The 125 members of Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ont., had a special reason to celebrate at their morning service on October 25. An Eritrean couple and their 2-year-old son joined the congregation for worship that morning. The refugee family had arrived in Canada on October 22 thanks to the congregation’s sponsorship efforts. Pastor Heidi DeJonge had actively prepared the fellowship to welcome the newcomers, even teaching the congregation some words in Tigrinya, one of the languages spoken in Eritria.
“Our refugee sponsorship started six months ago, when my mother, Greta Boven, came up with the idea,” explained Gail Power, a member of Westside’s 10-member “Friends of Refugees” group. “Right from the beginning, the council and congregation have been right on board, very supportive of this.”
Staff at World Renew matched the Kingston congregation with the Eritrean family: Goitom, 41, his wife, Abrahet, and their son, Filmon, who was born during the four years they spent at a United Nations refugee camp in Sudan.
The congregation set a fundraising goal of $18,000 and set to work finding an apartment and arranging the support the family needs to start life in their new home.
“We’ve held a garage sale, a golf tournament, a freewill offering after showing the film ‘The Good Lie,’ and a Ride for Refuge bike-a-thon in early October. We have already passed our financial goal,” Power said. With more fundraising events still scheduled, Power said it is quite possible that they may move ahead with sponsoring more Eritrean refugees.
Many Christian Reformed congregations across the local region have responded to the refugee crisis in Europe by raising funds for World Renew and for The Lighthouse, a Toronto-based ministry to refugees and other newcomers to Canada. Grace CRC recently joined a “better together” group of five evangelical churches in Cobourg, Ont., working to sponsor five Syrian refugee families into their town of 18,000.