Wheaton Professor of Theology, Dr. George Kalantzis, spoke at this church this morning. At least 60% of the church is 12 years old or younger. It is a church in the host community in which Kakuma refugee camp is situated. The people here are called the Turkana. While not displaced from their homes or countries, they face many existential challenges in this impoverished and challenging region.
I have to say that I am deeply impressed with a college professor of theology who happily and effectively preaches to a young church in a forgotten part of the world. IAFR is grateful to our ministry partner, Wheaton College.
This is the church in which I worshiped this morning. It has served its congregation well since before 2007, but is now in serious need of repair. The mud is cracking and termites have eaten many of the wooden poles that hold the roof up (see the photo below and note the poles no longer reach the ground).
A strong wind or deluge of rain could easily bring this mud building down, leaving the congregation without a meeting place.
Many refugee churches face similar challenges. That’s why IAFR has a refugee church building project fund. Click here if you would like to donate and help renovate or build a refugee church. If you are unable to give, I hope you will join your prayers with theirs – that God would provide what they need to repair or rebuild this church.
Photo: Sunday worship in a Sudanese (Nubian) refugee church
I had the privilege of worshiping with this vibrant church this morning. The service began at 8:00 and ended at noon. There was singing and dancing to Sudanese songs of worship before a visiting Sudanese pastor preached on clinging to what is good, shunning what is evil and loving our enemies.
When it comes to loving enemies, the pastor asked the congregation whether this includes loving the people who have been bombing their villages, killing their loved ones and forcing them to flee their homes and homeland. He asked them how they will relate to such people if they are ever able to return to their homes. He called them to love them. Only love is powerful enough to change their hearts.
Photo: Today’s Sudanese pastor and preacher
The congregation was made up mostly of men and women in their mid 20s to mid 30s.
May God bless these men and women of God as they seek to live by the ways of Jesus.
International humanitarian agencies do a remarkable job of keeping refugees physically alive. Some people might think that this is all that truly matters – and might wonder why theological training is important to bring into a humanitarian context. But it turns out that even many humanitarian workers recognize that keeping people breathing is not enough. People need hope as much as they need air. A person without hope may well wish they were dead.
Yet humanitarian agencies are not equipped to distribute hope. This is the domain of the church. And this is why IAFR is seeking to strengthen refugee church leaders. They carry a heavy burden – to keep hope alive in a context that seems determined to strip it from the hearts of the people here.
When refugee churches are healthy and united, they are a powerful force of hope and life here. They play an integral part in helping people survive and recover from forced displacement in places like Kakuma.
We completed the first day of theology training with the select group of Christian leaders in the camp and host community today (Saturday). After spending the morning sharing our stories and answering the simple and important question “How are each of you doing?”, Professor Kalantzis taught the pastors about the process through which we have our Bible today.
The pastors are hungry for such teaching as opportunities for theological development are few and far between.
Our hope is that these pastors will take what they are learning and develop a theological framework informed by their African and refugee experience.
We’ve received a warm welcome from our friends in Kakuma refugee camp.
Around 200,000 people live in the camp – the vast majority of whom are women and children. Although they struggle for the basic necessities of life, they refuse to let go of hope and find a way to go on with each new day.
We hope that the theology and trauma care training that we are bringing to a hand full of select Christian leaders in the camp will encourage and equip the churches to keep hope and faith strong in the camp.
Many thanks to our partner, Wheaton College and its Humanitarian Institute that have sent Prof. George Kalantzis and Jenny Hwang with us to offer the training.
IAFR is planning to return to Kakuma in October 2018 with a team from Wheaton College (IL) and its Humanitarian Disaster Institute. The focus of the trip will include training in trauma care and theology with select pastors from the refugee and host community. We hope you’ll check in with this blog again then and join us!