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 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.
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.
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!
I spent part of the day preparing to tell the IAFR story on Sunday evening as we begin the annual IAFR Missionary Conference.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I decided I would highlight the defining moments in the story.
- 1980 – The unmistakeable calling to serve refugees
- 1997 – The vision of the Refugee Highway
- 2001 – The global consultation on the Refugee Highway in Izmir, Turkey
- 2009 – IAFR is conceived in Kenya
- 2009 – IAFR is born
- 2010 – Paul Sydnor joins IAFR as our second missionary
- 2013 – Tom Albinson is appointed Ambassador for Refugees with World Evangelical Alliance
- 2014 – The first draft of the Continuum of Response was drafted. It has become our core strategy for ministry and training.
- 2017 – IAFR Canada is established
That’s the outline. Now to figure out a way to share it so that it makes sense and captures the interest of others…
IAFR dreams of the day when churches and ministries scattered all over the world are able to work together in life-giving ways that help refugees survive and recover from forced displacement. An email this morning from a colleague serving with IAFR Canada shows what can happen when we are connected.
There is a 28 year old man from D.R. Congo seeking refuge in Malta (a small EU island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea). He somehow came across the general email address of IAFR Canada and wrote:
“I need help to have asylum seekers paper or refugee camps. I’m suffering in Malta. Please I need directions.”
IAFR Canada is now reaching out to our IAFR missionaries serving in Malta (Doug and Jacqui Marshall) to see if they can follow up personally with this man.
We’re off to a good start – but we imagine this kind of scenario playing out on a daily basis someday as we develop ministries and networks that connect refugees to people that they can trust.
Would you please breathe a prayer that God will further make this dream a reality?
I’ve often been asked if we had a 1 page (front and back) introduction to the work of IAFR. I finally created it today. Click on the image to download a copy and have a look.
If you want to print one of these, I recommend visiting the IAFR Toolbox and downloading a high resolution version. You’ll find it in the Toolbox in the “IAFR Publications” section.
Another full day of meetings here in Toronto with the leadership of IAFR Canada. As they are still in the early stages of forming their organization, much of today’s discussion revolved around clarifying future ministry partnerships, ministry locations and the overall shared vision of IAFR – attempting to prayerfully imagine what IAFR might look like in 3-5 years.
I so appreciate partnering with people who share the same faith, values and mission. Starting a new international mission is not for the faint hearted.
I look forward to heading to the Toronto airport at 3:30 AM and getting back to Minnesota (and Donna) by 8:00 AM.
I took time today to prayerfully reflect on the vision of IAFR, asking God to help me see what he intends to do in and through IAFR so that I can be sure that our organizational compass is pointing us in the right direction.
I don’t know about you, but taking time to think and pray about vision is hard work. While the vision might be an unmistakeable force residing in my gut, it is hard work finding words that do it justice. I have to intentionally set aside the more pressing (and often easier) demands on my time and energy and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going.
It’s hard work. But I know if I persevere, it carries its reward.
Notepads and flip chart paper were helpful as I thought and listened.
As I fly to Toronto tomorrow for meetings with the leadership of IAFR Canada, I had to hit the pause button on my thoughts before I found the clarity I am seeking. But I’m confident it will come when it’s time.
Did you ever defrag your computer? You might remember how in older versions of Windows, there was an image like this that showed how fragmented files were being consolidated.
Defragmentation is a simple way to increase a computer’s performance by running a Defrag app that helps file bits from programs and files on the hard drive consolidate – because they naturally fragment over time with use.
Our IAFR US Service Team meeting today was a bit like a defrag. We remembered the IAFR vision and mission and our role in pursuing it. It’s normal to feel fragmented after months in the trenches and it is good to regain perspective and make sure our roles are clear and that our priorities are taking us in the right direction.