Staff members from Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) joined with staff from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) late Tuesday night at the Winnipeg International Airport to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Canada.
The family’s arrival yesterday was a happy surprise because they were originally expected to make the journey to Canada in April. A phone call last Friday afternoon informed CLWR staff that the family would be landing in Winnipeg in only four days.
The family’s sponsorship is a joint partnership between the three national offices and LCC’s Central District office.
Last fall, CLWR staff members began collecting pledges to sponsor one person. CLWR extended the invitation to the two churches to join the initiative, making it possible to bring an entire family to Canada.
The husband and wife were English teachers in Syria and they have two young sons under the age of nine. The family fled to Jordan after the Syrian conflict began and were living in the city of Amman before being connected to CLWR. Relatives of the family was also at the airport to greet them and provide them with a place to stay for their first night in Winnipeg.
With just a few days’ notice of the family’s arrival, there was a scramble to make final arrangements for an apartment, furniture and household items, a phone and groceries to last for the first few days.
Arrangements quickly fell into place thanks to CLWR’s experience in this area. CLWR has been a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government since the 1970s and has been facilitating refugee sponsorships for decades for groups of private Canadians.
“My colleagues and I felt it was time to “walk-the-walk” and become sponsors ourselves,” says Robert Granke, CLWR’s executive director. “I have visited Jordan and met Syrian mothers and fathers who are desperate to resettle in a safe place where they can work, educate their children and become part of a community. We knew we could support a family in this way.”
This is the first time national office staff from CLWR, the ELCIC and LCC have joined together to sponsor a refugee family.
“It is one thing for us to hear news stories about efforts in general to welcome refugees to Canada,” says LCC President Robert Bugbee. “But I am so grateful to the staff of CLWR for inviting my co-workers and me to get involved with a specific family of refugees now preparing to make Winnipeg their home. CLWR leaders are not merely talking about the importance of work with refugees; they are helping us actually do it right here on the ground.”
“Last summer our church adopted a policy on welcoming the stranger. It is so wonderful to put that policy into action,” says ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson. “As a church we have also committed ourselves to sponsoring 500 refugees in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran reformation. I’m delighted that myself and my colleagues at the National Office will get to participate in this commitment in a hands-on way!”