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.
In the summer of 2017, Natasha Carew and Sean Ritchie got married and decided to forgo wedding gifts and instead encouraged their guests to help raise $26,000 to sponsor a refugee family through theprogram, and give them a new life in Canada.
Their story was written up in The Star after the Sudanese family they were matched with had arrived and settled in Toronto.
Looking back on their experience, Natasha and Sean wish others their age were doing more to bring forcibly displaced families to Canada. They understand that it could just as easily be us looking for a new home to resettle in. They both work full-time, and found the time commitments to be very manageable as they worked with their team.
The newspaper article link above and the YouTube video below are worth the watch, and worth sharing. Enjoy, and be inspired!
Olivia is part of a group at Park Avenue Bible Church in Melfort, SK that has connected with a family overseas. She was asked if she would write something about that experience to share with our AGC churches. Thank-you, Olivia, for your submission.
"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9-10
I sat down to write up a piece about how we got to this place of praying for the persecuted church and about our heart for the plight of our brothers and sisters that are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. As time moved along, my own heart was drawn toward refugees and the possibility of sponsoring someone. Yet as I put these thoughts down, I ended up with something entirely different.
Churches and community organizations in Port Hope and Cobourg, Ontario, have welcomed several refugee families as newcomers to their community.
This 3-minute video introduces us to come of those families and speaks of the call that God's children have to "be a neighbour" to those who are in need of a home today.
Jean-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.
On 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 theirto 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?
Written 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.
The 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.
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.