Called to Welcome Foreigners
Syrian refugees Fatima,* her husband, and their two children arrived in Edmonton, Alta., on Oct. 25, 2021. They were travel weary but eager to start rebuilding their lives in Canada. Fatima said, “Our hope is that our children begin their life in a right way and build happy childhood memories far away from war and fear.”
As the plane landed, Fatima said, her eyes filled with tears of joy. She was grateful to the River Community Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton for sponsoring her family. And despite COVID-19 safety protocols that dictated a low-key welcome with only one member of the sponsoring committee greeting them at the airport and having to spend two weeks in quarantine, Fatima thanked God that they were finally in Canada. They were no longer among the thousands of refugees whose sponsorship was delayed by travel restrictions set by the Canadian government to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Three weeks after their arrival, Fatima’s family attended worship at River Community CRC. They were greeted warmly and were able to share their story with the congregation. The community’s compassion helped to buoy their spirits as they faced the challenges of settling in a new country. Fatima said, “The hardest part was not knowing where to start.” She added, “Our sponsors' love . . . [erased] every obstacle in our adaptation.”
A member of the refugee sponsoring committee shared, “We have helped to enroll the family members in classes, obtain necessary documents, connect them to other services, drive them to appointments, and more. We also make a point to spend time with them—after all, they are friends and near family.”
In 2015, members of River Community Church felt compelled to answer God’s call to welcome foreigners after reports of the drowning of a three-year-old Syrian refugee boy, Alan Kurdi. Alan’s family had been seeking safety and were reportedly trying to reach Canada. One member of the refugee sponsoring committee said, “The pictures of Alan Kurdi, who perished in the Mediterranean, are what prompted the church to act. We have sponsored three Syrian refugee families since 2015.”
Another member of the refugee sponsoring committee stated, “We are called to love the foreigner among us. To be able to witness transformation is amazing. To be trusted to assist people who are vulnerable is something we can't take lightly. It is a huge responsibility, but it comes with many blessings.”
The World Renew Refugee Sponsorship and Resettlement team provides support to sponsors like River Community Church throughout the sponsorship process, and team members say they have often had the privilege of witnessing the bonds that develop between sponsoring groups and newcomers.
To learn more about the World Renew Refugee Sponsorship and Resettlement program, visit worldrenew.ca/refugee-sponsorship. To advocate for an expedient welcome for people seeking refuge in Canada, visit https://p2a.co/xPqBhq6 and send a message to your Member of Parliament!
*Names have been changed or omitted to protect identity