A teacher in a Lutheran school visits a refugee camp in the desert

The landscape is something I have never seen before, like something that could be used as a distant planet in a Star Wars movie. There are rocks everywhere - black, red, a sandy colour that help form the hills and mountains that surround us.

We cross dry river beds that look like they have not had flowing water for years and as the wind picks up dust is blown all over the place. But every now and then there are burst of life as trees and small shrubs appear in the landscape showing hope in the desert like landscape.

Ali Addeh refugee camp is located in this barren landscape, but after spending a day there I realise it is full of life.

We meet the school council and teachers of the school. They are passionate about making sure the children in the camp get the best education they can possibly can. They welcome us with open arms, handshakes all round, as they treat us like we are family and not the visitors we are.

As soon as the gates open inquisitive children come from everywhere wanting to say hello, shake hands and play games even though we can not stay long.


They are keen to learn the different methods I use to teach students in Australia, but somehow I feel I am learning more from them.

I get back to our guesthouse in Al Sabieh and have a chat to James the Program Manager of LWF in Djibouti.

James is one inspiring young man. His commitment to make sure the education and child protection programs LWF oversee in the camps are excellent quality is inspirational. James has a real calling for what he does. I have watched him over the last couple of days, and it is obvious every refugee he meets with and talks to is a valuable human being to him.

Reflection from Andrew Weiss

When God bumps you

James Macharia leads the Lutheran World Federation team caring for refugees in Djibouti. Working in one of the toughest places on earth, with refugees who have suffered awful traumas, leading a team of 150 staff of whom only two are Christian, James is in a unique position to talk about how his Christian faith comes to life in the work you support through ALWS…


For me, it was like bumping into something. I think God had different thoughts to me. I wanted to be a pilot, and then I considered the military, and I thought about Law … but I lost interest.

When I joined the refugee work, I at first felt a lot of pity for them, and the situation they are in.

The women left on their own with many children, the widows, the people with disabilities, those who had been abused. There is always a different case you meet that can touch your heart, but I realised being overwhelmed with pity may not be the best way to help.

I ask the question what is the difference between us that I have the life I have, and they have the life they have? This really weighed me down. So I do my best to help.

You must keep praying, and build a stockpile of prayers. You do this when you are stronger. When there are challenges, it is a passing cloud. We are told to be still, and know that God is our God. Your body may be broken, but your spirit should stay strong.

    No one chooses to be a refugee. Many refugees are separated from their family, and may not know when they will ever see them again.


While I too am separated from my family, I know I will see them. So I know that I am blessed. That’s why, even when the work is frustrating, you know you have much more yourself than the refugee. We are blessed, so we can care for others.


Good News

Below you can see the block of bare land at Ali Addeh … we received news from the European Commission they have approved a grant to LWF to build a primary school here!


ALWS will be partners in this project, with the grant matching our contribution on a 10:1 basis!

Imagine it – over the next 12 months together we will build 10 classrooms, 17 latrines and 2 water-tanks here, so hundreds of refugee children can attend school in conditions where they can learn properly!

More details about this project soon.



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