Refugee Sponsors—For Life

Photo by Mstyslav Chernov
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

The news reports are almost daily reporting incidents involving refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq because of civil conflict there. With over four million displaced people from Syria alone, it is considered the largest refugee crisis since WWII. Many CBOQ churches are responding to the need by praying, donating and preparing to sponsor families.

CBOQ churches have been sponsoring refugees for a long time. Since the Private Sponsorship Program in Canada began in 1979 as a result of the arrival of the Vietnamese “Boat People,” CBOQ churches have been welcoming refugee families into their midst.

403px-35_Vietnamese_boat_people_2One of the CBOQ churches that responded to the needs of Vietnamese families was Bromley Road Baptist in Ottawa. But the Bromley church family didn’t stop there. They have been sponsoring refugees ever since. They have sponsored more than 100 families including over 200 Karen refugees who arrived 10 years ago.

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Ian Smiley is the coordinator of Bromley’s sponsorships, and has been involved for over 15 years. It’s one of Bromley’s priorities, and they submit an application to sponsor as often as they can, usually about one a year.* Ian says the time commitment to sponsor a family is significant, but it is easily supplanted by the joy of seeing a new family finally arrive after their long ordeal of getting to Canada. The excitement of seeing them reunited with their people here in Canada is incredible.

“The joy they all experience is unequalled. In some cases they are so happy that they can’t believe it’s actually happening. Then when we get them from the airport to where they’ll be staying they are completely amazed.  Some of them have said Canada is like something they’ve seen on television or a movie or on the Internet, but never completely believed it really existed. Typically they give us too much credit,” says Ian.

While the financial cost of sponsoring a family can be expensive, Bromley usually sponsors at the request of a family member who applies along with Bromley as the co-sponsor. Often the family members bear the greatest financial burden. Bromley supports the refugee family by donating furniture and other household items, and by helping them get connected to the additional services the family needs.

Ian stays in touch with the many refugees Bromley has sponsored. At Bromley’s recent anniversary celebrations, many were on hand to express their gratitude once again. A Karen congregation, many of whom were sponsored by Bromley, meets in their building – a vibrant community of faith made possible by people taking the risk of opening their doors to refugees.

Thank you Ian and Bromley Baptist for your welcome.

* As they receive requests and depending on CIC restriction.

The Statistics

  • Over 4 million Syrian refugees have fled their country.
  • 1.5 million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon (about 1 in 5 people in Lebanon are refugees). Another 1.9 million have fled to Turkey
  • 20,000 refugees are being cared for by Lebanese Baptist churches (32 churches with an average of 50 members each)
  • Mediterranean crossings in 2015 already top 300,000 and climbing
  • Many countries where Syrians are fleeing are already under significant financial strain and resource challenges.
  • Beyond the Syrian crisis, there are more than 50 million displaced people worldwide including 16.7 million refugees.
  • In 2014, only 73,000 refugees were settled worldwide.

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