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.
This article originally appeared in the BVOR News published by RSTP October 2020, issue 25.
The hamlet of Neerlandia, Alberta is a two-hour drive north-west of Edmonton. For a small community, it has been doing outsize work in resettling refugees for more than 40 years, thanks to members of the Neerlandia Christian Reformed Church. Originally working with the World Renew SAH, the Neerlandia group has sponsored 20 families since 2000.
“Please, if something happens to us, take care of my children.”
I stared at Amira’s* tearful face on the monitor and knew we could not respond to that plea.
Having received the initial contact with Ahmad* via an emailed appeal for help over three years before, we, and Faith Community Church in Blackfalds Alberta, had been working to bring this Pakistani family to Canada, guiding them through the refugee application process.
We were encouraged to see how our small congregation embraced the idea, though raising the required $30,000 seemed daunting at first. The church family became more enthused as we broadcast skype calls with the family on Sunday mornings and a shipping container began to fill up with donations.
We rejoiced when we heard that an interview had finally been granted, but now all hope seemed dashed. Their application had been rejected. As Ahmad recounted how the immigration official dismissed the documents he presented to verify his story, we felt helpless.
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.