When my 16-year-old daughter Alketa saw the photo of the little boy washed up on the beach, her heart broke for people from Syria. She was compelled to raise money to help.
God has a special heart for refugees, too.
“Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (James 1:27, The Message).
The wars in Syria and others places produce new victims every day. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are almost 12 million people displaced from Syria alone.
In Matthew West’s song Do Something, he looks at “a world full of trouble,” and asks, “How’s it ever gonna turn around…. God, why don’t You do something?” The answer he hears is “I created you.”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
In January, our family heard about a unique way that we could do something.
New Hope Community Services Society (www.newhopecs.org), an organization with a passion to help refugees settle into life in Canada, had recently purchased a 13-suite apartment building in the Whalley district of Surrey, B.C.
Most of the suites were for refugees, but they wanted three local families to move in to provide stability, build relationships, help where necessary and be the light of Christ to these newcomers to Canada.
We volunteered for seven months.
The first refugee family to join the New Hope Community came from Africa.
Temara and her five-year-old daughter Nehi lived as refugees for many years before arriving in Canada in February. Temara is originally from Ethiopia, but had to leave because of ethnic persecution.
I remember the day we took them to a large playground in our neighbourhood. Nehi wasn’t sure how the swings worked, but that didn’t curb her enthusiasm to try everything in sight. We later learned that they would have had to pay an entrance fee at this kind of playground where they lived in Africa.
My wife Lore and Temara have become good friends. Lore has helped her with tasks like using laundry facilities and unlocking a cart at the local grocery store. She also assists Temara with some of her English language learning. (“Saskatchewan” is pretty hard to pronounce!)
During spring break, Lore and my 13-year-old daughter Talia watched Nehi in the mornings, while Temara went to her English classes. On one of the days, Talia had the opportunity to read Bible stories to Nehi.
One of the biggest pleasures of getting to know refugee children is seeing their big smiles as they experience “firsts” like balancing on a bike, drawing with sidewalk chalk or wearing a crown of dandelion flowers.
We feel like we’re doing something.
The second family at New Hope fled Bangladesh to escape opposition to their Hindu beliefs.
We had two days to prepare an empty suite for their arrival. People at our church (South Langley MB Church) and other churches rose to the challenge. People brought food, appliances and furniture.
I will never forget seeing a family from our care group pull up in their truck with a queen-sized bed in the back. They had bought it two days earlier for themselves, but felt compelled to give it to this refugee family.
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s people. They’re doing something and it’s making a difference.
We have enjoyed listening to the stories of our Bangladeshi family. They have gratefully accepted our prayers. We were able to give them a copy of the Jesus film in Bangla before they moved to Toronto to be close to Bangladeshi friends. We miss them.
It has been fun to see our four-year-old Micah provide natural bridges to these two families with young children. Somehow, it seems easier to talk when the children are playing together and working out their differences.
Over the next weeks, more opportunities will arise to do something in Jesus’ name, as New Hope will likely receive five government-sponsored families and one church-sponsored family from Syria: a total of 12 adults and 28 children!
Living in community is rewarding, but it also has its challenges. We have less privacy. We try to be ready to visit and help, even after a full day of work or school. Our commute time has increased, and five people in a two-bedroom apartment can get rather squishy at times!
Yet, these sacrifices are small compared to what many refugees have endured.
Our family has a unique opportunity to live with refugees here in Canada. Yet, there are many other ways we can serve newcomers to Canada. Churches can sponsor refugees through organizations like MCC. Individuals can volunteer with immigrant services to help provide community support and friendship.
All of us can reach out to immigrants who desperately need someone to care.
It’s time for all of us to do something.
—Randy Wollf and his family Lore, Alketa, Talia and Micah are part of South Langley MB Church. Lore teaches with Heritage Christian Online School. Randy is an assistant professor at MB Biblical Seminary and director of MinistryLift, the seminary’s ministry dedicated to equipping people to love God and others more deeply and to serve them more effectively. He blogs regularly at MinistryLift.ca.