Posted by: cmittermeier | December 12, 2015

Welcoming  those we sponsored from Syria!

This winter, my government pledged to bring 25,000 refugees from Syria to Canada in short order.  It makes sense that they would first clear the decks of all the refugees currently in the sponsorship ques.  Those of us in those ques knew this, but, till last Saturday, many of us didn’t quite realize what that really meant.
We have been blessed for over ten years to be friends with a Syrian Family – she taught my autistic son to dress himself, she kept me sane, and when she married, she had him as a ring bearer.  He thought he got to marry her himself, to which her husband smiled and nodded, “Good, good, now I know when I’m old she will be taken care of.”

BEFORE things were this bad, as they started to get more dangerous, we agreed to help sponsor family.  We knew it could be three or more years, but we hoped as things destabalized that it would be speeded up.  It wasn’t, and I remember when our sponsoree had to run for the borders.  No longer in Syria, we worried the claim would be thrown out and we’d have to start again… As things progressed, we were allowed to sponsor a second family, as were other members of her family.  In April, the first happy dances began – our first sponsoree had passed everything, now began the wait for the visa and flight out.  Don’t get excited folks, please put his story on HOLD…

Between April and now, our governement changed.  We’d listen to the news, eventually, we’d see a few Muslim families arrive and we’d pray, and we’d listen to the news, then three weeks ago things started to move… “We’ve been called in for interviews!” Days later, “Our medical has been done…” That was where our first sponsorship was left in April… its the last step before visa and flight… could we get our hopes up???  Last week, my Saturday morning changed from its routine to the unknown when my friend called…

“THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN A FLIGHT – THEY COME NEXT SATURDAY!”… We talk a bit more, going over which sponsorships were notified, our first one, in the que since April had not been called.  The prayer chains started, and Sunday he too got his call.

The first realization was that nearly every single sponsorship that had been put in was being cleared out – instead of family arriving every six months or so, we would be absorbing them en masse.  21 people to instantly feed, house, possibly clothe (some left as gunshots started one village over, others had time to leave with a car packed, we have no idea what they are coming with).  Its been years since any have seen a dentist, medically, we would normally have 3 months of care before OHIP came in.  Slightly different than a single family to be cared for between the 9 families involved in the sponsorships.  The basement that has been waiting since April for the first sponsor suddenly seems very small.

Tasks got divided out, and I began to collect toiletries.  What teenage girl feels comfortable asking for pads – much less one in a different country, with family she may or may not have ever met?  But gathering supplies for that many people with one weeks notice, we’d need some help!  My van is nearly filled to the brim through their generousity, and everything will be dropped off this afternoon, and I couldn’t have done it without many great people who on a dime ran out to stores and shopped, shopped, shopped.  

I am sure, reading this are other people who want to help but don’t know how.  Here are my suggestions: 

  • Look for front line churches – these Christians are Eastern Orthodox, still under the Pope, but their own rite.  Find THEIR churches and call
  • Do not assume what they will need – ASK first!  Who would have thought I’d need razors and pads?  
  • When in doubt, GIFT CARDS!  Mastercard, visa, all have cards you can give.  Grocery stores and chain drug stores as well.  Just drop them off at the correct Eastern Orthodox church, they’ll know who needs them (and please note, Syria is not the only church dealing with a war zone back home, Ukraine is in the throws of war too, folks, its just not as well publicized)
  • Feel the call?  Look into sponsorship, especially if your kids are soon to leave the nest and you know you will have some extra room.  Not everyone who ran has family here.  If you were used to feeding three teenages who have now graduated and left the nest, really, a family of four who are eager to find work and get on their feet isn’t that different (it might even be less if those young adults were males, just saying)

From the small to the call – we each have something to give, even if it is only a prayer.  They still need them, adapting will be hard and though they leave the physical battle behind, immigration does not come with a mind wipe.  Hugs and thanks to everyone!

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