Prayer Mountain

Photo: A Kakuma landmark visible from most of the camp. When the camp was first being built, many of the NGO staff were Christians and were known to often climb to the top of this hill and pray for the refugees. They called it “prayer mountain”.

It is time to say farewell to our friends in Kakuma. We are packing up our bags and getting ready for a final debrief with our NGO partner agency (NCCK) before we take the 90 minute UN flight back to Nairobi.

Our flights back to the US (via Europe) depart tomorrow night.

Kwaheri Kakuma.

Challenges remain

We had our final meeting with refugee church leadership this afternoon. We reviewed various projects and programs that we are working on together.

They expressed excitement and concern as the completion of the first phase of the KISOM building is in sight and they realize they still have to figure out how to manage and protect it. They also need to figure out how to get electricity and water to the site.

We don’t have solutions to these challenges. We offered our prayers and challenged the association of 160 refugee churches to each begin contributing $1.00/month to URHC. That kind of monthly income would likely give them enough to meet most, if not all, of these needs.

But it isn’t easy. $1.00 is a lot of money for a church to contribute each month in this place. Still, I believe they will rise to the challenge.

Photo: The KISOM building site today

It’s hard to believe that the next time IAFR visits Kakuma, the KISOM buildings will be completed – and hopefully in use!

Marriage and birth certificates

Photo: Ethiopian refugee children

We ended our week with a morning of meetings with a select group of refugee women. Professor Kalantzis and Jenny Hwang met with them inside a church in the camp – so I didn’t get any photos of the session 🙁

I enjoyed sitting under the shade of some trees on the compound of the Ethiopian church in the camp and talking with a small group of refugee pastors from DR Congo and Sudan.

Among other things, I learned of the struggle refugees face in getting a government marriage certificate and birth certificates. They told me that many of the children in their churches do not have birth certificates – which puts them in serious danger of becoming stateless. We discussed whether this is also an issue that Catholic churches and Muslims face in the camp – and if so, perhaps considering teaming up together to advocate for all refugees in the camp to have a way to obtain these important certificates locally in Kakuma.

I heard it many times during this visit. “We are not viewed by others as people – human beings.”

Lunch in the camp

You might wonder what we eat while in Kakuma. Most of our lunches were prepared by a group of Ethiopian refugee women – and every day our plates of injera were works of art. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Water for IDP

Photo: The area where the borehole will likely be situated

Our final stop of the day was to drive out to the dry river bed (it only has water when it rains) to view the area of Kakuma with the highest likelihood of yielding a productive well of sweet water.

Once the required surveys and permits have been completed, a hydro-logical survey will identify the first borehole site. We pray it will strike a rich and productive supply of water that will then be pumped 6+ kilometers away to the IDP camp.

IDP Camp visit

We then paid a visit to our friends in the camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) in Kakuma, where IAFR is partnering with NCCK to build shelters and get them a local supply of clean water.

We also stopped in to visit the poultry business that IAFR invested in last year. We were saddened to learn that something has taken out all of the chickens since our visit last April. We met with the ladies of the co-op and are working together with NCCK to get the full picture of what happened.

The people in the IDP camp are impoverished and desperately need this business to keep going.

KISOM Building Progress

We paid another visit to the building site of the Kakuma Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) where builders were hard at work under a hot sun.

Photo: Filling in the floor

We were encouraged to see the progress of this IAFR project as they had started putting up the security parameter and were preparing the flooring of the buildings today.

Photo (left to right): Tom Albinson (IAFR President), Eunice (NCCK Engineer), Dr. George Kalantzis (Wheaton College), Kibabei (NCCK Engineer), Martin Lokensen (URHC Vice Chairman), Francis Ebei (NCCK Driver)

We anticipate that the buildings will be completed before the end of the year!

Photo: The building plan (Phase I)

Follow the Bibles…

Photo: Loading the Bibles into a pickup truck in Kakuma refugee camp

In partnership with United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC) and National Council of Churches Kenya (NCCK), we brought over 800 Study Bibles from Kakuma refugee camp to Kalobeyei refugee settlement – about 10 miles down the road from Kakuma toward the border of South Sudan.

Photo: Driving through Kakuma refugee camp

Photo: Unloading the Bibles at a church in Kalobeyei refugee settlement

Photo: Preparing the Bibles for distribution among the churches in Kalobeyei

Photo: Passing out Bibles to participants in a morning “How we got the Bible” seminar with Dr. George Kalantzis

Photo: Prof. Kalantzis teaching the 60 seminar participants, many of whom are refugee church pastors and leaders

Photo: Seminar participants learning how to use their NLT Study Bibles

Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for their partnership with IAFR through which these Study Bibles were donated to refugee churches in Kakuma!

A traumatized single mother

Photo: The rough road into the deep parts of Kakuma refugee camp

We ended our day driving deep into Kakuma refugee camp to visit a young Burundian single mother who has been repeatedly and deeply traumatized. I had met her “by chance” last April and our NGO partner in Kakuma (NCCK) encouraged me to pay her a visit today. They sent one of their staff women with us.

The young mother gave birth to her second child about 6 weeks ago. It’s a beautiful baby girl. Born in a refugee camp to a traumatized mother – it is difficult to imagine getting a worse start in life. And now the C-Section is infected, compounding the difficulties she faces every day.

The urgent need is for her to receive safe shelter in the camp. Her present location has proven less than safe. But there is a shortage of shelters in the camp due to drastic budget cuts at the beginning of the year.  Things look bleak.

Her exhausted eyes found a few more tears to cry while we were together. She is both desperate and helpless. Hope is thin. Yet she somehow manages to press on day after day.

We have no power to change her situation, but she gladly accepted our offer to pray with and for her.  Would you join your prayers with ours? Pray that “J” receives a shelter SOON – shelter that offers safety and a supportive community around her.

The need for on-going theological training

Professor Kalantzis wound up his theology training sessions with the men today by asking them what they plan to do with what they’ve learned over the past 4 training visits.

What stood out the most was the impact of this visit’s sessions on how we got the Bible as we know it today. Some deep seated rejection of certain Bible translations were overcome and the pastors are clearly eager to share what they’ve learned with others.

Several pastors expressed their appreciation for the teaching on how to use their Study Bibles. Prior to these sessions they didn’t understand the footnotes, maps and other helpful tools in these Bibles.

The verdict was clear. The pastors are hungry to learn more from Dr. Kalantzis. We believe this is an important way of strengthening refugee churches.

At the request of the pastors, Professor Kalantzis will be going to a refugee settlement 10 miles away tomorrow morning to offer some training with the refugee pastors there. The need is great.

We are praying that God would provide the needed funding for this training to continue. If you would like to help make this happen, click here and donate to the Kenya project fund.