The IAFR Blog

Field notes, perspectives, stories, news & announcements

The difference faith makes

Mrs C. with her family

Sarah held the phone to her ear, listening intently to her friend, Mrs. C., an asylum seeker fleeing severe government persecution in Myanmar. They first met back in 2015.

Married to a seaman with several children born American citizens, Mrs. C. and her husband were still waiting to hear whether they'd be granted permanent refuge in the United States. A simple clerical error denying work permit renewal for both of them two years ago had drastically increased their struggle to survive.

How can anyone survive without permission to work?

"Is there any update on your work permits yet?" Sarah inquired. It made her heart deeply sad to watch her refugee friends suffering unjustly. She had prayed fervently for months that God would rectify this situation.

"No, we haven't gotten them yet." Mrs. C. responded calmly. "We've talked to our lawyer, but we're still waiting."

"Would it help if I talked with your lawyer?"

Mrs. C. accepted Sarah's offer and the conversation turned to scheduling their next in-person visit. "How about Saturday?"

"Well, that won't work because we have something going on at our church. It's an all-day event, so we'll be there the whole day."  

This was the first time in seven years that Mrs. C. had turned down a visit due to a church event. Knowing they identified as Christians and were connected to a church, Sarah had offered to pray for their various needs through the years, but Mrs. C. didn't usually talk about her personal faith.

A deepening relationship with God

As they chatted further, Mrs. C. revealed that her family had become very involved in their church. This deepened her relationship with God in new ways.

"You know, Sarah, through going to church, I'm learning to pray more. And through prayer, I have hope for a better future and am learning patience."

As Sarah said goodbye and hung up, frustration at the injustice of the work permit situation filled her heart. In tears, she paused to pray yet again. "God, this is just not right!" she lamented in tears.

Transforming prayer

As Sarah prayed, God brought Mrs. C.'s words back to her. "Sarah, through prayer, you can also have hope for a better future for your friends and learn patience."

"You're right, God, I tend to get frustrated with daily annoyances, but my friend has just modeled what it looks like to be patient in tribulation and joyful in hope. This turns my perspective upside down. Thank you. I trust you with these work permits and a better future for my friends in your time."

God hears.

Three weeks later, Mrs. C. texted Sarah. "My work permit came."

Sarah rejoiced with her friend at this long-awaited answer to faithful prayer.

Missionaries are our greatest asset.

Relationship is at the center of God's plan to rescue the world. That's why we celebrate Christmas - the day that the Creator of all things and the source of Life itself chose to be born into the human family and live among us.

And that is why missionaries (like Sarah) are our most valuable asset. They are like shepherds, waking up every day to walk alongside of people who have lost their place in the world and are in need of hope and refuge.

Thank you for making a life-giving difference in the lives of refugees!

You are making a life-giving difference in the lives of refugees through your support of our missionaries! We can't show up without you!

Make a special yearend gift to an IAFR missionary today!

CLICK HERE to give to an IAFR Missionary.

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Thank you for helping people survive and recover from forced displacement!

Sarah Miller with Rachael Lofgren

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The refugee church needs our help

Signs of faith in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi
"Where would people go to find hope?"

I recently asked a refugee friend of mine in Dzaleka Refugee Camp (Malawi) what the camp would be like without churches. He took a second to think about the question. I could see the wheels turning in his head. Finally, he said, “Where would people go to find hope?

It was not the answer I was expecting. I was expecting something a bit more practical and a bit less philosophical. But as I have reflected on it, I am convinced he was right. In refugee contexts all over the world, refugee churches do the heavy lifting of keeping hope alive.

Refugee church buildings matter.

There is an old saying that the church is more than a building, but in a place like Dzaleka, church buildings really matter.

The place people go to find community

Daily life is hard beyond words. There is little ‘space’ where people can go just for a little respite. But this is where churches come in. They are spaces that belong to the people. They are community gathering places. They are counseling centers. They are quiet places for prayer and large spaces for worship, song, and dance.

Church members are inspired to care for their church buildings with passion and zeal because it is the place they go to find community.

Refugee church buildings play a critical role in keeping hope and faith alive.

But there is more. Refugee churches provide space for many other community services. Their buildings are often used as temporary housing for new arrivals to the camp. Churches in Dzaleka refugee camp are used as elementary and high schools during the week. Some offer theological training courses, skilled trades courses, and even language learning courses.

The Refugee Church needs our help!

The first refugees came to the camp in 1994 as they fled the genocide in Rwanda. Many of them are still there today. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of others fleeing war, persecution, and failed states have joined them. The population of Dzaleka has grown from 15,000 to over 50,000 in the past decade.

Some of the old refugee church buildings are in desperate need of repair (or complete rebuilding). Many new church buildings are needed to serve the people.

Our brothers and sisters need our help.

Double your donation for refugee church buildings!

A generous financial partner has agreed to match the first $5,000 donated to IAFR's Refugee Church Building project fund between now and January 31, 2023.

Double your donation and give today!

Click here to GIVE TODAY!

Please join with us in prayer for our refugee church partners this coming holiday season as they seek to keep hope alive in difficult places like Dzaleka refugee camp.

Over 50,000 people live in Dzaleka refugee camp today.

Click here to learn more about our work in Dzaleka refugee camp.

Jacob Tornga with Tom Albinson

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