In the Fall of 2015, AGC churches began a journey together into the heartbreaking world of refugees, and the blessed opportunities we have as Canadians to sponsor them. These are our stories. 

jean nicolas beuze ssJean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada, has written an article recently published in the Toronto Star (Tuesday, July 17, 2018).

He addresses a number of people's fears, including that the number of people crossing our Canadian borders are alarmingly high. The truth? The number of asylum seekers last year is barely more than those who arrived in 2001.

Some Canadians are fearful that the number of illegal crossings are getting out of hand. The truth? Neither crossing at an official border crossing or at nonofficial points is an illegal act. People crossing at nonofficial points are not illegal - they are irregular crossers. 

It is important that we stay informed to be a voice of calm and truth in the conversations we have with others in our communities, among our neighbors, quite likely even within our families. Here is a perspective from someone who knows, someone with a global perspective, and someone who is in the thick of it.

Read the full article here.

grace churchOn April 7, 2018 I had the pleasure of chatting with Andrea Bowman of Grace Church, Newmarket about their church's refugee sponsorship experience. Grace Church worked with Mennonite Central Committee as their SAH to bring a family of 8 from Syria via Beirut, Lebanon, to Newmarket. Unfortunately, just before the family was about to travel, their youngest child died and understandably, their departure from Lebanon was delayed. In October 2017, the family of 7 touched down at YYZ and their journey to resettle in Canada began.

RSI: How did this particular sponsorship journey begin for Grace?

silhouette 3Written by Ann Sparrow

In October 2016 Fahad* contacted us - he said he found our name on a site of sponsoring churches. We were surprised because we didn't even realize that our names were on any list, so it was something definitely not on our radar at that time.

We checked his story out through some missionaries to make sure that his story was true. Having found that out and feeling that this was perhaps a direction God was leading us in, we brought it to the church. There was full support from the board, and many of our church folk immediately showed a lot of interest.

efc lynn scurfieldThe EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) has published an article written by Joel Arndt in Faith Today, Nov/Dec 2017 that recounts the impact that churches have had on resettling refugees through both the Private Sponsorship Program and the Blended Visa Office Referral Program. 

Looking back on what some churches have accomplished thus far, it doesn't seem to matter whether the communities are large or small, whether there are ample resources or no budget for sponsorship at all, God's people have stepped out in faith and prayer to help resettle more than 3,500 refugees in Canada. 

And the consensus from those who have walked this journey is that the blessing of sponsorship goes both ways. Yes, the new-comers receive a new lease on living - the opportunities for education, and simply being able to live life without the fear of war and all its atrocities - but the churches have been blessed as well, even with the challenges.

You can read the full article here.

After 3 years of praying for peace in Syria, the Saturday night congregation at Varsity Bible Church wondered what else they might be able to do. By the winter of 2014, pastor Rinus Janson and some others in the congregation began conversations through a connection they had with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. By Spring of 2015, the Saturday night congregation chose to pursue refugee sponsorship.

VBC FamilyOn February 11, 2016 they welcomed Walid and Kefayat along with their 3 children at Calgary International Airport. The family, originally from Aleppo, fled to Beirut in August of 2014. 

We have had probably the best experience I could have imagined.

The Sijarzi's (Walid, Kefaya and three kids) are a delightful family that have worked hard at settling into a new land and culture.

Faith Community Church begins a sponsorship of a refugee family.At this point, it is still a waiting game but way more so for Ruth and Joseph* and their three children.

We first began the process of sharing the vision for this with the congregation of Faith Community Church in January 2017. It was formally agreed to by the congregation in February.

We worked closely with our SAH (the Alliance Church) and their representative Hannatu as she helped us work through the thorough template they have crafted for sponsorship. That process took us about two months as we emailed back and forth with Ruth & Joseph getting them to fill in their documentation even as we did ours. After the initial review of all our paperwork, our SAH then sent the file on to Immigration Canada. This was an invaluable time saver as it virtually eliminated all the mistakes we might have made and saved the time of resending.

Refugees are a blessing to Canada

"Citizens for Public Justice" is a Canadian national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy. Based in Ottawa, CPJ is a Christian voice for social and environmental justice. 

Martha Wiebe is a CPJ Board member and Ottawa Mennonite Church member. She wrote this article to describe the church's experience of sponsoring refugees from around the world for nearly 40 years. 

av familiesAnn Voskamp has a gift of putting to words the expressions of our hearts. This link will take you to her website and this particular entry in which she describes the way living our faith, loving people simply because they need loving, "being the arms of the Savior," and doing what we can to "move heaven and earth to let the broken in," will change us, our communities, our hearts.

"Now, now, is the time for the Church to be the Church."

We have a Strong God. We have a high calling. By God's grace, we can be what our world needs today, if we will step up, step out, and be the people of grace and hope God is calling us to be.

Over the weekend U2's Bono sent this video message to Willow Creek Community Church to commend and encourage them in their response to the refugee crisis.

soccer protestAs men, women, and children continue to drown trying to cross over from Turkey to Europe, two Greek soccer teams staged a sit-down protest over migrant deaths. An announcement over the PA system during the protest referenced the brutal indifference of the EU and Turkey.

To read more about this protest (or watch a video of it) go to:
www.theguardian.com/football/2016/jan/30/greek-match-delayed-players-sit-down-protest-migrant-deaths

World Vision has put out a wonderful video of children welcoming refugees to Canada.

wheel of conscience

If you visit Canada's Immigration Museum at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the items you will discover is the Wheel of Conscience designed by Daniel Libeskind.