The Weight

His father died when he was young. His mother died 10 days ago – far away from her children in a Nairobi hospital. He feels guilty for not being with her. But he had no choice. As the firstborn, he must now parent his 10 siblings here in the camp.

He told me how his mother often prayed and told him that one day a door would open out of this place. “But it didn’t.”

His grief was fresh and nearly overcame him as he shared. “I am so tired. I don’t know if I can do this.” There are no easy answers to offer.

Although we are of different faiths, I asked if I could pray for him. He quickly answered, “Yes! Please.” As I prayed it was as if God shared a bit of his grief with me. It was difficult to get words out. But I also sensed God’s comforting presence. I hope he did too.

While we do what we can to help our friends here, I recognized again that our most important work is to be present with them. What is often missing in the lives of refugees is the presence of a shepherd – someone who seeks out and sits with the lost and hurting ones.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

Life threatening drought

Photo: An IDP shelter funded by IAFR donors in 2016

We visited our friends in the Turkana West IDP Camp this morning. They are Kenyans who were forced to flee their homes due to post election violence in 2008. The camp is home to 351 families.

The drought in the region is proving to be life threatening. A mother told us how pregnant women, babies and the elderly are suffering. Some have died. Even in the best of times there is no local supply of water.

We’re experiencing daily high temperatures in the 100’s (Fahrenheit). Between the drought, the heat and the dry winds, survival can be a challenge here.

Let’s join with them as they pray for life-giving rains.

 

Video greetings

Keeping people connected is an important investment in their resilience.

A family was resettled to Minneapolis last year after spending 20 years in Kakuma. I was able to take a video greeting from the family to their church (below) and former neighbors (above) in the camp. It was encouraging for them to know that they have not been forgotten by their former pastor and neighbor.

After showing them the videos, they quickly asked me to film a return greeting. I look forward to bringing it back to our friends in Minneapolis.

Sunday Worship

A couple of images from Sunday morning worship here in Kakuma refugee camp.

Above: Worship with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church (Sudanese)

Above: worship with PEFA Church (Congolese)

Laptops for Refugee Churches

IAFR thanks God for the opportunity to give these 3 laptops to our partner agency (United Refugee and Host Churches – URHC) in Kakuma refugee camp this week. The computers were made possible through donations to IAFR from Laurelglen Church (Bakersfield, CA) and their annual Market of Hope.

The laptops will be used by the leadership of URHC as they coordinate the work of their 83 church union serving children, youth and women as well as their Interdenominational School of Mission. As you might imagine, the computers were received with gratitude by our brothers and sisters here.

First Days in Kakuma

We have been in Kakuma for a couple days now and were given a tour of the camp.

It is cooler here than normal but still over 100 degrees every day. It is hard to complain though when I am mostly sitting or standing still in the shade and so many people are working long and hard in the sun…young men riding bikes 10km between camps with big bundles or firewood or charcoal on the back…young women cooking in hot kitchens…10 year olds carrying two jerry cans (big jugs that look like gas cans) full of water…people digging deep holes in the riverbed to find water.

Pastor Luke and I spoke with a young man at the Ethiopian Church today that Luke had prayed with last time he was here. He shared many of his memory verses with us. We speak very little Swahili and he only spoke a little English so he would just switch to English on his Bible app so we could read the verse. We would do our best to discuss the verse together and then he would get very excited and say, “God is good!” and we would agree. Many many times he said, “God is good!” His enthusiasm for the Lord was contagious but I am a little ashamed to admit that I wasn’t even close to matching it.

The people here smile, laugh, and joke with each other and us a lot but we can tell that some don’t have a lot of hope left. Pastor Tom and I met with a woman who is a Somali Muslim. Her current situation here is very difficult. She has been here for 22 years and still has a little hope left. Not a lot, but a little. I can’t help but wonder if I would have hope left after ten years or even five. Only in God I think. She and Tom have been praying for each other for a long time. She knows her beliefs and understanding of God are different than ours as we know the same of hers but it still was not difficult to talk about God together.

hope

She has survived the traumatic wounds of a bomb blast and a dangerous journey to seek refuge in Kenya, but after more than 20 years in this refugee camp, she is struggling to keep hope alive for herself and her children. While not of the Christian faith, she readily admits that only God can help her. Her eyes teared up as she fought off the fear that God may not choose to  open a way out of this place. Then what?

I had no answers – only my personal confession that while I don’t understand God, I know he has revealed himself to be good and that he hears our cries and sees our tears. She seems to believe that too.

Father in Heaven, please lead her to a place where she can settle and be reunited with her whole family. You are her only hope. May she know your unfailing love and faithful provision. I pray in the name of Jesus.

Back to Kakuma

Follow our upcoming visit to Kakuma refugee camp this month. This visit will feature time with our displaced friends, participating in our refugee partner’s annual youth camp, helping out with a refugee leadership training conference in the Kalobeyei refugee settlement (6 miles from Kakuma) and following up on IAFR projects (e.g. the KISOM school building, Bibles for Refugees and Shelter for Internally Displaced People).

Stop by our blog again soon to see how God is at work along this stretch of the refugee highway.

Email

Betty is a refugee - and a pastor's wife. Her husband has already started a church that meets under a tree in the camp (they have no building). We were thrilled to hear that he had already met our refugee partners in Kakuma (7-8 miles away).
Betty is a refugee – and a pastor’s wife. Her husband has already started a church that meets under a tree in the camp (they have no building). We were thrilled to hear that he had already met our refugee partners in Kakuma (7-8 miles away).

I received this email today. It was written by Betty, a refugee from Sudan that I met while visiting Kalobeyei refugee settlement yesterday…

________
Hello Tom  ALbinson
Receive our Christian  greeting.in the name of our LORD JESUS Christ.
May his name be exalted being gracious to us all.
I am in Kalobayei new settlement.
A south Sudanese by nationality. Above all I am a citizen of Heaven.
I am Betty…
I am married by a pastor call peter is assistant pastor in Kalobayei refugee camp.
Thanks may God bless you.

Debrief

Kenya is not only among the leading host countries of refugees on the African continent, it is also home to spectacular wildlife and natural beauty. We're taking n 24 hours in a national park to debrief our trip together before heading back to the US this weekend.
Kenya is not only among the leading host countries of refugees on the African continent, it is also home to spectacular wildlife and natural beauty. We’re taking 24 hours in a national park to debrief our trip together before heading back to the US tomorrow.