Field notes, perspectives, stories, news & announcements
September 6, 2023
"After attending this [IAFR] training, I realized I have been working with my heart only and needed to be better informed about how to work. It is sometimes challenging to work with refugees, and it can be traumatizing to work with internally displaced people in my context, but this training has inspired me to keep hope alive."
These heartfelt words from a missionary working with refugees in Southeast Asia encapsulated the attitude I sensed among this group of nine trainees from diverse backgrounds.
I was wrapping up a four-day intensive training on critical foundations and topics in refugee ministry in Thailand. Here among the Bible translators and tech gurus of the missions world, with 225 different organizations and 65 countries represented, I was not surprised by the diversity among the nine missionaries who attended my training. Canadian, American, Nepalese, Indian, Kenyan, Malaysian, and Ethiopian brothers and sisters sat in the circle during our four eight-hour days together.
"Good intentions aren't enough".
Sharing around the circle continued, "I think what stood out to me the most is that when we try to produce an outcome for another person, we turn that person into a project. Good intentions aren't enough. We can get off course in multiple directions."
"Remembering the perspective of refugees in all that we do is key to this," someone else chimed in.
"I was blessed by that, too,” another of the participants agreed. “I loved how your training focused us this week on always having an eye towards assisting refugees in a way that allows them to also contribute and give back in dignifying ways."
As the group compared notes and shared their insights, it confirmed what I had sensed in them from the first day. They had deeply engaged with the practical content of IAFR's training and the core philosophies and spirit behind the training. Some of these missionaries had been in service for more than three decades, yet they expressed that they found the content of our training both profoundly encouraging and surprisingly new, as well as applicable and relatable to their context.
For me, this shed valuable insight into the versatility of the training we do in both church and missional contexts. Our training has been developed from IAFR staff experiences in Africa, Europe, and America. The context of refugee work in Asia is different from other parts of the world in that many of the countries are not signatories of the UN Refugee Convention or Declaration of Human Rights. Yet our training still resonated with what those serving in this part of the world were experiencing in their daily work.
It is a time of great opportunity and great need.
Empowering those who are working in these contexts gave me both joy and new insight into just how needed this type of training is as the global displacement crisis increases. No corner of the world is unaffected. War, violence, and persecution are happening everywhere, and almost every community is being asked to navigate how they will welcome the stranger among them. It is a time of great opportunity and great need, and it is our passion and desire to help equip the Church to welcome and love the stranger in our midst. That's why we remain committed to training missionaries, agencies, and communities to help people survive and recover from forced displacement.
- Jake Tornga with Rachael LofgrenBack to the Blog