I’m going to spend most of my day tomorrow with Kelsey, a twenty-something who joined IAFR last year to serve in Ventimiglia, Italy – an unknown smallish Italian city on the border with France.
Kelsey was with the IAFR research team that stumbled upon Ventimiglia and discovered many asylum-seekers and refugees are living there in squalid conditions – men, women and children from distant countries, most of which are experiencing protracted war.
Kelsey and I are going to explore what to anticipate when pioneering a new IAFR ministry location.
In preparation, I came upon the following definitions of pioneering…
- One of the first to settle in a territory
- A plant or animal capable of establishing itself in a bare, barren, or open area and initiating an ecological cycle
- A person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development
All three of these ideas apply to what Kelsey plans to do. The second bullet point conjures up a beautiful and hopeful image that I hope will prove true of her life in coming years.
Some might look down on her because of her age and think it unreasonable for someone like her to step into the complexities and unknowns of Ventimiglia. But I am partial to twenty-somethings. I was 22 years old when I set out to pioneer ministry in a remote Austrian village that wasn’t even found on maps…
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.
Photo: This morning’s speaker (Dr. Sam George, Lausanne Movement) at the COMIBAM gathering
It’s been a rich couple of days here in Costa Rica. I’ve been so impressed with how God is moving in churches and missions in Latin America concerning refugees.
I’ve met with a guy who has networked with Christians from Panama to Canada to help the church show up in the lives of refugees and migrants on the move in Central America.
I’ve reconnected with a friend from Brazil who leads a ministry that serves refugees in the country, assists refugees with resettlement to Brazil and that is serving refugees in the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
I heard how a mission in Argentina has a vision “One Church, One Family” that is connecting churches with refugee families in ways that offer a welcome, extend community, and assistance with integration.
…and that is just a small sample of what these brothers and sisters are doing.
I had the privilege of speaking last night about the unique role of the church in helping refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. I’ve also been give 4x 1 hour small group sessions to introduce the work of IAFR, the Refugee Highway Partnership and World Evangelical Alliance to folks here as resources to support them as they seek the welfare of refugees.
Can you tell I’m encouraged?
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
It’s that time again. I head out to visit my friends in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) this week.
One nice thing about the semi desert there is that it helps me pack light 🙂 Daily highs there are presently hovering around 100 F. Meanwhile back here I watched the snow falling out our window while packing today…
Follow the trip at https://kenya.iafr.org
Photo: 2 weeks worth of stuff to pack
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.
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.
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.