I hear a lot of talk among the church people I talk to about looking forward to when this time of Covid-19 is over and wondering what church may look like when that day comes.
Recently, I find myself much more interested in what churches are doing now – today – in the midst of a pandemic in which we have been asked to remain physically distant from one another.
What is right here, right now, that we can be about? What are the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" for today?
The answer to that question is going to be different for every church, but I believe it is an important question for every pastor and church leader to be asking. We need to be looking beyond online church and “holding steady until we can all be back together again.”
As much as they have come with challenges, these days hold gifts. Right here, right now, there are opportunities that do not exist in ordinary days.
And since our Heavenly Father is working steadily through this time – calling people to himself, walking alongside the vulnerable, convicting the wanderer, stirring up His children to love well – we too need to be at work. We need to be sensitized to His heart for the world, to notice what does not reflect His kingdom on earth and then humbly do what we can to right those wrongs, to start conversations, to ask questions, and to look for the way forward.
As local expressions of the bride of Christ, along with the “good works” the LORD is bringing to the attention of your church family in your community, we need to think globally and participate in one solution to the refugee crisis. AGC churches in particular have the skills and the capacity to be doing far more than we are today. And today is the right time to get started.
Local ministries generally involve physical nearness. Refugee sponsorship can be readily started through online meetings. Establishing a Core Team, getting church board approval, signing MOUs and letters of church support, completing refugee and sponsor application forms can all be done while remaining physically distant. The result is twofold:
- bringing hope to a refugee family that has no other durable solution, and
- obedience to our Heavenly Father whose Kingdom is marked by righteousness and justice and who has always called His people to
- seek justice,
- correct oppression,
- provide for the needy,
- shelter the outcasts, and more.
Submitting an application now means that once our border opens, the process is already begun, the application will be in the queue, and in the 2 – 5 years it may take for the refugee family to arrive, we can continue with our local, physically near ministries of compassion and justice.
May I address a few common concerns?
We may not be able to raise the necessary funds.
I regularly hear from Christians in the USA who have raised all or part of the funds necessary for settlement support of a refugee they have connected with. Churches in other countries do not have the ability to ‘sponsor’ a refugee. Only Canada can do this! If the necessary financial support has been a barrier to your congregation, then that barrier can either be removed or lowered when we connect you with brothers and sisters in Christ in another part of the world.
Our community is not the best location to bring a newcomer family.
Since 2015, many more community sponsors have brought newcomers to their small, rural communities – Manitoba, Queen Charlotte Islands, etc. Sometimes there are challenges, but compared to the life of a refugee, any challenges related to location are manageable. And once a family is here, if their initial community of settlement really is not the best place for them, they are free to move anywhere in Canada.
The point is that they can finally create a new home for themselves in Canada, their children can attend school, parents can work to provide for their own family, they can live in freedom.
Whether they remain in your community or move to another is really beside the point. The point is to unlock the door of their cage and provide them with a durable solution to their forced migration.
Two – five years is a long time to wait for a family to arrive!
Yes, it is. And I expect it is even longer to live in limbo &/or danger – unable to work, unable to access education, unwelcome, without a place to call home. Refugees are only eligible for resettlement if they have no other option available.
If you expect your congregation to exist 2 – 5 years, then it won’t be too long to wait. Core Team people may be different at arrival than they were at application, but that is the beauty of a body of believers – we work together as God works among us to accomplish His plans.
The AGC has the capacity.
It is the right thing to do.
What is holding you back?