Advent calendar – November 30

nest 30th anniversary

Ivor Schledewitz (left), past Chair of NEST, greets Ismaeil Mayel (right) and Fauzia Mayel (centre) at NEST’s 30th anniversary celebration. Photo: CLWR/E.Paulley

Celebrating 30 years of refugee sponsorship

Thirty years ago, three congregations in Winnipeg’s North End worked together to sponsor an Eritrean mother and daughter. Since then, the North End Sponsorship Team (NEST) has welcomed 181 people from 18 countries to Winnipeg and has 30 more refugees waiting for approval to enter Canada.

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Welcoming the stranger

St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church welcomes refugee family from Eritrea to Winnipeg


The refugee family caregivers group greets the family at the Winnipeg airport. Photo: CLWR/E.Paulley

For St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winnipeg, MB, sponsoring a refugee family is a tangible response to Christ’s call to help and welcome the stranger.

“In the New Testament we hear the commandment to practice hospitality and be welcoming to the stranger,” says Pastor Bjoern Meinhardt. “We are called to provide for those in need who are less fortunate—this is a piece of solidarity that grows out of our faith.”

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Opening ourselves to what God is doing next

If you are a pastor or congregational leader and have been concerned that if your congregation became involved in receiving a refugee family that all the work would fall on you, then I invite you to read this ecellent article from Pastor Carol Janke of Messiah Lutheran Church.

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Staff from CLWR, ELCIC and LCC are sponsoring a refugee family

holding hands on globe

UPDATE: We just found out they will be a family of four: a couple with two children. The paperwork to get the sponsorship moving has begun.

The staff of Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and the two major national Lutheran church bodies are coming together for the first time to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

The national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), the LCC Central District office and CLWR are pooling donations from individual staff members to raise the money needed to support a family for a year.

Earlier this fall, CLWR staff members agreed to begin collecting pledges to sponsor one person, most likely a Syrian living in Jordan, where most of CLWR’s overseas programming for Syrian refugees takes place. CLWR invited the churches to get on board, making it possible to bring a whole family. 

While they have not connected with a particular family as yet, they do know that they will be able to sponsor a Syrian family of five. ELCIC, LCC and CLWR are headquartered in Winnipeg and that’s where they expect the family will live, so that staff members can provide emotional support and connect the family with settlement services like language training, job training and counselling.

CLWR is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government, which allows them to facilitate private sponsorships for congregations, families and other groups, including their own. Once a family is identified, CLWR expects it will take approximately two to six months before they arrive in Winnipeg. They plan to put their expertise in refugee resettlement to use.

“Each day we work to support congregations who are acting as refugee sponsors in Canada,” says Robert Granke, CLWR executive director. “My colleagues and I are excited to come together as a team and welcome a family, together with colleagues from the ELCIC and LCC. We are looking forward to identifying a family and meeting them in the coming months.”

This sponsorship is on top of the refugee sponsorships individual ELCIC and LCC congregations undertake every year across the country. 

ELCIC congregations have challenged themselves to sponsor 500 refugees by 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   

“I’m so glad our staff are participating in this sponsorship and taking part in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge,” says ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson. “Our partnership with CLWR is such an important part of living out our call to be a church In Mission for Others. The refugee sponsorship between our national offices is especially timely given the fact that our government is committed to increasing the number of Syrian refugees to Canada. Together we are taking ‘welcoming the stranger’ very seriously.” 

LCC President Robert Bugbee reflected on the decision of the LCC staff to support refugee resettlement.

“I’m deeply grateful to our friends at CLWR for inviting us to take part in this project,” President Bugbee said. “There are few better ways to come to grips with the worldwide plight of refugees than to spend concrete time with real individuals, and I believe that we ‘longtime Canadians’ will be the first to benefit when we seek to show this sort of love to others. It will be a great thing if the commitment of our national staff people to address this need encourages local congregations across the country to consider refugee sponsorship in their own communities.”

Resettling refugees in Canada: the screening process

In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Nigeria, and other places, many concerns have been raised about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada, particularly in regards to security. This article is meant to give you some information about the refugee security screening process refugees undergo before being admitted to Canada.

No Safe Place in Syria

Syrian refugees are fleeing their country due to risks to their lives. Fighting between the government forces and rebels have become complicated with other groups joining the fight, including Hezbollah and Daesh (otherwise known as ISIL or ISIS). This has caused more widespread fighting and innocent civilians are getting caught in the crossfire. With the authorities caught up in the fighting, and much of the infrastructure in disarray, Syrian civilians are not able to get the protection they need within their country.

The process for sponsor-referred refugees

  • This is the category that CLWR is involved with along with congregations and groups. 
  • These refugees are brought in at the request of relatives or friends in Canada who apply via the private sponsorship program. 
  • This process is facilitated through Canadian government Sponsorship Agreement Holders like CLWR. There is a thorough review and screening of the application before we consider submitting it for processing.
  • If we submit the application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the visa office processing the case will do an eligibility and admissibility screening. 
  • At the interview they ask the refugee applicant questions to ensure accuracy and credibility and then the officer determines if they are eligible for resettlement.  
  • If approved, the refugee applicant must get police background checks from every country in which they have ever resided.  
  • The visa office also does a thorough background security check using the assistance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).  If there is anything suspicious the file is scrupulously reviewed and investigations conducted.  
  • A refugee applicant can be inadmissible to enter Canada on the basis of security, serious criminality, organized criminality or human rights violations.  


The process for UNHCR-referred refugees

  • These refugees are ones that the Canadian government is bringing in. They are called Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs).
  • These refugees go through even more security screening, because it is done first by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). If the refugee applicant is found eligible for resettlement, they will refer the case to the corresponding Canadian visa office.  
  • These refugee applicants will also go through an interview process and Canadian security background checks.  
  • If there is anything suspicious thorough investigations are conducted, and the refugee applicant will not be allowed to come to Canada if any security concerns or criminality issues are discovered.


The process for Syrian refugee claimants

  • Refugee claimants, or asylum seekers, enter Canada without residence documents and undergo the refugee determination process (similar to the interviews done at the visa office) with the Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada.  
  • All refugee claimants go through a front-end security screening. Through this process CSIS checks all refugee claimants on arrival in Canada. 
  • Since the screening was put in place in 2001, the number of claimants found to represent any kind of security concern has been statistically insignificant.
  • It is also worthy to note that it is far more difficult to enter Canada as a refugee than as a visitor, because the refugee determination process involves security checks by CSIS and the RCMP, fingerprinting and interviews. It is not likely that a person intending to commit a violent act would expose themselves to such detailed examinations. 

More than ever Syrian refugees need our support and Canada’s protection. If we do not let them come to Canada because of fear, we risk further endangering Syrian lives. Syrians cannot receive protection from the Syrian authorities, and other countries of asylum are closing their doors. As Christians, it is a moral imperative for us to help Syrian refugees, especially when security risks are so low. We have been commissioned to welcome the stranger on many occasions.

Procedures for processing urgent protection cases: criminality and security screening

The government of Canada has published policies, procedures and guidance used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada staff. We’ve reproduced some of that information below:

Once a decision has been made to accept a case for urgent processing, security checks should be initiated. 

Step 1: Initiate security and criminality checks 

The visa office should initiate criminality and security screening immediately following a tentative positive decision. Urgent background checks will require liaison with the Security Liaison Officer (SLO), whether at the visa office or in another location, in person or by phone.

Step 2: Refer cases to Case Management Branch, if necessary 

The officer refers a case to Case Management Branch (BCD) for more investigation where there are negative results of a security or criminal background check. BCD can advise the officer if there are other considerations for admissibility and the officer should consider the information provided by BCD when making their decision on admissibility. 

When cases are referred to the Case Management Branch for investigation, the 3-5 day target may not be met. An estimated turn-around would be determined by Case Management and the officer can inform UNHCR in the event that UNHCR may wish to refer the case to another resettlement country.

Please ensure that copies of the applicant’s IMM 0008, any additional referral information and any other information that can assist with screening are forwarded to the Case Management Branch.

Criminality and security risk management

On the basis of country conditions and local information, profiling and any other available tools, the SLO will provide an assessment of the risks to the officer regarding the nature and degree of any risk. The officer will decide whether any perceived risk outweighs the need for urgent protection.


Here are other websites which can assist in an understanding of the screening process:

Memories from the Beaverbrae

The Beaverbrae Reunions are this weekend! There are so many stories to tell, but here are just a few of the photos and anecdotes former ship passengers and their family members have shared with us over the past few months.

For more on the reunions, visit

Rebekah writes: 

My mother, grandmother, and aunt came to Canada via CLWR.

The ship they sailed on was the Samaria, and they landed in Montreal before taking the train west to relatives in Fairview, Alberta. My mom tells some fascinating stories about the ship. She was the only one in her family who didn’t get seasick, so she found another little girl (my mom was 7 at the time) and ran around the ship, including venturing into the restricted first class area.  Eventually they got lost and were brought to the captain. While their parents were being fetched they were given oranges to eat – a real treat to post-war children!

Lotte Ingeborg and Nelly

The photo is captioned “Lotte, Ingeborg and Nelly, leaving Europe. Cuxhaven, Germany, October 13, 1949.” Rebekah keeps it beside a picture of people she met in El Salvador in a refugee resettlement there, as a reminder that in so many ways we are all refugees.

Monica writes:

My mom Elsie, and her parents arrived in Canada on the Beaverbrae on June 8, 1950. My mom celebrated her 21st birthday on the ship (June 7).

Breakfast on the Beaverbrae:  My mom had never seen bacon strips before and enjoyed eating the bacon for breakfast. She said people became seasick and so fewer would show up for breakfast. All the better for her and her friend Ursel, who happily had more helpings of bacon!  She said that the plates already had the bacon on them. She had eaten bacon before but the “strip form” was new and “alluring.”

The ship docked in Quebec City.  The first Canadian building they saw was the Chateau Frontenac. My mom gets emotional when she tells me the story and has been back to Quebec City twice since.

My mom, feeling homesick, was touched by the warm welcome given by a group of people at the port, smiling and shaking their hands and giving everyone an English Bible.  They were dressed alike and much later my mom found out that this group was the Salvation Army.

Two trains were awaiting the new immigrants: one headed for Ontario, the other for out west.  Another goodbye to the friends made on the ship-goodbye to Ursel who was heading to Edmonton, while my mom and her parents took the Ontario train to Kitchener. While travelling in wild, forested and rocky northern Ontario, my mom and her father wondered where in the world were they coming to live? My grandma was more easy-going and took things in stride. Finally, having arrived in Kitchener, they were picked up by Mr. Dick, (a member of Kitchener Mennonite Brethren Church where my aunt and uncle attended – very close to Bethel Lutheran Church, in fact), accompanied by Tante Frieda and Onkel Corny.

My mom and her parents were sponsored by a Mennonite farmer from Elmira.  My Tante Frieda had come to Canada one or two years previously and I believe she approached the farmer and asked if he would sponsor them. The farmer felt in his heart that the Lord would want him to and so he did. We are grateful to God and to him for his kindness (he and his dear wife passed away not long ago.) My mom worked in Kitchener afterward to pay off the debt and my grandparents worked on the farm and ended up living there for several years after. We stayed in touch with the farmer and his family over the years.  They were a lovely and generous Christian family who felt like family to us.

Richard sent us a photo of his mother, Olga. She came on the Beaverbrae in July 1954 through a loan she received through CLWR.

Scanned Document

Henning shared some memories he wrote on the 50th anniversary of his family’s arrival in Canada:

After an 11-day sea journey on the Beaverbrae, having embarked in Bremen, Germany on March 17, we reached the port of St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. As we needed to await full tide, we stayed another night on board, and when those world-record tides of 39 ft (12 m) in the Bay of Fundy reached near maximum, we were allowed to depart the Beaverbrae and set foot in Canada, our new country, on March 29, 1951. We first saw the wharf quite high up above us; yet when we exited it was down a gangplank!

En route, across the Atlantic Ocean, on March 22, we celebrated Brita’s first birthday. On a most stormy day, we heard an announcement over the ship’s loudspeakers, to alert us of a baby carriage rolling back and forth on an upper deck. We saw it – it was Brita’s baby carriage! Hearts stopped! However – relax, no one was inside. Brita – you had not been forgotten!

I also remember the avid swing use by a few of us. Swings on very long ropes. Yes, I remember doing this even at relatively high seas. The ship ‘rolled’ forwards into the depths and arose from there again, and we swayed crosswise on these swings!  But who ‘we’ were, I am not so certain anymore: most of my siblings did not feel too well, especially on such days.

Let’s not forget Easter – and the egg-rolling we did there!  How, you, Mutti, probably with Tante Inga’s help, and perhaps others, were able to arrange this, I have no clue!  However, eggs were rolled! Indeed, if my memory serves me right, we rolled on top of one of the dining tables of the Beaverbrae. I know we didn’t have to bend down. Of course, there were many questions and questioning glances of the non-Balts aboard. A number of their children, however, joined us with great gusto and joy.

Early in the morning of March 28, 1951, when I awoke and ascertained that Papa was no longer on the lower cot of our bunk bed, I jumped up and dressed quickly and went outside to find him. I knew that was the day we were expected to arrive in Canada. I went onto the main deck and searched everywhere. No one to be found. Then I went onto the next higher deck. Also no one. And if I am not mistaken, then on the 3rd deck up, the highest deck we passengers were allowed to go to, I found Papa and Herrn Eric (he had binoculars!). It was sunrise – in the morning dawn we could just make out LAND. Yes, it was the east coast of Nova Scotia!  So, CANADA!  And we three – after all, the ship’s crew was not visible on the open deck – were apparently the only ones of the approximately 900 immigrants who experienced this unparalleled view! Aside from us, the deck was completely empty, devoid of any people. At least, in my memory.

Beaverbrae&Muendels sm

The long train trip towards Penticton followed. En route, on March 31, we were even able to celebrate my 9th birthday. I remember long birthday candles for me – held by me and my siblings and others. And I received a leather belt from my dear parents! Probably most of the passengers who were in our train compartment looked at me with cheerful glances and sang heartily “Viel Glueck und viel Segen” (a German birthday song – wishing luck and blessing).

Then came Winnipeg. My mother with Holger and another woman and her daughter left the train because the children had measles. On we went to Calgary: where for some reason there was a 12 hour stop-over. A delay! After all, we wanted to continue quickly to our new home. To Oliver!

And we were not allowed to walk too far from the train. Thus I mainly remember the train tracks of Calgary! One of the train officials (in any case, he wore a uniform) was apparently quite happy seeing our identification tags (which we wore around our necks). It had our name on it and “Oliver, B.C.” Of course we thought it most silly that he, instead of (what we thought) ‘bay-tsay’, pronounced it ‘bee-cee’. After many hours we descended the long mountain from the east towards Penticton, down into the Okanagan Valley. There, on April 4, Pastor Lang greeted us and we were all packed into his car. Thus we went to Oliver, and our new home! Everything needed to be explored most intensively, the house, the farm, the shed, everywhere!


Lore met her husband Hugo in this exact spot in Germany, shortly before they both came to Canada on the Beaverbrae ship in 1950. He was the brother of one of her friends! Although they went separate ways at first (Alberta and Saskatchewan), they reunited, got married and had their first child in 1952. Lore is very happy to have a photo that symbolizes the beginning of her marriage (we're sending her a copy!)

Lore met her husband Hugo in this exact spot in Germany, shortly before they both came to Canada on the Beaverbrae ship in 1950. He was the brother of one of her friends! Although they went separate ways at first (Alberta and Saskatchewan), they reunited, got married and had their first child in 1952. Lore is very happy to have a photo that symbolizes the beginning of her marriage (we’re sending her a copy!)


Harry brought the suitcase his father used to come to Canada on the Beaverbrae - he made it himself out of aluminum from an airplane that was downed in the Second World War. (You can still see the cut-out of where one of the windows was!) The family settled in Winnipeg where both Harry and his father worked in construction.

Harry brought the suitcase his father used to come to Canada on the Beaverbrae – he made it himself out of aluminum from an airplane that was downed in the Second World War. (You can still see the cut-out of where one of the windows was!) It was the only suitcase they had. The family settled in Winnipeg where both Harry and his father worked in construction.

Information and resources for congregations about the Syrian refugee response


Click here for photos, fact sheets, worship resources and information sessions related to CLWR’s (and your!) response to the Syrian refugee crisis: