IRT

Photo: Sunrise in Minnesota today

I’m at a retreat center 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities this week, meeting with the executive leadership of IAFR Canada πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ We call the meetings of IAFR executive leadership from the US and Canada our International Round Table (IRT).

They are in the final stages of establishing their organizational systems and will soon be ready to fully engage in ministry among refugees internationally.

While IAFR Canada is an autonomous mission agency, we share a common mission and operations values – so we work closely together toward that end.

While there is a lot of confusion and debate going on in the world concerning refugees, it is good to be together this week working on ways that bring hope and solutions to our uprooted friends.

We are up close and personal with refugees and asylum seekers in many parts of the world and we can testify that there is no need to fear them. There is good reason to partner with them in finding solutions to their displacement. That is where we are putting our time and energy.

Look out world 🌎

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.

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.

More than a board meeting

Left to Right: Tom Albinson, Tim Barnes (Executive VP, not board member), Brian Doten, Kristel Lehner, Jill Elefritz, John Swale, Dan Thompson

We had our annual face-to-face IAFR board meeting in Minneapolis yesterday. I am deeply grateful for the passion, wisdom and commitment these brothers and sisters have for the mission and work of IAFR.

We always start off the weekend of our annual meetings by gathering in our porch and eating Famous Dave’s ribs together. It’s a fun tradition that goes back to the first IAFR board meeting 10 years ago during which founding board members John Swale, Dan Thompson and Tom Albinson met outside of the Famous Dave’s in Uptown (Minneapolis). It’s a great way to reconnect and deepen our relationships before the next day of intense meetings.

It is a joy to serve with people who honestly believe that God loves the world and is active and engaged in time and space. The board is quick to acknowledge our utter dependency upon God and recognize that Jesus is seated at the table with us. Faith and hope permeate our meetings. Time together is punctuated with biblical reflection and prayer.

Our board meeting yesterday was more than doing business together. It was a rich time of worship and fellowship.

God’s heart on the highway

I serve with IAFR because it is focused on serving the world’s most vulnerable people – often in overlooked and remote places. IAFR does this in ways that I feel look like Jesus – in ways that are tender, thoughtful and gentle and also wild, progressive, creative and very challenging. I’m drawn to IAFR because of the way I see God’s heart playing out in what we do.

-Kelsey Briggs, preparing to serve in Ventimiglia, Italy

This is a paraphrase from an online video interview I made with Kelsey today. I plan to show to our board next month. Kelsey is in her 20s and eager to finally get to Italy to pioneer ministry in a context to which the media pays little attention, but in which there are thousands of vulnerable women, children and men desperately trying to find a way to survive.

I’m praying that God would send 1000+ young women and men of faith – people like Kelsey – to join IAFR and step out onto the refugee highway in places like Ventimiglia.

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Every one of our leaders is asking for more teammates. Would you join me in praying that God would call people to join with us?

I know God can do it. I was 22 when God called me into this ministry back in 1980. So as I pray, my faith is strong and my hopes are high.

Growth

Graph: IAFR growth in terms of missionaries

I spent much of Friday preparing for our upcoming Annual Board Meeting in September. While our board meets monthly via video conferencing, Our annual board meeting is when we all gather together in the same space for a day.

I was encouraged as I updated this graph and reflected on the relatively rapid growth we’ve experienced in recent years. It is especially remarkable as we have not recruited anyone! Every one of our teammates somehow managed to find us on their own. Rumor has it that God is involved in directing people to join our team.

Communion

We ended the 2018 IAFR Missionary Conference tonight with a time of sharing, singing and communion together. It was a rich few days together in a beautiful setting. I come away with deep gratitude for the privilege of serving with these brothers and sisters.

We break camp tomorrow to head back to our various ministry locations.

25

Photo: The 1st IAFR Missionary Conference in 2013


It’s the calm before the storm. 25 IAFR missionaries are gathering this week for our 4 day annual conference. I make my first airport pick up tomorrow morning.

We held our first annual conference outside of London just 5 years ago. All 4 of our full time missionaries were there.

We welcome your prayers as we spend time listening to God, sharpening our ministry skills, and having fun together.

We have set aside Tuesday evening to take time for lament together. Our mission field is wherever people are flowing out of the deep unhealed wounds in the world. We all carry heavy stories and have seen a lot of suffering. It is good to bring this to Jesus as a community. He is acquainted with grief. He will meet us there.

A Friday

I spent my morning on my monthly video conference call with IAFR Europe Regional Leader (in France) discussing our ministry locations in Europe (France, Malta, Austria, Italy) and doing some problem solving together.

I had a lunch meeting with our Director of Church Training who recently returned from leading trainings in Germany and Italy – and her husband who serves as Assistant Director of Operations. They are based here in Minneapolis, but due to ministry travel schedules, this was the first time we’ve all met together in the past 5 weeks. It was important to debrief and reorient together.

I finished off my day in the office reviewing our FY 2017 audit and IRS 990 to prepare them for finalizing and submission. Not a lot of fun, but a critical part of protecting IAFR’s integrity.

Donna and I then drove out to the home of the pastor who went with me to Kakuma in April for a beautiful supper and debrief together. It was good for us to all decompress a bit more after re entry into life in the US. The pastor (Brian Doten) is also an IAFR US board member.

It’s late now and I’m pretty tired. But I head for bed with a heart filled with thankfulness for the remarkable team God has brought to IAFR.