International Association for Refugees Helping people survive and recover from forced displacement

Our Mission on the Refugee Highway

IAFR is a Christian mission agency helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.

We live in a time of great upheaval. The world has not seen such numbers of forcibly displaced people since WW2. Their numbers grow as solutions to wars, failed states and persecution prove elusive.

In 2016, more than 28,000 new people were forcibly displaced every day. 65.6 million people were displaced by year's end.

Photo: An Iraqi orphan in a refugee camp in Turkey

Some consider these vulnerable people to be a threat. Others view them as people easy to exploit. Many view them as people to be pitied.

We believe that they are fellow human beings made in the image of God spilling out of the deepest and darkest wounds in the world today.

Photo: Refugee children from South Sudan in Kenya

The mission field of IAFR

We call it the Refugee Highway - the well-worn routes people travel in search of safety and life.

IAFR is serving forcibly displaced people in Africa (Kenya, Malawi), Canada (Toronto), Europe (Austria, France, Italy, Malta), Asia and the USA (Atlanta, Colorado, Minneapolis/St. Paul).

White dots = IAFR ministry locations. Yellow = Countries hosting the most refugees. Red = Countries producing the most refugees.

We partner with refugees in ways that affirm dignity and demonstrate respect while helping them survive and recover from forced displacement.

Photo: A refugee with her Bible in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

We partner with the church at large in ways that break the isolation of refugees and extend hospitality, hope and healing.

Photo: Annual Refugee Youth Camp in Kakuma, Kenya

I am deeply grateful for every prayer, donation, volunteer and missionary that joins with us in pursuing this urgent mission. -Tom Albinson, IAFR President
Photo: IAFR President, Tom Albinson in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Beyond Humanitarian Response

Forced displacement leaves people unprotected and vulnerable, without shelter, water, food and basic medical care.

When the humanitarian world struggles to meet these needs, IAFR helps mobilise the church at large to engage in ways that help people survive.

Photo: A refugee child in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Yet while many agencies step into humanitarian crises to help people survive, few are working to help people recover from forced displacement.

Photo: Recent refugee arrivals in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Recovery requires supportive community, life-giving faith and opportunities for wounded hearts and minds to find healing. New skills and abilities well-suited to their place of refuge are also needed - as are opportunities for refugees to become contributing members of society again.

Photo: Tim Barnes, IAFR US Vice President, in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi

Churches are already established along much of the refugee highway - even within refugee camps.

These communities of faith, hope and healing embody exactly what is needed to help refugees recover from displacement and rebuild their lives.

Photo: A Sudanese refugee church in prayer in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

That's why IAFR is committed to pursuing our mission together with the church.

Photo: Hugs after a week-long women's ministry conference in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi

The IAFR Continuum of Response

The continuum below reflects the mission strategy of IAFR. While our work encompasses the entire continuum, our priority is to pursue recovery work together with the church.

The IAFR Continuum of Response (above) illustrates how humanitarian response and recovery work compliment each other in helping people survive and recover from forced displacement. IAFR believes that local church communities are well-suited to play a critical role in the refugee crisis - especially when it comes to helping people recover from displacement.

Established in 2009, IAFR is the only international Christian mission agency of its kind, designed to access refugee contexts and help people survive and recover from the trauma of forced displacement together with the church.

Photo: Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Biblical Perspective

From the divine banishment of Adam and Eve out of the Garden to the final book of the Bible penned by the Apostle John while in exile on the island of Patmos, stories of forced displacement run throughout Scripture.

Photo: Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi

The foreigner is often mentioned in the Bible together with the fatherless and the widow - vulnerable people for whom God deeply cares.

What foreigner is most like the orphan and the widow, if not the refugee?

Photo: A fatherless refugee child in Malawi

God's word repeatedly calls us to love and care for refugees in tangible ways.

We are to be sure that their needs for shelter, food and clothing are met.

We are to extend hospitality to them and protect them from exploitation and injustice as well.

Photo: A fatherless refugee family in Kenya

Jesus personally identifies with refugees, asylum seekers and returnees. And they can also identify with him.

Political persecution forced Jesus and his family to flee in the night to Egypt when he was a young child.

Upon their return, they did not feel it was safe to return to their hometown in Judea and settled elsewhere to rebuild their life.

We are living in a century marked by a global refugee crisis. Followers of Jesus would do well to rediscover our God-given privilege and responsibility to seek the protection and welfare of forcibly displaced people in the world. -Tom Albinson

For by serving them, we serve Jesus.

Photo: Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Refugee Realities

  • 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide
  • 1:113 people alive today is forcibly displaced
  • Over 28,000 new people are displaced every day
  • 51% of the world's refugees are children
  • 49% of the world's refugees are women
  • 84% of the world's refugees are hosted by developing nations

Source: UNHCR, Global Trends 2016

Photo: Iraqi refugees in Turkey

A True Story

When fighting erupted in her homeland, a relative scooped up her young children and fled to Kenya for safety. She thought Mama Fartun had been killed. She and the children were later resettled to the USA.

Nearly 20 years later, her children learned that their mother had survived and is now a refugee in Kenya.

We hope to see them reunited again one day and are working with Mama Fartun (in Kenya) and her children (in the USA) to that end.

Photo: Mama Fartun in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

One Journey (Rome)

Like many refugees and asylum seekers today, he was forced to flee his homeland while just a boy.

He first fled to a neighboring country and survived by working at a pistachio factory. But that country did not offer him a legal pathway to become a resident. He could not stay. Still a child, he made his way to Europe.

Photo: A thirsty refugee living on the streets of Rome

His was more than a physical journey. While seeking refuge, he found Jesus, and with him, hope and a supportive community of brothers and sisters.

Photo: A church in Rome welcoming asylum seekers for a hot meal

On a recent visit, I found that he had slept outside of a train station the night before - even though he has a bed in a temporary shelter.

Photo: Asylum seekers sleeping outside of a train station in Rome

He said that he did this in order to keep a guy who had just arrived company as he did not yet have a bed in one of the shelters.

Photo: Asylum seekers sleeping outside of a train station in Italy

His sacrificial care for others is remarkable. It's another sign that refugees are more than people in need - they are people with much to offer and an important part of the solutions to the many challenges they face.

-from Rachel Uthmann, IAFR Rome

Photo: An exhausted asylum seeker sleeping in a park in Rome

IAFR Ministries in Europe

IAFR in Rome

We are helping asylum seekers and refugees survive and recover from forced displacement by providing leadership and consulting for the Il Soggiorno refugee welcome center in Rome.

We offer our ministry expertise to help churches engage in ways that help refugees recover from the trauma of displacement and integrate into society.

Photo: Rachel Uthmann (IAFR Rome) helping refugees with language learning

IAFR in Northern France

With few options for shelter, food, water and medical care, thousands of desperate people sleep in open fields and vacant buildings as they cross this part of Europe in search of refuge. They hunger for both food and a welcoming community.

We are helping churches show up in life-giving ways on their journey.

Photo: Michael Jurrens (IAFR France) walking through a makeshift camp with a refugee boy in France

IAFR in Malta

The crossings of the Sahara and the Mediterranean are behind them, but the trauma lingers and daily life remains filled with challenges and loneliness.

Recovery happens one life at a time - so we walk alongside of our friends looking for ways to help them find their feet and succeed in their new world.

A shared meal, a listening ear, a word of encouragement, a time of prayer, English lessons and networking with local services are some of the ways we are present in their lives.

Photo: Remembering the journey to Malta with Doug Marshall (IAFR Ministry Leader)

Refugee Churches

Refugee churches play an important role in helping people survive and recover from forced displacement.

As communities of faith, they help people find meaning in loss and suffering. They transcend their circumstances in worship together. Hope is strengthened as they remember that God hears our cries and that he has promised to always be with us.

They work tirelessly to further the kingdom of God among their fellow refugees and in their surrounding host community.

It is a joy and privilege for us to partner with our uprooted brothers and sisters in Christ.

Photo: A Sudanese church service in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

IAFR in East Africa

IAFR in Kenya

We are partnering with URHC, a diverse association of over 83 refugee churches in Kakuma refugee camp.

We're helping them build their Interdenominational School of Mission (KISOM) and providing requested training in theology and trauma care. We assist them with their annual Refugee Youth Camp. We are providing them with Bibles in diverse languages.

We are also providing shelter and assisting an income-generating project in a nearby IDP camp.

Photo: A refugee pastor's wife and baby in Kakuma refugee camp

IAFR in Malawi

We are partnering with refugee churches in Dzaleka refugee camp as they help their fellow refugees survive and recover from forced displacement.

Refugee church leaders often consult with us as they navigate many hardships, including hunger, hopelessness and conflicts within the camp. These shepherds carry a heavy and difficult burden as they pastor traumatized people who have little hope of ever leaving the camp.

We break their isolation by visiting them twice per year to offer encouragement, training and support.

Greetings from Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Life Together

Because language is the path to entering into another's world, we offer in-home ESL lessons to refugees - and I meet regularly with a tutor to learn her language.

Although it was a bit awkward at first, our time together has become about more than language learning. We're sharing life together.

Photo: Language learning together in Colorado

There are days when we don't do our lesson. Conversation turns to personal and spiritual things. We talk about our lives, where we are, what has brought us here and where we want to go in the future.

We pray for one another.

Photo: Language learning together in Colorado

She experienced many losses here in the US. When she received tragic news from home, it was my privilege to listen.

We have built a friendship and a partnership.

Photo: Kitchen table friendships in Colorado

We work together to bring women from the refugee community together with women from a local prayer group for a "cultural cooking exchange" during which we learn how to cook traditional foods from each other's cultures.

There is great beauty in reciprocal relationships across seemingly insurmountable differences.

-from Shanna Doughty, IAFR Colorado

Photo: Sharing traditional foods together in Colorado

IAFR in the USA

IAFR in Colorado

Together with local churches, we offer our new neighbors a welcoming community along with practical help. We come alongside and support efforts in the refugee community, making connections between people and resources, and creating collaborative solutions in the on-going process of recovery from forced displacement.

We raise awareness among churches and in the greater community concerning the challenges that refugees face and the blessings that they bring. We support churches with a burden to welcome refugees into our community in ways that demonstrate the love of God.

Photo: Sharing our homes with our refugee friends

IAFR in Atlanta

We are immersed in the communities of resettled refugees that call Clarkston, GA, their home.

The crux of our ministry is hospitality through which isolation is broken and the love of Jesus is expressed. Our presence here is shepherd-like.

Together with our brothers and sisters from surrounding churches, we care for the sick, tutor kids, mentor teens, navigate the confusing governmental systems, celebrate milestones - and sometimes just sit and talk over a cup of tea.

Photo: Sharon Tonzo (IAFR Atlanta) out with refugee youth

IAFR in Minneapolis/St. Paul

We are seeking the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers in the Twin Cities.

Photo: A resettled refugee family arrives at the MSP airport

The Twin Cities is host to over 1,000 asylum seekers.

They don't receive the same assistance offered to resettled refugees. As a result, they can easily fall through the cracks of society.

After identifying housing as the number one need facing asylum seekers, we launched the Jonathan House Project that offers a safe place, supportive community and practical assistance intended to strengthen resilience and set them up for success once their case is determined.

Photo: An asylum seeker with her newborn in the Cities

We are encouraged as the Holy Spirit is stirring in the hearts of a growing number of churches, giving them a vision to offer shelter, assistance and community to asylum seekers.

Photo: A local church helps an asylum seeker find a job

This is the stuff of Matthew 25 - the things that Jesus said would mark his followers:

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat - I was a stranger and you invited me in...

-from Sarah Miller, IAFR Minneapolis/St. Paul

Photo: An asylum seeker reunited with family at the MSP airport

IAFR Projects

IAFR Projects

Click on a link below to learn more!

Photo: Shelters built with help from IAFR partners in an IDP camp, Kakuma, Kenya

Introduction to the Refugee Highway

A resource created by IAFR to give you a good understanding of global refugee realities along with biblical perspective.


Donate online at www.IAFR.org/donate or send donations to:

IAFR | P.O. Box 1405 | Wheaton, IL 60187

IAFR US Office:

1515 East 66th Street | Minneapolis, MN 55423 | 612.200.0321 | info@iafr.org


All text and photos by International Association for Refugees. Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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