I wanted to give you a quick update on the newest refugee family, from Syria, we are sponsoring, and I wanted to take a moment to introduce them to you.
They are the Al Qasab family, who are originally from Homs Syria, but who fled three years ago to Aqaba Jordan. You can read about the conflict in Homs and you will get a sense of the seriousness of the situation. They left last Monday from Jordan and arrived late Wednesday night where they were welcomed by a group from our church. They were taken to the hotel, they got settled in and were given a brief orientation. They were exhausted. Imagine travelling for 3 days with three kids, two who can not walk.
Folks from our welcome team have been visiting with them each day. Each time we visit we are invited into their hotel room, asked to sit down, and although they have virtually no food or drinks in their room, they always offer us something. Hospitality is very important to them. They only speak Arabic, so using either a volunteer translator, a translation app on our phone, or through an animated game of charades we visit, sometimes up to 90 minutes. We are getting to know each other and they are learning that we are their friends, here to serve them. It has been a blessing for all involved.
Ahmed, the father was a cab driver and a construction worker before fleeing. They had a house, and a car and a good life in Syria, they loved their country and their city and the family that was surrounding them. He and his wife Salam have three boys, Feras who is 14, and who has Cerebral Palsy, Omar who is 12 and also has Cerebral Palsey and Hamzeh, who is two and a half, and is a ball of energy. They are a great family. Friendly, grateful, and really wanting to get settled in Saint John, and make this their home.
In the last week, thanks to the help of many from our church, we have secured an apartment, helped them get a bank account, gotten wheelchairs for the boys and started the process of getting them the medical support they will need.
At this point we have a team of people who have committed themselves to helping them get settled, and a team of people who are going to act as resources as needs arise. Thank you for your support and help. Our next step will be to help them move into their apartment, which will hopefully happen this week, and then to get them to the necessary medical appointments. As specific needs arise we will make the congregation aware.
Let me say how thankful I am to the many ways RiverCross is being involved in supporting the refugees arriving in Saint John, here are just a few examples:
The Hope Mission team is preparing some meals for the refugees housed at the hotel
Members of our church are supporting other host teams in finding things like car seats, apartments, medical support, etc.,
Members of our church are donating household items to Lancaster Baptist, which is where host teams go furnish apartments for their families
Members of our church are helping their friends and coworkers in providing care to other refugee families
We were privileged to have a refugee family attend our church on Sunday who recently arrived from Afghanistan and they were given a warm "family-of-God" welcome
Members of our church have made financial donations to our benevolent fund
Members of our church have been volunteering as child care workers at the Howard Johnson hotel as the parents go to orientation sessions
If you would like to be involved, please visit the YMCA website and find out where they need your help. Be ready to get involved on short notice, and be ready to do whatever they need help with, it may be outside your comfort zone, but you won’t regret it! Remember Jesus words “whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done unto me.”
As a church we have asked God to allow us the privilege of being HIS blessing to our city, I can think of no greater opportunity for us right now!
If you grew up in Saint John, it is hard to think of our city as multi-cultural, but its becoming one. Which is amazing. One of the great privileges we have, as RiverCross Church, is to share a vital minstry to Mandarin speaking folks in our city. God is doing amazing things, and if you were here last week when we showed the video of the baptism of Mr & Mrs Yu, you will know God is moving.
We have recently named this ministry Chinese Outreach Ministries and let me outline some of the important work we are doing together:
1. Sunday morning Sunday School Class - there is a class offered to adults and also youth in Mandarin. It is not uncommon for us to have as many as 60 people attending these two classes.
2. Firday Night Prayer Meeting: Each Friday night, members of our Chinese Outreach Ministry gather at George and Lydia Tongs house for a prayer time. During this time, George will summarize last weeks sermon and then they will gather in groups to pray.
3. Sunday Morning Translation: each week our services are translated into Mandarin, LIVE! Songs, announcements, prayers and sermon are all translated and folks can listen in on a translation system. This has allowed us to communicate more effectively.
4. Ministry Connections with other Chinese Communities: Our Chinese community will connect with Chinese Christians in Moncton, Fredericton, and Halifax at different times during the year. The biggest gathering is the annual summer camp, and in 2016, members from RiverCross Church will be the organizers of this event.
5. Bus Shelter Ads: Starting this week, we will be advertising to university students on bus shelters at UNBSJ. The ads will appear in Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi and English. Pray that God might use these ads to communicate that there is a Christian family awaiting these students.
6. Future Staff: we are at the point now where this ministry could use the help of pastoral staff. We are beginning to have conversations about what this might look like. Pray for us as we discern God's plan.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not give a word of thanks to all who give leadership to our Chinese Outreach Ministries. They have an incredibly dedicated core of leaders who provide teaching, counselling, hospitality, tranlation services and a great sense of family to anyone and everyone. Lets continue to pray for the incredible minsitry happening each week