By Rev. Abby Davidson
It is a familiar story. A young, pregnant woman forced to travel as she and her husband search for a safe place to stay. A displaced family fleeing imminent danger. A long journey to a new country so their child can grow up safely. This is the Christmas story. Looking at a peaceful nativity scene makes it easy to forget that a short time later, children were being murdered and Mary and Joseph became refugees, fleeing to Egypt to save the life of their child.
About five years ago, I was watching a different version of this story. The war in Syria was ongoing and the news reported that it was a particularly violent year. Millions were displaced and hundreds of children had been killed. Here in Toronto, the Spirit began moving hearts, and in 2016, Blythwood Road Baptist Church and Spring Garden Church partnered and applied to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. Later in the year, as Christmas approached, we were presented with a family who had already arrived in the country and desperately needed support. Their home had been bombed in Syria and so they left, walking to Lebanon before making their way to Canada. Ahmed and his brother, Tariq, with his pregnant wife Hanaa and their young daughter arrived here with nothing. The two churches were able to get them housing, provide financial support, and help with language. Many formed lasting friendships with this new family.
Five years later the family is settled, living independently and recently welcomed their third child. They are safe and grateful to be in Canada, but they ache for the family they had to leave behind. Tariq has another brother who has been living in Lebanon for seven years now along with his wife and three children. They are facing food insecurity, health issues, and the children are also very behind in their education.
This past year, the congregation of Spring Garden Church felt God’s leading to sponsor this family through CBOQ’s Sponsorship Undertaking and bring them to Canada. A committee has been formed and the paperwork has been submitted. We have been advised that it will be a long wait, so we are praying that God intervenes and brings them here soon.
God’s story reminds us that those who the world sees as “the least of these” are made in His image and worthy of dignity and love. His own Son was unwelcome in this world and became a refugee. God calls His Church to welcome the stranger, the oppressed and the refugee. As we celebrate Christmas and prepare to welcome the Messiah, may we remember those in need of a welcome and be emboldened to open our hearts and our homes to them.