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Pastor Gatera | MSP

We are happy to welcome Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera to the IAFR Team! Pastor Gatera is preparing to serve with us in Minneapolis/St. Paul - and ultimately further afield. Read on to learn more about our old friend and new colleague!

Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera is Burundian by birth. He spent 20 years of his life in Kakuma refugee camp in remote northwestern Kenya.

Pastor Gatera pastored a refugee church in Kakuma for 10 years. He also served as the chairman of a diverse association of churches from within the refugee camp and surrounding host community for over a decade, during which time the association grew from 21 to over 83 churches. He also taught for many years at the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM). It is through Pastor Gatera and his many networks that IAFR's ministry in Kakuma began in 2012.

Pastor Gatera is passionate about helping refugees overcome the many challenges of resettlement in the US and other countries. He has a special burden to encourage and equip refugee Christians for ministry in refugee camps as well as in countries of resettlement. He has a special calling to encourage and strengthen interdenominational associations of refugee churches within refugee camps, believing that God seeks to use the refugee church to further his kingdom in a mighty way around the world.

While a refugee, Pastor Gatera earned a Diploma in Missions from the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) and a Bachelors degree in Theology from Global University. He also earned certificates in Bible Training for Pastors, Don Bosco Vocational Training, Trauma Care, Conflict Transformation, Leadership Training, Peace Building, Pastoral Training and Million Leaders Mandate.

Pastor Gatera and his wife and three children were resettled from Kenya to the US in 2016.


Lauren Gaines | IAFR Italy

We are happy to welcome Lauren Gaines to the IAFR Team! Lauren is preparing to serve with IAFR in Italy. Read on to learn more about her.

As a long-time staff member at her church, most recently in the role of Refugee Care Coordinator, Lauren has had the opportunity to engage the transformation of her city in unique ways. She has witnessed Jesus bringing light into the darkness of prison, taught yoga to women recovering from exploitation and enslavement, and offered renewed meaning and hope through her church's recovery ministry. These experiences have born in her a deep love for those who are hurting and lost.

Lauren is enthusiastic about building cross-cultural relationships, and has had a strong desire to connect with people from around the world since she began traveling as a child. When she got the chance to welcome a young refugee family from the Middle East and meet with them weekly for tea and friendship, she knew she would be seeking opportunities to connect with refugees for years to come.

Over the last four years, Lauren has partnered with World Relief in Malawi, joining a team in the Salima district as they equip and engage local churches through the development of Church Empowerment Zones. Out of a growing passion to strengthen and mobilize the local church back home, and with the power of the CEZ model in mind, she was led to create the Refugee Church Alliance of Central Florida. Comprising six churches at its inception, this alliance is committed to the holistic care of resettled refugee families through collaboration and partnership across denominations.

Lauren is eager to encourage a spirit of hospitality in a world where fewer doors are remaining open to the displaced, and she desires to see hope renewed as God joins together his multi-cultural family.

Lauren is currently raising support as she follows her desire to partner with the Italian church in bringing compassion and hope to refugees.


Kelsey Briggs | IAFR Italy

We are thrilled to welcome Kelsey Briggs to the IAFR Team! Kelsey is preparing to serve with IAFR in Italy. Read on to learn more about her.

Kelsey graduated from Gordon College in 2017 where she earned a degree in social work. During her time she also studied peace and conflict with an emphasis in community transformation. Through her course work in policy, and mediation, she became passionate about conflict management, peacemaking and reconciliation, and working with displaced people.

After traveling to Europe as an exchange student in 2014, she returned a few years later with a new found curiosity for working with refugees and asylees. While studying in Italy she spent time engaging with displaced people at Il Soggiorno refugee center in Rome where she was compelled by the people she met and the stories she heard. In particular, she found herself amazed by the way she saw God crossing social boundaries, and stepping personally into the lives of forcefully displaced people. When she returned to the U.S. she began working with the Greater Boston Refugee Ministry to implement different models of housing in the Boston area, but remained passionate about the refugee crisis in Europe.

Kelsey continues to grow in her desire to see more just and welcoming communities for those forced to flee their homes, and believes the church plays an integral role in mobilizing followers of Jesus to create these spaces of peace. She is hopeful that communities of peace and thriving can exist despite the deep suffering that pervades the lives of refugees. Her love for refugees, and the Muslim world in particular is ever growing, and she is excited to be serving with IAFR in their work of helping people recover from forced displacement.

A Safe Place

Jonathan House prepares to open in St. Paul, MN

Did you know that in 2016, 262,000 people fled their country due to violence, war and persecution and made their way to the US in search of refuge? These men, women and children are called "asylum seekers".

While asylum seekers are legally allowed to reside in the US and seek refuge,  they are not permitted to work or access government services upon arrival. It can take a year before they receive a work permit. Traumatized and far from home, they are left to navigate the complex asylum system on their own.

How are asylum seekers to survive without permission to work or access to basic government services?

IAFR is partnering with local churches in the Twin Cities to provide safe housing, supportive community and practical assistance for asylum seekers. We call this ministry "Jonathan House". We dedicated the first Jonathan House this month.

40 people gathered in Jonathan House last Thursday to dedicate it to the Lord for his life-giving purposes. At least 4 different churches were represented at the gathering, including 1st Covenant Church of St. Paul, which has made it's parsonage available to serve as the first Jonathan House.

Prayers were offered up in each room, asking God to bless everyone who finds refuge within the house with supportive community, life-giving faith, peace of heart and mind, new skills for their new context and opportunities for meaningful work and service.


Become a financial partner of the Jonathan House ministry today!

Did you know?

According to Human Rights Watch, there are 1,800 asylum seekers in Minnesota today. The United Nations reports that there are over 540,000 pending asylum cases in the US, of which 262,000 were filed in 2016.

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