"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)
The life of a refugee is not easy. Refugee camps are intended to be temporary accommodation for people who have been forced to flee their home because of violence and persecution. Many refugees remain displaced for up to 20 years. Daily life includes women fetching water, firewood and food rations and children going to school. There is not much activity and someone must remain at home to protect the home from thieves. When asked, most of the people I visited say, "life in the camps is not good, it is very difficult."
I was once again blessed to travel to northern Kenya to the Kakuma and Kalobeyei camps with a team from Living Faith Lutheran church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) and the local Lutheran Hour-Nuru. We spent time visiting the refugees, sharing the Gospel, giving words of encouragement and praying together. On this trip we visited one of the older sections of Kakuma and met a lady who first came in 1992. That baffles the mind. There was also a lady who said that she is comfortable being in the camps, that she is away from war in her country and she has left that life behind. I learn so much from the refugees during each trip. They have faith and strength that is phenomenal and which sustains them in the life that they live. I thank God for the opportunity to help me grow in my faith and to be a light in the lives of many.
Farah has been in Kakuma for 10 years and lives there with his wife and 4 children. Back in Sudan he was a small farmer. He is currently a seminarian at Neema Lutheran College (Matongo). I met Farah several years ago and we talked about his life as a refugee. He says life is not good in the camps, "we have nothing." As a father it is very hard to provide for his family and difficult to think about tomorrow when each day is a struggle.
I asked Farah, when he thinks about the future, what does he think about? He is working hard to finish seminary and to become a pastor. He is currently doing his internship in the camps working to share the Gospel, doing home visits and training with the evangelist there. As a pastor, he would continue to serve his church in Kakuma and desires to one day plant a church in his home in Sudan. Farah is a faithful servant of the Lord placing His trust in God for all things. He knows that God is with him.
Bravo currently lives in the Kalobeyei settlement. He arrived in Kakuma at the age of 13 and has lived in the camps now for 13 years. He relocated to Kalobeyei when his mother came with his two younger brothers. She passed away 3 months ago. Bravo spends most of his days at home, but as an evangelist in his church, Pari Lutheran Church, he teaches the catechism to the youth in the evenings. Jobs are scarce and difficult to come by. He has applied to teach at one on the schools in the camp.
When I asked him about the challenges of life in the camps, he replied, "I am now the responsible person in my family since my mother has passed away. It is hard to survive only on the rations from the United Nations and even harder to provide for my brothers." They pray daily for God to provide for their needs. In talking about his future, Bravo wants to become a pastor to help people spiritually. "My people need that," he said with a smile on his face. He prays that he will get the opportunity to attend seminary. It is also difficult to focus on the future because he has nothing. He hopes that his brothers can one day get scholarships enabling them to get a good education.
In talking about his faith, Bravo shared with me that he trusts God to provide. Difficulties often test his faith and he loses hope. The elders in his church help to encourage him. He trains others to share the Gospel in two congregations and prays that God will raise up others to serve alongside him.