Alliance Justice and Compassion resources and promotes the local and global ministries of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada that seek to bring wholeness and well-being to people made vulnerable by circumstances of poverty, disaster, and injustice. May the stories and thoughts inspire the reader to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Syrian Refugee Crisis:
The C&MA in Canada's Response

As with most past humanitarian crises, it takes an image to invoke a response by the rest of the world! 

In September we were exposed to the shocking photo of lifeless Aylan Shenu wash up on the shores of Turkey; a young Syrian boy whose family fled their home as refugees because of civil war. Since the unrest began in Syria in the Spring of 2011, there have been over 11 million Syrians displaced and over 4 million refugees in the surrounding countries.
Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan
The C&MA in Canada has been working on this crisis for three years by supporting relief efforts in several Middle East countries and by encouraging our churches to engage in refugee sponsorship.  We are encouraged that even before the photo of little Aylan and the massive movement of Syrian refugees to Europe, fifteen of our churches were already in the process of sponsoring refugees. Another 35 of our churches are in dialogue with us about the process; many are at the point of forming teams who will lead a sponsorship resettlement. (Update: As of March 23 the number of churches has increased to 171!)

My church wants to respond.  What can we do?

The C&MA's response. What have we been doing?

  • We have been a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with Citizenship and Immigration Canada since February 2012, encouraging Alliance churches to engage in refugee sponsorship. 
  • We have supported Syrian refugee relief in Lebanon, Jordan, and with the Alliance church in Damascus over the last 2 ½ years.  
  • Joanne Beach traveled to Lebanon and Jordan in December 2013 to visit refugees both in and outside the camps that local Alliance churches have been ministering to.  Read Blog Post
  • As a SAH, we are part of the Canadian SAH Association and have been working through this network to advocate on behalf of refugees. 
  •  We partnered with Lorna Dueck’s Context show last fall on the "Terror in Iraq and Syria" episode. The C&MA was the contact organization for viewers to call who were interested in refugee sponsorship. View the episode.
  •  Dave Hearn traveled to Iraq in October 2014 and subsequently made a video to encourage churches to respond with radical hospitality to the displaced impacted by the crises in the Middle East.  View the Video.  (His challenge comes at the 2:50 point in the video.)
  • In May 2015, Dave Hearn participated with other denominational presidents, who are part of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), in a meeting with Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa to encourage the Government of Canada to accept more Syrian refugees.  They also committed to assist their local churches with sponsorship. 
  • As a result of the EFC initiative, we will be serving as the umbrella SAH for three other denominations in order that their local churches can engage in sponsorship immediately while they go through the application process of becoming a SAH.  (Associated Gospel Church of Canada, Evangelical Missionary Church Of Canada, and Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada.)
  • We have added the Refugee Sponsorship section on the new C&MA website.  
  • We have established a Refugee Fund so people can donate to a sponsorship resettlement.  This fund is a safety reserve for sponsoring groups to apply for unexpected financial emergencies outside of the resettlement budget.
  • We have promoted refugee sponsorship through a variety of the Alliance Justice and Compassion social media sites.  
·      So, as you can see, we have been addressing this issue for some time, but we are grateful that the events of this past September have created a sense of urgency which has inspired many inquiries about refugee sponsorship and how churches can respond.  

 Click here to open refugee sponsorship page to learn more

  Okay, My Church Wants to Respond.  

What can I do?

  1. Pray for the millions of refugees, for relief efforts of churches and aid agencies in the Middle East and Europe, and for churches in Canada assisting refugees in resettlement.
  2. Provide funds to the C&MA Syria Emergency Relief Fund Donations to this fund will be used to provide relief for refugees in the Middle East and Europe.
  3. Provide funds to the C&MA Refugee Fund. Donations to this fund will be used to assist churches in Canada that are sponsoring refugees.
  4. Learn how your church can Participate in refugee sponsorship.
  5. Partner with a church in your area that is sponsoring a refugee family. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jesus is Transforming Lives in Serbia!

Last month I had the privilege of visiting Serbia and returned home with a heart so full after seeing Jesus literally working before my eyes!  
Danny and Vera, C&MA International Workers, are an inspiration and example of loving people who suffer afflictions of all kinds while communicating Jesus' love and grace into their lives. Their compassion ministry in Serbia focuses in two main areas:  

Caring for the terminally ill through visitation and provision of medical needs 

Offering men that suffer addiction a place of healing and restoration
Over the years, with two Rehab Centres,  they have seen Christ transform lives as many individuals have been healed, restored and developed into strong leaders who now serve in these ministries. 

Several years ago, the team began to pray that God would open a door for them to open a rehab centre in the city of Obrenovac. It was the hometown of Veljko, who had been known as a heroine addict who had cut all ties with his family and friends. He was one of the first graduates from the rehab program and had developed a deep love for Jesus.
In May 2014, terrible floods swept through that city destroying thousands of homes. We sent a relief team, headed up by Veljko, and it has been like a modern prodigal son returning home. People cannot believe it is the same person! As he and the team have worked tirelessly over the last eleven months distributing material aid, assisting with the clean up of homes and sharing the love of Jesus, many are expressing a spiritual hunger to know the one who has transformed this young man. As a result, they began a weekly Bible study. 

During my visit, I was privileged to attend this Bible study during its fourth week. The Lord led me to present Luke 15 and teach on the lost sheep, coin, and son and how Jesus searches for individuals - including each one in the room. One woman stood at the end and asked, "I understand that I need to ask Jesus to forgive my sin and then live for him but when and how can I do that?" 

Veljko's Father, Milord
Immediately, Veljko's father stood up and said, "All I know is that Jesus has transformed my son so there must be something to this Jesus!" Several in that room that night have committed their lives to follow Jesus. What a privilege to literally see a church being birthed right before my eyes! God is using Veljko to demonstrate his power and presence. 

Ways to pray:
  • Pray for the many families who are still without their permanent home or employment. Our team continues to provide food and hygiene parcels to them. Most of their furniture and appliances had to be thrown away so they are rebuilding their lives from nothing.    
Note the watermark at roof level.  Their home is gutted inside.
Inside of home pictured above
This family's home is also stripped down to the 2x4's inside
Inside of home pictured above
  • Pray for strength and perseverance for the relief team pictured with me below:
  • Pray that one day as the relief team transitions out of the recovery and reconstruction phase that they will be able to open the third rehab centre that God had originally given them a vision for.  
  • Pray for this new church community that God is establishing!  Pray that the people will grow in their faith and their testimony to this city!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ebola Response in Guinea

The World Health Organization reports that over 10,000 people have died from the Ebola epidemic; almost all of them in the three worst-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The numbers of new cases per week is definitely diminishing; however, the devastating effects will continue for years to come. After a temporary withdrawal from the country, our International Worker, Lizette Lavoie, returned in January to join efforts with CAMA Services and the Guinean Alliance national Church for Ebola Relief. 

This is Marie!  Her face shows the grief of losing her husband, her mother and her firstborn son. The stories of loss are repeated over and over again. One small village reportedly lost 52 people within a few weeks. 

Lizette reports that to date, they have been able to assist 60 widows, while they estimate there are over 800 throughout the country. "We have no man left to farm for us," one woman lamented.  

Months ago, villagers were afraid of anyone who would come from the outside.  In fact, the national church still mourns the loss of a team of seven relief workers who were stoned to death because of fear that they were coming to spread the virus.
This new strategy involves working through local church leaders who are known and trusted by local villagers. 

As sympathy is expressed upon arriving in a village, the walls of hostility and mistrust are broken and the church is welcomed and able to do the following activities:
Awareness and prevention training
Instruction on Treating Ebola
School Kit Distributions for Orphaned Children

Many children orphaned by Ebola or left with one parent are now back in school because of the school kits provided. 

Uniforms, Tuition and school books
For girls, too!

Food Assistance

Please uphold this ministry in prayer:

  • Health and safety for Lizette and team
  • Comfort for those suffering such loss
  • Wisdom for Church leaders implementing the ministry in local villages
  • Many would come to faith in Christ
  • The Church in Guinea would grow and be strengthened

Donations can be sent to the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, designated for the:

 Global Emergency Response Fund. 

Click here for on-line donation. 

Christian and Missionary Alliance
 30 Carrier Drive, Suite 100, 
Toronto, ON M9W 5T7

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Convert, Pay or Be Killed"

Our sister church in Erbil providing relief to the displaced
The horrific stories coming out of Iraq in the last few weeks is heartwrenching. In Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, now controlled by a militant extremist group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) announced that Christians should convert, pay hefty taxes or else face execution. This is an area of Iraq where these Christians have lived for over 1,700 years. In the end, the second option was revoked and all Christians were forced to flee the city. Most Christians who fled were stopped at checkpoints by militants who confiscated their cars and anything of value they were carrying including money, jewelry, mobile phones - even passports. They had to continue their journey on foot. (It is important to note that it is not only the Christians but other minority faith groups as well.)

The Christians were ordered to leave all property behind, as homes were marked with the Arabic letter 'N' for Nasrani or Nazarenes - an Arabic word for Christian. The extremists intend it as a mark of shame but now many Christians around the world are identifying with it in an act of solidarity with the persecuted!

Last week the Justice and Compassion office received a phone call from an Iraqi man who lives in Toronto.  He had just heard from his family who, to his relief had made it out alive but had lost everything as they had experienced the humiliating reality of one of these checkpoints. He asked that churches in Canada would pray for his family and others suffering in this crisis. He also pleaded for assistance to help his family get to safety here in Canada. Hearing the emotion in the voice of the brother/son of a family who had experienced this tragedy brought the magnitude of this atrocity to life.  

We are in dialogue with Alliance World Fellowship President, Arie Verduijn who is in contact with our sister church in Erbil, the Iraqi city where many have fled. The church leaders have indicated that they are very grateful for prayers and forthcoming financial assistance. They are seeking to help as many as they can who have arrived on their doorstep - literally with nothing!

So what can Canadians do?  

We can pray!! 
  • Pray that Christians in Iraq, and especially from the Mosul area, will know the peace of Jesus, guidance of the Spirit and provisions from the Father.
  • Pray that the displaced families will find sanctuary and that humanitarian assistance would reach all who are in need.
  • Pray that peace will be restored and that those displaced, including other faith minorities, would be able to return to their towns.
  • Pray for the many churches in the region that are assisting those who are displaced; specifically our Alliance World Fellowship sister churches that we will be supporting.
We can give!!
  • We will respond by supporting relief efforts through our partnership with Alliance World Fellowship.  Donations can be given through a local Canadian Alliance church, directly to the National Ministry Centre, or on-line.  Donations should be designated to the C&MA's Global Emergency Response Fund.  
We can consider refugee sponsorship!!  
  • We will inform our family of churches if the Canadian Government issues a special refugee sponsorship allocations in response to this crisis.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Serbia Flood Relief and Recovery

Imagine flood water submerging your house past the roof! That was the reality for many in Serbia this past May. (See post: May 20, 2014) The church in Novi Sad immediately sent a team to live in the hardest hit town of Obrenovac where approximately 36,000 homes were affected. This relief team has been tirelessly serving the neediest families by providing food and hygiene kits, helping to clean out homes and visiting families to bring encouragement. To date they have assisted 170 families. Danny and Vera, our International Workers who are overseeing this response shared that immediately after the tragedy, people were just happy to be alive. Weeks later, as reality has sunk in, there has been great discouragement and hopelessness expressed by many that they visit.  
Ways to pray:
  1. Pray for the families who have lost the contents of their homes; pray that God will provide!
  2. Pray for their encouragement and a spirit of perseverance!
  3. Pray for the relief team that they too would have strength and endurance.
  4. The relief team is the only Christian presence in this town. Pray that as they share the love of Christ, the people of Obrenovac will find new hope and strength and that a church will be established.  
If you are interested in donating to this relief effort, please click here and under Donation Allocation, click the drop down menu and select Global Emergency Response Fund.

If you have time to continue reading, below are a few brief stories of affected families from Danny and Vera: 
This young family came to Serbia as refugees. With the money they brought after selling their property in Croatia, they built a new, lovely home. Flowers were planted, they had new furniture…their son just turned two. The flood water went over the roof, and left the house beyond repair. Since then they have been living in common accommodation, that has been so bad; no hot water, no cooked meals….eating bread and spreads for weeks. They called desperate for food. We brought parcels of food and hygiene items. Just few days after, late one evening father called apologizing and desperate, "Please, we need food. Our child needs to eat." No one has come to even assess the damage, they are losing hope that they will get any help at all.

I have no need for hygiene items, 
I have nothing to clean. Please, give us food.
Father of household above

The family pictured above has been going through an extremely difficult time. Boban has been without work, and  his wife Biljana works a consistent night shift at the supermarket in Belgrade, for extremely low pay. Now their home is beyond repair, and they have lost all their possessions in the flood. Their  little son Filip is staying with relatives, because there is no more home to live in. They have been touched by our visit and help. We will continue to visit them, and they truly appreciate our care.

This family really moved us. Two generations were living in two homes next to each other. Both have been ruined by the floodwater. ALL possessions have been taken away as garbage. They have been sleeping in a motorhome. Each day they work very hard at their homes. Taking layers of walls off, waiting for it all to dry. We were so surprised how warm and welcoming they were. They are very touched that someone wants to help them.
Another household that suffered greatly had water fill the house right up to the ceiling. All furniture, all windows, doors, floors, utilities - everything had to be thrown out. Walls now have to dry out before repairs can begin. Our team was able to provide them with two beds, a small table and a small one-burner hotplate so they can cook. Both husband and wife could not control the tears as they showed us the picture of their daughter that died of cancer couple of years ago, leaving the grandchild in their care. They also have their own twin son and daughter living with them. No food, no money; only broken hearts and depression.

We live on the main road, 
no one stops to even ask if we are alive. 
You have been coming to us, 
and that brings tears to my eyes.
- Father of household above.

This last story is about a home also flooded to the roof.  The family with 4 kids have lost everything. "Thank God for the nice weather," the mother said, as she was roasting some peppers on an open fire outside. The only furniture is a mattress that the relief team had previously brought for them. Yet, they still cannot sleep there because it is so damp.  They stay with friends but that place is small for them all. They were thrilled that we were able to give some clothes and laundry soap. They have to hand wash everything so they are thankful for nice weather so they can dry clothes outside. The father is a welder but currently has no work in this 'dead' town.

We fear for our oldest boy, 
he is in constant fear that water will come again. 
We fear the winter! How will we survive the cold? 
Will I have job to feed my family?
Father of household above.