Special Focus on Refugees: Resettlement in Canada: A steep learning curve

We had prepared well, we thought. Within a week we faced the unexpected.

Credit: IStock

This article has been reproduced from the EMC 2017 Annual Report. The full report can be found here.

by Gloria Fehr, Grace Community Church

Our refugee family arrived on December 7, 2016. As a team, we arrived at the airport with excitement, expectations and some trepidation. We had prepared well, we thought. We had contacted MCC and had their refugee coordinator speak to us. Our congregation pledged to help financially and physically. The Christian Reformed Church offered the use of their manse rent free for the first year and we received many donations in furniture and household items. As a team we were less prepared for the emotional and spiritual challenges.

When the eight members of our family walked out of the arrival doors at the Toronto airport we descended on them with happy welcomes and tried to make ourselves understood. They seemed confused and very tired. The family told us later that they had very little information about what would happen after they arrived. They didn’t know there would be someone to meet them at the airport. Janette Wall had some previous experience working with immigrants and coordinated nearly everything, but even with her expertise, our learning curve was very steep. The family came with many questions about how they would survive and why we were involved with them.

After less than one week of knowing the family we realized there was violence in the home. We tried to address this by getting them help from Arabic speaking professionals. However, Child and Family became involved and the family was removed from the home. Finally, we were able to move the violent family member to London, where they could get help, and settled the family back into the home we first acquired for them. The courts are working to reunite the family and it seems to be successful.

The family also began attending our church, which we were so surprised at. They profess to be Muslim, but it seemed that they enjoyed coming to our church. After several months, some friends came to visit the family and the mother no longer attended. Our walk with the family has taught us a few things. We’ve learned some Arabic. We’ve learned about Halal food. We’ve gained new friends. We know more about the Canadian legal system. We also learned that as a team we had different expectations of this process. We had to learn to understand each other better and to work together in highly stressful situations. There were times we felt as though things would “come apart at the seams,” but we came through it, by God’s grace.

More than a year has passed and we have seen the family grow in so many areas. We look forward to seeing what their future in Canada will be like. We hope they will be an asset to Canadian culture. Most of all we hope and pray that they will become Jesus followers. We have seen that every human being is precious and needs to be loved, especially by those of us who have received God’s love.

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