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One Church’s Journey to Sponsorship

July 12, 2023
The Mabior family with representatives of Maranatha CRC
The Mabior family with representatives of Maranatha CRC

When the Maranatha Christian Reformed Church community in Lethbridge, Alta., was presented with the opportunity to sponsor a young South Sudanese family of seven (four adult siblings and three children) residing in a refugee camp in Kenya, they soon found that God had prepared the way for them to commit to refugee sponsorship.

One member of the refugee sponsorship committee said, “We needed to make only a few phone calls to get seven or eight enthusiastic positive responses. Whatever each person’s reason was for volunteering—immigrant roots, Sudanese connections, passion for people and their stories, conviction that our wealth needs to be shared—we all believed that God was calling us to welcome this family [the Mabiors] into our community.”

The process began in 2019 with paperwork and fund-raising.

“We relied heavily on the expertise and encouragement provided by World Renew’s Refugee Sponsorship and Resettlement Program team,” said the refugee sponsorship committee. “Surprisingly, the fund-raising was not onerous. People gave generously!”

Nevertheless, the committee said, they faced plenty of challenges along the way – for example, communicating with the Mabior family across nine time zones and with spotty cellphone coverage, overcoming language barriers, accessing photos, struggling with COVID-19 restrictions, and learning about a new culture.

“Yet, every time we [faced a problem], God provided an answer . . . through a church member or a community connection,” the committee members said. “We discovered that although God was using our individual gifts, he was also continually gifting us in surprising ways. We learned to rely on his provisions. We also learned to rely on and appreciate each other.”

When the Mabiors arrived in Canada on June 15, 2022, the work multiplied. Sponsors are responsible for ensuring that refugees have housing and support for their first 12 months in Canada. The team took these responsibilities seriously. But just as the work increased, so did the joy, they said.

“Our newcomers, though overwhelmed and tired after days of travel, immediately embraced our welcoming group at the airport as their friends. An even larger group met them in their new home, where they shared their thanks and joy and gifted us with their trust,” the committee reported. “Three days later, all seven family members attended church, where Bol (adult brother), whose English was good, thanked the congregation and God our Father” for caring about them.

Even though it was summer in Alberta, each member of the Mabior family remembers that first month as being cold. They said it was the hardest thing about adjusting to their new life. Several months later, they had to deal with a very cold winter as well. And committee members said, “They are proud to report, one year later, that they ‘are getting used to it.’”

Besides the cold, the Mabior family said their biggest challenge has been to learn English. At the same time, they added that going to school is the best thing about their new life.

“Bol says they are the luckiest people because [the church] provided everything they needed, and they are never lonely because there are always people around. The adults are looking forward to job opportunities and believe Canada is a great place to start a good life,” said committee members.

Along with the family’s participation in Sunday school, GEMS girls’ club, and a kids’ Adventure Club at Maranatha CRC, the children also appreciate the fun they have at the community swimming pool and the sledding hill, along with playing soccer, shooting baskets, and riding bikes.

“Would we recommend sponsoring?” the committee asked in the conclusion of their report. “Yes! Is it a lot of work and time? Yes! Yes! And there are unanticipated challenges like having bikes stolen; navigating bus routes; arranging transportation; filling out endless government, school, and banking forms; visiting health care professionals; and deciding when and how to carefully transition from their reliance on us to their empowerment and independence. But there is so much loving and growing too. We’ve been supported by Immigration Services locally and federally and have come to appreciate the many dedicated employees. We have discovered many cultural similarities between the Mabiors and ourselves, and we realize that differences enrich us. We have learned about the giving spirit in our church community. We have been inspired in our faith by working together. And we have new friends and family to love.”

To learn more about refugee sponsorship in Canada, visit