Za'atari Camp: Day in the Life (Syrian Refugees)

The following series of short films has been produced by the United Nations and does a good job of showing what life is like in the second largest refugee camp in the world.  I hope you will watch the following with your church, small group, or family and pray for the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.  After watching, please continue to learn about the crisis by clicking on keyword "Syria" below or by reading my key article, "Bracing for the Syrian Tidal Wave".


Al Qaeda in Kentucky: Another Setback in the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

Recently some national media outlets have picked up on a story from way back in 2009 about some Iraqi terrorists who managed to slip through the cracks and enter the United States as refugees.  While shining light on this story will hopefully help to improve the resettlement processes in the country, I am saddened that it will also be used as another excuse to keep Syrian refugees languishing in camps.

During FY2013, the United States resettled only about 35 Syrian refugees and yet the conflict in Syria drags on.  It is expected that the total number of externally displaced peoples will swell to 3.5 million by the end of the year.   And now, in light of the current climate of disfavor towards President Obama's administration, the previously committed public commitment to resettle 2000 Syrian refugees in 2014 (just a drop in the bucket as it is) is being carefully walked back by State Department officials who now say that that number will be shared by several countries.  Which, given the fact that so many Middle Eastern, EU, and Latin American nations have already stepped up to resettle hundreds and thousands of Syrians, is to say that the United States hasn't really committed to anything.  This is a marked departure from the great, modern American tradition of being the world's leader in the resettlement of refugees.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family, my heart goes out to these people and I deeply and sincerely wish that the golden door of my country was open to them.  I pray that my fellow Americans will shift some of their concern about Obamacare and money and scary Muslims and a thousand other things to the side so that we can extend hospitality to thousands of Syrians who are now suffering in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Below, you can read the story from ABC News on "Al Qaeda in Kentucky" -

Al Qaeda in Kentucky: US May Have Let 'Dozens' of Terrorists Into Country as Refugees - ABC News: "Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- who later admitted in court that they'd attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of specialists to an around-the-clock effort aimed at checking its archive of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in the war zones, known as IEDs, for other suspected terrorists' fingerprints."

Also, check out this great series of short films from the United Nations entitled "Za'atri A Day in the Life" which gives you a terrific inside look into life in the largest Syrian refugee camp.

You may also want to check out other resources posted here on the Syrian Refugee crisis by clicking on the keyword "Syria" below.  Be sure to begin with the key article "Bracing for the Syrian Tidal Wave".

[Cover Photo by IHH]


Scattered Africa: Leaving in a Week!

A week from today I will be in East Africa for several days of surveying, learning and consulting with our ( ministry leaders in Ethiopia and Uganda who have founded some truly incredible ministries that the Lord is using in significant ways.

Goh Bright Future is our ministry in Ethiopia.  It is based in Addis Ababa and led by Talargie Tafesse who has been serving as part of our team for several years.  The heart of GBF is a focus on rescuing a generation of children who are growing up in extreme poverty often as HIV/AIDS orphans.  GBF has developed a holistic school in the slum that is providing education, nutrition and other basic needs.  Born out of this development ministry is a vision to multiply churches throughout Ethiopia.  GBF has begun church planting efforts with an initial group of 20 indigenous planters who have been trained and deployed to various parts of the country.

While in Ethiopia, my primary goal will be to survey the ministry first-hand and meet the team of local leaders who are running the ministry.  Additionally, I will be making logistical preparations for a more extensive trip in 2014 which we hope will include a training event for up to 300 church planters as well as opportunities to create some awareness films.  Also during next week's trip to Ethiopia, I will be evaluating the needs of the ministry and opportunities for creating more sustainable revenue streams for the ongoing work.  In particular, plans are being developed now to start a second school soon.

In Uganda, our work is led by Gloria Katusiime and is known a Endiro Coffee.  On the surface, Endiro looks like a trendy and popular coffee house in the heart of Kampala.  Dig deeper however, and you discover that it is actually an innovative effort to fund development and discipleship efforts among child-headed households in Uganda.  Cappuccinos and caramel lattes are being used by the Lord to meet educational and other felt needs of a generation largely orphaned by the HIV/AIDs epidemic.  As Endiro looks to the future, the aim is to not only start additional coffee houses, but also to plant churches throughout the country and even to engage diaspora peoples with the gospel.

As in Ethiopia, my primary goal in Uganda next week will be to survey the work first-hand and to prepare for a 2014 trip.  I am also eager to consult with Gloria on how to take steps towards engaging diaspora Hindus in Kampala and to consider ways to expand the funding base for the ministry by introducing Endiro Coffee to an American market.  A new location is scheduled to be opening during my trip, so I hope to learn a lot about the process.  As a bonus, I'm bringing several bottles of pumpkin spice syrup with me so that Kampala can enjoy some pumpkin spice lattes this Christmas.  And, if they'll let me, I'll slip into the Endiro kitchen and see if I can teach them a few tricks from my Waffle House days.

From a bigger picture perspective, we are seeking to develop a strong link between Goh Bright Future and Endiro Coffee.  The ministries are in separate countries, but are in the same region of the world and have very similar visions.  I believe they have much to share with each other in areas of business as mission, church planting and development.  TIBM is their common link and I pray that the Lord will cause the relationship to blossom.

For prayer:

1. Pray for a safe trip without complications.  Also pray that I would not get any health problems.

2. Pray that God will bless me with great fellowship during this week of travel.  I need it.

3. Pray that I will be able to hear clear direction and instruction from the Lord that will help me as a leader and helper in relationship to these ministries.

4. Pray for the ministries of Goh Bright Future and Endiro Coffee.  Pray for their leaders.  Ask God to deepen and expand their impact to bless more children, plant more churches, and engage more people in diaspora with the gospel.

Financial Support Welcome:

For the most part, I'm out-of-pocket on the expenses for this trip.  That is mostly due to being too busy in Chicagoland ministry to take time out for fundraising.  However, I could really use some support.  My expenses for the trip will come out to between $2000-$2300.  If you can give a gift of support of $10 or more, please visit our support site and make a tax-deductible gift right now.  Thanks so much!

[Cover photo by Brian Wolfe]


Million Dollar Donors

Photo by 401(K) 2012
I spent some time tonight perusing the Coutts 2013 Million Dollar Donors Report.  Hey, a guy can dream can't he?  It is an interesting read if you are leading a non-profit like I am (in my case, more of a non-profit network). Did you know that nearly 2,000 people gave million-dollar or more donations in 2012?

A couple things are sticking in my mind:

1. If I'm going to lead my organization to the next level in terms of support-raising, I will need to be able to clarify specific goals (both long and short-term) and determine a method of providing some kind of measurement of the impact of gifts.

2. I cannot accomplish item number one without dedicated staffing.

3. How do organizations avoid being controlled by larger donors? How to they maintain their vision at times when large donors try to steer them off course?

I also like the quote by Andrew Carnegie which is featured on the report, "It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place."  If that's true, I'm wondering if anyone out their would hire me to give away their money.