Canadian Church Opens Arms to Refugees

Over the past few years, thousands of refugees have settled in the area of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. They come to the region, which lies about 60 miles west of Toronto, from places like Myanmar, Sudan, and Afghanistan to find a life free from tyranny and tragedy.

Rev. Adrian Van Giessen, staff team leader at The Journey, a new Christian Reformed church in the K-W area, hopes they also find Jesus. That’s why his congregation, started in 2005 with support from Christian Reformed Home Missions, is deliberately reaching out to the newcomers.

“There are huge numbers of refugees coming here every year,” Van Giessen explains. “From the day we opened our doors, we have strived to be a multicultural ministry. Working with refugees is definitely a part of that mission.”

The Journey, with 170 members, provides a range of ministries to refugees and other immigrants, including mentoring services and an English Language Conversation Circle.

“The Conversation Circle is a key part of what we do,” Van Giessen says. “Every week we have up to a dozen refugees here at the church to practice their English skills with some of our members.”

The church also works with the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support, a local agency that provides support and services to Canadian refugees.

Church members also spend time working with people who have declared themselves to be refugees but still must receive approval from Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board to stay in the country. Refugees generally must prove they would face persecution, torture, or other ill treatment if they were to return to their homelands.

The Journey recently hired Solom Miranda as its part-time director of Intercultural Ministries. Miranda, who came to Kitchener-Waterloo from Brazil in 2007 with his wife, Cassia, volunteers regularly at the Reception House, which provides a first home on Canadian soil for more than 30 new refugees every week.

There and at The Journey, Miranda sits with refugees, listens to their stories, and helps them transition into Canadian life.

“Solom plays a very important role in our ministry to refugees,” Van Giessen says. “He is also helping to introduce people to Jesus and to our church.”


About the Author

Ben Van Houten is a senior writer for Christian Reformed Home Missions.

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