The Refugee Church

I just created this 1.5 minute video to use when speaking to an Adult Sunday School Class tomorrow

I’ll be speaking at Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield, MN, tomorrow morning. I’m taking Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera with me as the church asked me to share about the refugee church and Pastor Gatera spent 20 years of his life in Kakuma refugee camp – and many of those years as a refugee pastor. I can think of no better way to introduce them to the refugee church than to give them the privilege of listening to Pastor Gatera.

Making new friends

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.

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

Lunch with Gatera

Photo: Pastor Gatera in Kakuma refugee camp

I had a long overdue lunch with my friend and IAFR colleague, Pastor Gatera. We first met when he was pastoring a refugee church in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya). He now lives less than a 15 minute drive from my office in Minneapolis.

We spoke of family, leadership, theology and ministry (both in the US and in Kakuma).

He shared how he has spent his life immersed in multicultural settings. His ministry has always been interdenominational in nature. His posture is always of a learner.

His calling is clear. He has a vision to help strengthen interdenominational associations of churches in refugee contexts. Refugee churches play a life-saving role in keeping hope alive in desperate places. But they get very little support and encouragement from the church-at-large – much less from a highly respected Christian leader who spent 20 years in a refugee camp himself.

He is in the early months of support raising. He needs help developing a network of financial partners.

Would you pray with me that God would raise up a circle of generous donors to release him into ministry? He needs about $5500/month.

Click here to donate to his ministry today!

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.

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.


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.

Refugee pastor

So happy that Northwood Community Church (Maple Grove, MN) invited Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera to speak during their worship services today!

Pastor Gatera spent 20 years in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. While there, Gatera was the point person for IAFR’s partnership with an association of refugee churches called United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC).

In 2017, Pastor Gatera joined to serve full time with IAFR. He is presently focused on building a team of financial partners.

Just let me know if you’d like to meet Pastor Gatera or if you are interested in financially partnering with him.