With 25,000 Syrian refugees expected in Canada in the coming months, British Columbia Christian Reformed churches are stepping up to sponsor and support some of the arriving families, drawing on their extensive refugee experience.
“One of the primary teachings in the Bible is to care for others,” explained Eleanor McComb of Willoughby CRC in Langley. “Feed the hungry, welcome the stranger—it’s what you do as a human being in this world. Besides that, it is so much fun interacting with people from other cultures, and a great learning experience.”
Willoughby CRC will soon welcome a Syrian family of five they connected with through World Renew. Church members provide both the financial support required by the government and the personal and emotional support refugees need to acclimatize to their new surroundings. The church has lots of experience to draw on, having recently sponsored refugees from Myanmar and Thailand—and, in the past, from Iran, Iraq, and Vietnam.
Ladner CRC in Delta is sharing its sponsorship expertise with Delta Safe Haven, a community group led by the local United Church of Canada congregation that will soon be supporting two Syrian families. Since 2011, Ladner CRC has sponsored three refugee families, the latest from Thailand. Gerry Bouman is the coordinator of the Refugee Support Program at Ladner CRC and will serve on the group’s steering committee.
Bouman said it takes a lot of work from many members of the congregation to provide the support refugees need, dealing with issues such as housing, medical problems, and employment. “You never know what might happen, but we have found God is always there to help us and our refugees,” he said.
Meanwhile, New Westminster CRC is waiting to connect with a Syrian family through World Renew. The church raised almost all the necessary funds in one evening. Church members have a strong connection to the plight of refugees, having sponsored over 1,000 refugees from Vietnam in the 1970s and 1980s. “Things have come together fast, and we are really blessed by the willingness of the people of the church,” said organizer Marianne Van Delft.