.”

Our refugee brothers and sisters have been praying for more than 2 decades that God would give them a proper school building for this important ministry. IAFR helped them purchase land for the building in 2016 (photo).

Perhaps you can imagine my joy this week when I told IAFR Finance to transfer the funds that we have raised to build the school!

Our NGO partner in Kakuma (National Council of Churches Kenya – NCCK) will work closely with our refugee partner (United Refugee and Host Churches – URHC) in both planning and constructing the school. NCCK has needed expertise and capacity that our refugee partners lack.

Many thanks to the generous IAFR financial partners who contributed a total of $70,000 for this project!

What a joy to be able to partner with God in his answer to the prayers of the refugee churches in Kakuma!

Click here to learn more about KISOM (lots of beautiful photos included).

A Refugee Pastors Conference (Kenya)

Tim Barnes (IAFR Executive VP) and I met online this morning with Steve Quackenbush (Director of Strategic Initiatives with SIL) and two of his colleagues to explore together how SIL can take its areas of expertise onto the Refugee Highway in life-giving ways. I was encouraged to hear of their growing passion for serving displaced people of all kinds, including those who are forcibly displaced. We will be continuing the conversation.

I then had a long overdue lunch with my friend and colleague, Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera today. It was good to catch up on life together as we have both been doing a fair bit of ministry related travel this summer.

Among other things, we had our first conversation about planning a Refugee Pastors Conference for our friends in Kakuma refugee camp. We’re thinking we could do it sometime in 2020. Thanks to a pledged donation of $25,000 from our friends at National Presbyterian Church (Washington, D.C.), this dream will become a reality.

I’m asking Pastor Gatera to take the lead in planning this conference (he lived and pastored in Kakuma refugee camp for 20 years). Our vision at present is to bring between 80-100 refugee pastors together in a retreat area away from the camp for 4 nights.

These pastors carry a heavy load. They have suffered the trauma of forced displacement themselves and pastor congregations of forcibly displaced people in a forgotten refugee camp. It’s difficult to imagine the burdens they carry.

I get some inspiration from the words of King David. Before he was king, David spent 10 or more years as a refugee fleeing persecution from king Saul. He once wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23

God has given us a vision to give these pastors an opportunity to lie down in green pastures beside, quiet waters, in the refreshing presence of our Creator and Savior.

If you want to participate in this, we welcome more financial partners. The $25,000 will make it possible for us to bring 80-100 pastors together. But there are over 157 churches in the association with whom IAFR partners. Every donation of $400 to IAFR for this project will make it possible for us to add another pastor to the invitation list. Just be sure to designate your gift “for the Refugee Pastors Conference in Kenya”.

I’ll let you know more as the details come together.

Projects

Photo: A shelter built by IAFR in Kakuma, Kenya

I spent much of the day reviewing IAFR projects with Jake Tornga, our Director of Project Management. Jake works hard to help us record how money is invested in IAFR projects – which isn’t as easy as it sounds. He also helps us keep track of progress for each project.

It’s proven very helpful to have Jake focused on keeping track of funding refugee scholarships, building refugee shelters, providing Bibles for refugees or investing in income generation projects (among other IAFR projects and programs).

I can sleep soundly because I know he’s making sure the numbers add up and the projects are moving forward.

Click here to see a full list of IAFR projects.

Answers to prayer

We received without asking. I know it’s not supposed to happen, but it did. And more than once.

We are thankful to the Tyndale House Foundation for their financial partnership. Last year, they gave us an unsolicited grant “to be used where most needed“. Wow. That kind of support is both precious and rare.

I spent part of today working with Jake Tornga, IAFR US Director of Project Management. We are in the final stages of reporting to Tyndale how we invested their grant. It was encouraging to remember how the grant helped further the kingdom of God along the Refugee Highway.

WHERE DID IT GO?

Church buildings were built by our refugee partners – both in refugee camps and in the surrounding host communities in which the refugees have planted churches.

We built a new chicken coup in an IDP camp to help our IDP Partners expand their poultry business from 500 to 1000 chickens. The business is pulling them out of extreme poverty.

A refugee pastor was receiving death threats, being persecuted and unjustly tried in Malawi. We were able to cover most of his legal fees. The court found him innocent. The attacks have since stopped.

I’m grateful for every single one of our financial partners. And I’m thankful to God for giving us the privilege of participating with him in answering the prayers of our refugee friends.