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Acting as the Body of Christ

June 30, 2017
Shahla and Khaled, age 2, on their arrival in Toronto in November 2016.

Shahla and Khaled, age 2, on their arrival in Toronto in November 2016.

From June 19-30, we will be sharing stories of Christian Reformed churches and individuals across the United States and Canada who have opened their hearts and homes to those fleeing from war and persecution. The following is the latest story  in this series.

Hope Fellowship CRC, Courtice, Ont. - Through incredible teamwork, an Ontario church has helped to bring four Syrian refugee families to Canada.

Like many Canadians, members of Hope Fellowship Christian Reformed Church (Courtice, Ontario) were deeply concerned about the refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in late 2015.

They decided to pool their resources, connections and talents to raise more than $80,000 and successfully help four Syrian families through the refugee sponsorship process.

Working with World Renew, the Christian Reformed Church’s relief and development agency, the church begin the application process in 2016.

They decided to privately sponsor several families: a 63-year old woman who was raising two orphaned grandchildren; her daughter who is a widow raising three children; a young couple with a two-year-old; and an elderly couple.

“In making the decision about who to select, the call to help the widow and the orphan helped to make the decision for us,” said Joanne Spoelstra, a member of the sponsorship steering committee.

All four families have now arrived and are living in Whitby, Ontario.

“From the moment we arrived [in] Toronto's airport, we felt an unspeakable happiness,” said Feras Oghli, a young man sponsored by the church. “When we met the team that would help us to understand the life in Canada, our happiness has been completed.”

The committee formed numerous support teams that include others from the community who wanted to help. Each support team is responsible for zeroing in on various aspects of the refugees’ lives such as living space, health, budgeting, transportation, socialization, and education.

A doctor found the refugees an Arabic-speaking pediatrician. A former teacher has been tutoring the grandmother in English and teaching the children games. Someone set up a trampoline for the children. Someone else got her employer to donate brand new bicycle helmets.

“They care about the medical and educational details and even the details of daily life in an attempt to integrate us into the Canadian lifestyle and Canadian society,” said Oghli gratefully.

“No one person or agency can be responsible for a refugee family,” said Pam DeWilde, current chair of the sponsorship team. “Together we can wrap ourselves around these families.”

Moreover, added DeWilde, sponsorship groups are learning from each other, as a great number of Canadians are eagerly helping refugees.

“People are starting blogs, for example, to share the practical details…. We’re reaching out to each other.”