Field notes, perspectives, stories, news & announcements
March 8, 2023
As the Director of Training, I get a first-hand view of IAFR's work to resource and encourage ministries and churches seeking to serve refugees in their communities. This month we hosted trainings in Atlanta and Boston.
In Atlanta, nearly two dozen people from half a dozen ministries with different focuses came together to cross-pollinate and enrich each other's growth in ministry knowledge and collaboration. As I looked around at the diversity in the room, I noted the couple, who had served in Ethiopia for several decades, and the patience with which they now approached work with refugees in the U.S. They brought wisdom and a calming presence to our discussions. Beside them, an eager intern shared her enthusiasm and vibrant passion.
It challenged how I approach ministry.
Over lunch, a participant shared his thoughts on what he was learning with me while we ate together.
"When you said that a refugee is a person who happens to be in vulnerable circumstances, it challenged how I view my ministry approach. It's easy to forget that the displaced people we befriend are not poor people who need our help as charity projects but people we welcome with dignity into a collaborative community."
I nodded, "I have to agree that this simple recognition changes so much. The Church's call is to show up in cross-shaped ways, but even with good intentions, we can get off course. We have to remember this ministry belongs to God. He's the source of power, healing, and restoration. Those things do not come from me. But when I show up in my small human size, God is faithful to make good out of it. Thank you for sharing with me."
After lunch, two men from Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo shared their stories of displacement and welcome. They gave helpful feedback on how this community has done well and some fruitful ways to improve their approaches in the future.
The training covered topics and discussions ranging from the impact of trauma to evangelism meeting aid. Whether the participants were brand new and wanted a good foundation or were further on, hitting hangups that come with the challenges of this work, IAFR's training equipped them to show up for their displaced neighbors in life-giving, sustainable, and faithfully Christian ways.
At the end of the training, an older gentleman approached me. Seasoned by many years of refugee work and deeply thoughtful as a participant in our training, his comment surprised and blessed me.
"I think what you gave me in this training is that you helped me see the top of the puzzle box. I've been playing with these pieces of refugee ministry approaches and ideas for years, but you gave me language and framework for how they connect."
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We are a tool in the toolbelt of the Church, helping Christians engage in fruitful and sustainable ways with forcibly displaced people.
- Rachel UthmannBack to the Blog