Field notes, perspectives, stories, news & announcements
Have you ever wondered what a Sunday morning worship service is like in a refugee camp?
An average worship service goes from 9:00 - 12:30 and features multiple choirs including children’s choirs, youth choirs, and other special choirs from the congregation. As they sing, everyone is set into motion - both the choirs and the congregation. Everybody participates.
Songs are sung by memory as there are no projectors or songbooks. Many of the songs have been written by the refugees themselves.
Most churches value music and song highly enough to have somehow obtained a sound system and an electronic keyboard. Some even have electric guitars. Most play and sing with the volume turned up loud.
I've seen many instruments powered by car batteries.
There is often an extended time of community prayer, during which everyone prays aloud at the same time. A pastor or other church leader leads the people from the front. Everyone is encouraged to pour out their hearts to God.
Although the people live in difficult circumstances and often eat only one meal a day, they present their offerings to the Lord every Sunday. It is usually an upbeat part of the service.
People place their offerings in special woven baskets placed at the front of the sanctuary as a choir sings. While most offer money, I’ve seen people bring forward sacks of flour, live chickens, and even a duck.
There is at least one sermon during the service. I've been told more than once that the people expect a minimum of 40 minutes per sermon. If the message is shorter, they assume that the preacher didn’t prepare well. They are hungry for the Word of God and expect to leave the service with a full spirit.
Sunday mornings are a celebration of community and faith in Jesus.
The Refugee Church plays a critical role in keeping hope alive in refugee contexts. The pastors and church leaders are all refugees, just like the congregations they shepherd. They carry a heavy load.
- Tom AlbinsonOpen Post
While humanitarian agencies do tremendous work helping people survive the trauma of forced displacement, refugee churches do the critical work of keeping hope alive by offering safe and supportive community, a life-giving worldview, and opportunities to heal and recover from loss and suffering
Walk through a refugee camp on a Sunday morning and if there are refugee churches present you will hear singing and dancing and praying resounding from their makeshift buildings.
I have often been inspired as I witness how their faith in Christ enables them to transcend all that they’ve had to endure - past sufferings, current struggles, and future uncertainties.
May God renew their hope, joy, and strength even today!
IAFR is committed to encouraging and strengthening refugee churches. Here are a few ways we are doing this.
IAFR's Pastor Jean Pierre Gatera is a missionary and former refugee who serves as our Refugee Church Consultant. Pastor Gatera is constantly engaging with refugee church leaders - both here in the US and overseas (especially in Kakuma refugee camp where he lived for 20 years).
Thanks to our generous donors, we were able to sponsor five refugee pastors from Kakuma to participate in a Peace and Reconciliation training conference in Kenya this month.
The conference was offered by Way of Peace, a ministry that was developed in the wake of the infamous genocide in Rwanda. The pastors are now eager to bring the training back to the camp.
We recently received a couple of generous donations that will help IAFR provide building materials for refugee churches in Kakuma (Kenya) and Dzaleka (Malawi).
Refugee church leaders in Kakuma refugee camp asked IAFR to bring theological training to them. We have been able to do so for the past six years in partnership with Dr. George Kalantzis from Wheaton College. George is also presently offering an online theology course to a group of refugees and asylum seekers spread across ten time zones.
These are just a few examples of what it looks like to partner with refugee churches.
Click here to learn more.
- Tom AlbinsonOpen Post
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