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.

Implementing what has been learned

Jenny Hwang (Humanitarian Disaster Institute) held her final session of trauma care training with pastors from the camp and surrounding host community this morning.

The final session gave the pastors opportunity to share how they plan to take what they’ve learned into their church context. It was encouraging to hear how several of the pastors were already implementing what they’ve been learning. Some have identified women and men in their church that they plan to equip to serve their brothers and sisters – including those involved in children’s ministries. One shared how he sees the need for the refugee churches to be better networked with health professionals in the community and among the NGOs so that they can refer people to their services when needed.

Most of these men shared again how they recognize that they too have suffered trauma. This realization increases empathy and helps de-stigmatize trauma in the camp.

The Director of the KISOM School said that they plan to develop a class focused on trauma care as part of the core curriculum.

Good seed has been sown. May the churches in the camp and host community become safe and sought after communities of healing.

Let the children come

Photo: Ethiopian refugees in Kakuma.

These kids were born in Kakuma. They’ve never seen the country people say they are from. Yet somehow they still smile, laugh, fight and play together like kids anywhere else in the world.

More than half of the world’s refugees are children. They need our prayers. They need our countries to support them while in the camps and they need us to make room for them – both in our hearts and within our borders.

A visit with friends

We wrapped up today with a late afternoon visit with some friends in the refugee camp. It’s been a joy to get to know them over the years and conversation is rich.

We sat together outside of the shelter of a Somali mother who’s been separated from her children for more then 20 years. Her kids happen to live in Minneapolis (where IAFR is based). We’ve been praying for years that God would open the way for her to be reunited with them.

She was quick to supply everyone with a Coke or a Fanta as we arrived.

Another friend is a brilliant Somali leader whose been offered a full ride from Princeton University. He is also an elected leader in the camp, serving a neighborhood of about 20,000 refugees.

Another friend is from DRC. She’s a talented and hard working tailor whose skills are often contracted by NGOs and visitors to the camp. A documentary featuring her life and work was released earlier this year.

Jenny (daughter of South Korean immigrants to the US) and George (Greek) and I (American) added to the diversity of the circle.

I love how conversation goes deep quickly when we come together. We spoke of hopes and challenges. One of the biggest challenges they shared was living in a space that will not permit them to put down roots. So they cannot own land, move freely or begin to truly rebuild their lives here. I doubt any of us who have a sense of belonging to a place can comprehend what it is like to live in a world that withholds it.

Some heavy burdens were shared, so we prayed together. The challenges they face can only be overcome with the help of God.

When I thanked the tailor for joining us today, she quickly replied, “I wouldn’t miss it!”

Neither would I.

How to use a Study Bible

Professor of Theology, George Kalantzis, spent a good part of the afternoon teaching the refugee pastors how to get the most out of their Study Bibles, provided by Tyndale House.

Although the afternoon was hot and the session followed a lunch of injera prepared by the ladies of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church in the camp, the pastors were attentive and excited to discover how to use this precious resource in their ministries.

Tears and trauma

Photo: Jenny Hwang from the Humanitarian Disaster Institute teaching trauma care

We spent the morning with Jenny Hwang teaching refugee church leaders concerning basic trauma care and exploring what a trauma aware church might look like in the Kakuma refugee camp context.

The refugee pastors shared the kinds of trauma they see in the camp – and several shared their personal traumatic experiences with the group.

A couple pastors shared how tears and time played an important role in washing away their own trauma.

The Jesus Film

Our final stop today was to drop in on a church in the host community that was showing the Jesus film (in Swahili) using the solar projector IAFR provided our local partner, United Refugee and Host Churches (URHC).

Our friends at the Jesus Film Project generously donated the projector and films to IAFR last year and our partners in Kakuma were eager for us to see it in use.

The challenge now is that they feel the need for more such projectors as Kakuma refugee camp is huge – and then there is Kalobeyei refugee settlement down the road – and the churches in the host community. We are praying that over time, we can bring more to our partners here.

Photo: The Jesus Film was showing in this church today.

Look! An answer to prayer!

Photo: Progress on the KISOM building project

This is a picture of over 2 decades of prayers being answered! Our refugee partners (United Refugee and Host Churches – URHC) started an Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) back in 1997. It is equipping pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and other church leaders for ministry. It is the only school of its kind in the region.

Over the years, they have met in refugee primary schools (after class). At present, they meet in an abandoned and condemned refugee primary school in the camp. All along they have dreamed and prayed that God would one day give them a building devoted to the work of the URHC and KISOM.

A couple of years ago, IAFR helped URHC buy a plot of land just outside of the refugee camp (so they actually own it). And this year the building has begun! What you see are what will become the KISOM meeting hall and URHC offices.

They ultimately envision building several classrooms on the site.

Please pray with our friends at URHC as the buildings are built. May God protect the workers. May God bless the work of their hands so that the buildings will be highest quality and able to serve generations of believers and churches in the Kakuma/Kalobeyei region. Amen.

Encouraging pastors in Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement

Photo: Meeting with refugee pastors in Kalobeyei refugee settlement

This afternoon we drove about 10 miles down the road from Kakuma toward South Sudan in order to visit with pastors and church leaders in Kalobeyei refugee settlement. This settlement was opened in June 2016 and within a year was filled with 38,000 people.

Many of the people here are relatively recently displaced. Churches are still struggling to find a way to build a structure in which they can meet. Many refugee shelters have walls of tarp, waiting for stone. And yet the churches are working together to overcome their challenges – with encouragement from the churches down the road in Kakuma refugee camp.

It was good to listen to them and to share some words of encouragement. These Christian leaders carry weighty burdens.

We plan to return later this week to offer a morning training related to how we got the Bibles we have today. If that sounds familiar (Dr. Kalantzis taught this in Kakuma yesterday), it is because the pastors in Kakuma asked the professor if he would offer the training in Kalobeyei.