What started out as a sponsorship of one Karen family from Burma turned into a church filled with Karen refugees for a surprised Christian Reformed church in Edmonton, Alberta.
Each week at Maranatha CRC, Karen refugees from around the city lend their language, their voices, and their energy to the thriving church.
The congregation provides a place to worship, transportation to services, and personal support. In return, the Karen people have blessed the members of the congregation with many new personal relationships.
“There has been somewhat of a revival in the church, and it brings a real hope and promise for smaller congregations to have the pews filled with newcomers,” said Wilbert Flinterman, a member of Maranatha.
Many of the Karen people have joined the choir and taken lead roles on worship teams, while others, including the children, keep busy with Sunday school and other church activities.
On Sunday mornings they worship partly in their own language and attend part of the service with the congregation.
Joseph Grootenboer, chair of Maranatha’s refugee committee, said there is a renewed purpose in the church.
“It is a truly miraculous blessing,” he said. “It’s amazing for me to see all the smiling faces, warm friendships, and rich emotions surfacing when we see people experience challenges and overcome them in a new life in Canada.
“There is sadness to hear their stories of danger, hardship, hunger, and loss in Myanmar [Burma] and Thailand. But there is joy to see them starting again, learning and enjoying fellowship with their families, friends, and ourselves.”