Many of the Bibles provided by IAFR financial partners were distributed today when the leader of youth camp asked the kids who did not have a Bible of their own. Most of their hands shot up into the air, eager to receive a Bible.
As most of the youth learned English while in school, they received a NIV or a Tyndale Study Bible. May God use these Bibles to strengthen their faith, hope and love as they follow Jesus.
As many refugee friends tell me, “When we were forced to flee their homes, they did not have time to pack their Bibles.” And as there is no place anywhere near Kakuma from which they can buy a Bible, the IAFR Bibles for Refugee project is a great way for us to give them a gift of high value and let them know that we care about them.
The refugee pastor (right) of the Evangelical Ethiopian Church was hard at work today loosening and hammering ancient volcanic boulders just behind their church building.
The old building is starting to fall apart, and so these stones will be used as part of the foundation of the new church that they plan to build once they have the needed resources.
In the meantime, they do what they can with what they have to prepare.
I climbed up a pile of ancient volcanic boulders to take this photo of the Evangelical Ethiopian Church in which the youth camp is being held this week.
See the white blur in the top left corner of this photo? It’s a small soccer ball that we brought, thinking it might come in handy during youth camp. Kris Doten put it to good use this morning as she taught about stress and stress management. The youth passed the ball to one another, each time naming a source of stress in their lives. They didn’t hold back. War, loss of loved ones, refugee life, uncertain future, etc. all were named as the ball was thrown around the room.
Faith plays an essential role in helping people cope with loss, suffering and trauma. And so this refugee-led youth camp is focused on encouraging these young men and women to fix their eyes and hearts on Jesus, for he sees and hears and cares for them.
Photo: A young man who has lost both of his parents and finds himself alone in Kakuma fixing his heart and mind on Jesus as we sang together.
Kris talked about dealing with stress to 60 Kakuma Refugee youth today.
They told us they feel stress from being forcibly displaced from their country, from the death of loved ones, from very limited educational opportunities, from hardships living within Kakuma and from big questions about their future.
Their stressors are real and huge. In her comments Kris shared suggestions that seemed to bring encouragement. She reminded the youth that God sees and cares about each of them and then she prayed God’s help, strength and blessing over them.
Would you please take a minute right now and pray for Kakuma youth? That God would greatly encourage them and give them strength and hope? Your prayers can make a difference.
We are happy to have Dave Mwangi (left), Kenya Director of Biblica, here with us for part of the week. IAFR has worked together with Biblica to get over 12,000 Bibles to refugee churches in Kakuma. Biblica has developed some resources designed to specifically speak to youth-at-risk (including refugees) that we believe will also prove to be an asset to the churches here as 51% of the refugee population is under 18.
The other 3 gentlemen in this photo are on the executive team of our refugee partners, United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC). From right to left, the are: Pastor Mubarak (URHC Chairman from Sudan). Pastor Martin (URHC Vice Chairman from Turkana) and Pastor Yeshua (URHC Advisor from Ethiopia). The URHC Executive Team includes representatives from every nation represented in the URHC community, making it quite remarkable.
While in a refugee church worship service yesterday, the Burundian pastor invited Pastor Martin to lead the congregation in a Turkana worship song (which involved a lot of jumping) and later asked Pastor Mubarak to bless his son during the service as he is to be married at the end of the month.
It is a beautiful thing to see brothers and sisters in Jesus transcend their ethnic identities and language barriers.
The local people say it has been many years since it has rained like it has this week.
A Turkana pastor (from the host community) told me that he praises God for the rain because it gives life to all kinds of creatures.
Indeed, the grasses are springing up out of the normally barren landscape. And a great hatch of creatures is in motion, many of which join us in our rooms at night 🙂 [I’m fighting them off as I type tonight]
While the rains are welcome, they are also destructive. The normally dry river beds have swollen and are impassable, cutting off many parts of the camp from each other. And refugee camp roads, like the one in this photo, are filled with lake-sized-puddles.
We expected 200-250 youth from the camp and host community to join us for the first day of Youth Camp – but only 45 could make it.
Still, the motorcycle taxis somehow try to carry people from point to point while bicycles loaded down with charcoal find their customers.
Life goes on.
We went to visit a friend in the camp in the late afternoon. She has a son and a daughter in Minneapolis and she is always hoping to get news from them.
When we dropped by today, she pulled out her chairs and table for us to sit together. Her eldest daughter was helping her neighbor bake a cake over coals in a nearby shed. She called on a friend from Congo to come and translate for us (into Swahili).
She poured us sweet chai and a cool mango drink. When it was ready, her neighbor brought out the cake with a big smile. It was still warm and fluffy.
As we ate, we spoke of family and life in the camp. They asked why the US has cut back its refugee resettlement quotas (from 110,000 to 45,000 this year – of which only about 25,000 refugees will actually be resettled to the US this year). All I could tell them is that I would love for them to be my neighbors.
She welcomed our offer to pray a blessing over her family before we left.
I wish we could have done more.
I was walking down a muddy path to join a refugee church worship service in the camp this morning. This woman called to me.
“Are you a Christian?”
She motioned me to come to her. She whispered something into her baby’s ear and told me to take his hand.
When I did, the baby took my hand and gave it a gentle kiss.
The woman broke into a big smile.
My heart melted.
While normally a hot and dry place with daily temps reaching into the 100’s, we seem to arrived at the beginning of a brief season of cooler temperatures and heavy rains.
Rains are considered a blessing in this semi desert even though they also carry with them destruction and sometimes even death bringing flash floods.
This morning’s downpours hindered our plans to visit some friends in the camp this morning, so we are hanging out with our NGO partner staff watching rugby (commonwealth games in Australia) and trying to describe what a Minnesota winter is like.