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A Time to Withdraw

Photo: The IAFR Team (2018)

"Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake..." (Mark 3:7)

Most of the IAFR team was able to withdraw together this month for a time of worship, learning and rest. We carry heavy burdens and time away together is precious. Faith was deepened. Burdens were lifted. Friendships were strengthened. Hope was renewed.

It was especially encouraging to see the growing diversity of our team. Several of us know the refugee experience firsthand. Our countries of birth include Canada, Burundi, Iraq, the Philippines, Scotland, Somalia, South Africa, and the US. If everyone of our teammates had been able to make it to the conference, our diversity would have been even greater. It is a powerful testimony to the reality that faith in Jesus helps us transcend all other identities.

Top photo: Tim Barnes (Executive VP, IAFR US) leads a time of ministry training.

Bottom photo: We ended our conference by celebrating communion together on a beautiful evening in the Minnesota woods.

A life changing moment

Photo: Two asylum seekers contemplate their next steps under a bridge in Ventimiglia


IAFR's Kelsey Briggs recently spoke with a refugee who had spent time in Ventimiglia, Italy about 10 years ago. This is what he shared:

In 2009 I spent two weeks in Ventimiglia. I was very sad and lonely. While I was there I ran out of the last bit of money I had for my journey. I had already tried to make it to France five times. I sat on the beach and prayed to God, asking what I should do. A few other people joined with me. While we were sitting together, a person came by and offered each of us a sandwich.

Kelsey says that this simple act of kindness stuck with her displaced friend. He said that he will never forget Ventigmiglia because he experienced God's faithfulness there.

He is now a follower of Jesus and leader in his church.

Kelsey says, "I am reminded that it is often in the midst of simple moments that God is telling his grander story".


Kelsey Briggs is in the IAFR support raising process, preparing to serve with IAFR in a city called Ventimiglia on the Italy - France border. She has had some discouraging weeks of support raising recently, but says that God has given her many moments of encouragement along the way.

Do you want to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of refugees in Ventimiglia? Join Kelsey's team of financial partners so that she can begin pioneering IAFR ministry there sooner than later!

What we do matters!

Twenty-four people came to the quarterly gathering of the Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) Asylum Network yesterday. They represent churches and local agencies that include asylum seekers within the scope of their work. The Asylum Network was started by Sarah Miller, our MSP Ministry Leader.

When she first came to the Twin Cities, her research identified asylum seekers as an underserved group in the community. As she met with different people involved in some sort of assistance to asylum seekers, she found that they weren't all connected with each other. Everyone was serving in isolation. So she launched the Asylum Network. It's been going strong for a couple of years now.

This week, the Center for Victims of Torture (an international humanitarian agency based in the Cities) gave a presentation on trauma awareness. Sarah later wrote...

"During the discussion time at the end, a Rwanda asylum seeker, Emmanual, shared how his experience resonated with what was shared. He is an incredibly articulate young man. Before the day ended yesterday, I received this email from him:

Subject: Thank you for your commitment to our cause.

Hi Sarah, I am so glad to have met you. Thank you so much for your choice to dedicate yourself to the cause of refugees. Thank you deeply for creating a space for asylum seekers. It is terrible to fall in a category that has zero eligibility in the nation’s social protection. Thank you. This is just a note of thanks, I would like to meet you any time soon you can be available. I hope you live in Minnesota.

With many thanks, Emmanuel "

Sarah was quick to pass this encouragement along to the IAFR team noting:

"I'm so encouraged by this! What we do matters!"

"Do you see the man reaching out?"

Image: Art by Giovanni Battista Piranesi at the Minneapolis Art Institute
(The red circle is added to help you easily find the men reaching out)


SJ volunteers with IAFR's team in Minneapolis/St. Paul. She spends a lot of her time helping out at Jonathan House, an IAFR ministry offering shelter, community and practical help to asylum seekers in the Twin Cities.

SJ recently went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art with one of the Jonathan House residents. He, in turn, invited a friend and fellow asylum seeker to join them.

While there, they came across an exhibition of prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, all of which portrayed convoluted, perspective-defying imaginary prisons.

The Jonathan House resident considered one of the prints (above).

He asked his friend, “What do you think this is a picture of?

His friend gave several answers: “Conflict. Racism. Social inequality.”

The resident shook his head, and said, “It’s the immigration system.

Everyone laughed, but he went on to explain.

The person in chains on the left is an asylum seeker who just arrived and doesn’t know anything about immigration law, and he’s like, ‘Oh, my god! What do I do?

The lions at the bottom are if you get deported and sent back to your home country.

And here on the right, above the lion, do you see the man reaching out? That’s a refugee. And the other man reaching out to him - is Jonathan House.

-from Sarah Miller, IAFR Ministry Leader in Minneapolis/St. Paul

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