In a 12-month sponsorship, glimpses of hope begin to arise.
In 2003, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada became part of Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program and signed on with the Canadian government as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). Countless stories have emerged over the last 15 years since that decision—heartbreaking accounts recorded on government application documents. There’s a story behind every name.
For those considered refugees, calling a new country “home” comes with challenges. It’s not where you were born or raised. People may not speak your language. The food is different. Friends have been left behind. Often, older family members aren’t healthy enough to travel, and other family may not yet have been approved or were denied. And then there’s employment—that’s a challenge all its own. Feelings of insecurity and aloneness can instantly overwhelm.
So many of the 600+ people whom the PAOC has sponsored live among us now. They were once refugees on an application, but not anymore. Now friends, we worship alongside one another at church and do life together—in some cases, even relating like family and as co-labourers in the kingdom. Many of our churches now know the beauty of providing hope. Offering care. Consoling on difficult days. Putting together beds and mattresses, kitchen supplies, and fridges full of fresh food. Struggling through conversations where words are hard to find and form. Reading body language and facial expressions. Providing a ride. We come together, people from different cultures and backgrounds whose paths would likely never have crossed except for the horrific stories and traumatic experiences they lived through.
In a 12-month sponsorship, glimpses of hope begin to arise. Cards and letters of thanks are sent, along with the odd video message expressing gratitude. Emails come with photos of children and new adventures. Each family is presented with a wall hanging for their home on their one-year anniversary in Canada. The canvas declares God’s promise in Psalm 91: “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.” This is a constant reminder of God’s goodness, faithfulness, protection and love.
The stories are all so real. Two young men who faced incredible persecution in Togo, West Africa, waited for what seemed like forever to obtain their refugee status. It took nine years in total before they actually set foot on Canadian soil. Their final visit to their church in Togo before they fled was incredibly impactful. They received a prophetic word. “Look, I know you are running for your life. You are running because of political issues. But don’t look at it that way. I am the One who is sending you out of your country. I am the One who is sending you out of your home, and I’m going to equip you. I am going to give you riches that you would never imagine.”
During another time of prayer, as one of the men was asking God why everything seemed to be so difficult for them, he felt the Lord say to him, “If I am in your boat, your boat will never sink.” Upon fleeing their country, they spent the first two days and nights in the airport because they didn’t know anybody in this temporary landing place and thus had nowhere to go. They slept outdoors for an entire month. They would fast for a week at a time, asking God to move in their situation. As refugees, they were led to a local church where they were not only physically fed, but more important, spiritually nourished. They learned to be leaders, to take care of a group, to hear and discern the voice of God, and how to wait on Him. Those were the riches God was talking about that He wanted to bless them with. Today, if you were to walk into one of our PAOC churches in British Columbia, you just might meet Joh and Hyppo.
Another single young man is approaching the one-year anniversary of his arrival in Canada. His time spent in Amman, Jordan, as a Syrian refugee felt like forever. He would ask regularly if there was ever going to be a church that would sponsor him. But this past year has been one of fresh starts and new beginnings. He has become very self-sufficient, attends church regularly, volunteers with the sound team there, and is part of a community conversational English group. You’ll find him at the local gym several times a week. He enrolled in a job training program and then landed summer employment. Last September he began attending Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His English has improved, and he is teaching himself computer coding online at home most evenings in hopes that he will one day land a job in that field. Just recently, someone gave him a car. All he needs now is to pass his driving test! His future is bright, and his heart is filled with gratitude to his sponsoring church and a country that welcomed him.
There are more stories just like these. Would you consider the opportunity that is ours as a local church to reach out—to open your doors and your hearts to a family facing persecution? Homes, and even neighbourhoods, have been destroyed. So many have been threatened because of harsh political climates or their faith in Christ. A recent application described a daughter who came to faith in Christ when a Grade 9 school friend shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. This young teenage girl began to grow in her faith, along with her mother and a few others in the family. One day when the daughter was reading the Bible, an uncle saw what she was doing and threatened her: if she ever touched that book again, he would cut her neck. Sadly, many are threatened and even persecuted for their Christian faith.
Reaching and discipling our Canadian population is a vast responsibility with unique challenges and incredible opportunities. While some have been here since birth, others are landed immigrants desiring to find their way as newcomers to this nation. And some are still waiting, maybe even fasting and praying for a breakthrough in their desperate and destitute situation. You can be part of a future story—one with a great ending. Let’s connect at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Natalie Rogge serves as the director of communications for the PAOC and is the strategic manager for Mission Canada. She counts it a privilege to serve our Fellowship through the Private Refugee Sponsorship program.
Image: istockphoto.com. This article appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.