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Strengthening Faith

The refugee church plays an essential role in helping people survive and recover from forced displacement. That's one reason we are partnering with refugee churches in ways that strengthen their leaders and communities. We're doing that this week by responding to their request to bring theological and trauma care training.

Professor George Kalantzis from Wheaton College launched into the deep end with a hand picked group of refugee church leaders here this morning. Together the group is learning to think critically about why they believe what they believe and how to understand Scripture by understanding its context.

Leaders from Sudan, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya are among the mix. Professor Kalantzis is a Greek. Jenny Hwang (here from Wheaton's Humanitarian Disaster Institute) is first generation American Korean. It's wonderful to be going deep, seeking truth, together as one body.

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers and IAFR donors contributing to the Bibles for Refugees project as they have together made it possible for these pastors to have NLT Study Bibles - a wonderful resource in this remote place. We also thank Biblica for providing Study Bible Guides to help the pastors learn how to get the most from their Study Bibles.

Click here to see more photos and stories from our visit to Kakuma.

A Refugee's Vision

Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera is from Burundi, but he never lived there. His parents had fled their homeland and were refugees in Rwanda when he was born. Pastor Gatera was forced to flee Rwanda in 1994 during the infamous genocide.

While a refugee for nearly 20 years in Kakuma refugee camp, God gave Pastor Gatera a vision of refugees reaching nations with the good news of Jesus Christ. Pastor Gatera resettled to the US in 2016. He joined International Association for Refugees in 2017 in order to continue pursuing his vision.

Meet Pastor Gatera below to hear more about his story and his remarkable vision. [Duration 2:40 minutes]

Join Pastor Gatera's support team today! Click here to donate now.

Greetings from Kakuma

I visited friends from Somalia and DR Congo before sunset tonight. It’s always good to just sit and talk about life -especially in a refugee camp. Cold Cokes appeared out of nowhere and soon we were talking about everything from surviving bomb attacks, the challenges of keeping in touch with family separated by continents, health concerns, the weather (looks like rain) and even photography.

At some point a boy asked if he could take a picture of his friend using my camera. I showed him how it worked and he quickly snapped this photo. It is the best picture my camera took today.

He then wanted a photo together with me. I handed the camera over to a clothing designer (refugee) from DR Congo who snapped the picture below (I’m the white guy). The boy made me promise to bring a print for him when I next visit.

These things might not sound special to many people – but people here don’t take them for granted. Little things matter a lot. Taking the time to sit, listen and share and pray and take photos are all re-humanizing for people in this forgotten refugee camp in remote northwestern Kenya.

Click here to follow our trip blog and see more stories and photos from Kakuma refugee camp.

"But we are alive."

Photo: Refugees under a bridge in Italy

When we pulled up to the makeshift refugee camp under a bridge there were a lot of people hanging around -women and children included. A group of Eritreans told us about their journeys up through Libya, their current challenges in the makeshift camp, and their hopes for the future. Their stories were touching and tragic.

I was particularly moved by one young man, probably around 17 or 18 years old. We were saying bye and thanked them for sharing with us. We said we were sorry that this is how it was for them. The young refugee replied quite simply, “But we are alive. Thanks be to God.”

Over the course of our trip, I had been asking God to show me places of darkness, and places of light. And this, for me, became a place of great light amidst the darkness. Reflected in this young man's words were traces of an incredible story. A story in which death does not reign, nor does it have the final say. His hope was rooted in the fact that death had not beaten them. Written into places of great grief, was a comfortingly familiar story. In this boy's words, and in his face, I encountered my Jesus, reminding me once more, that hope always leaves space for a “but.” 

But, on the third day, he rose again. But, death indeed, does not get the final say.

I hope this is encouraging. Even as I was writing this, I burst into tears - again. I found myself incredibly moved by the face of Jesus in refugees. It’s the craziest thing to see his image so deeply engraved in vulnerable people.

As I sat with a group of Christians in the makeshift camp, I had a sudden realization that they were my own people. As fellow followers of Jesus, I realized that we were part of the same tribe, the same family, the very same body. To see our very own body breaking in that way was... I don’t know, powerful maybe?

This was my first time ever being in such a camp and also just walking up to refugees on the street and chatting. It was quite an incredible experience, and very moving.

-by Kelsey Briggs (preparing to serve with IAFR in Italy)

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