Thanksgiving Story: The Barsoumian Family
It was the fall of 2015. The crisis in Syria had been going on for a long time already but the eyes are the world were mostly averted. But images of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore face-down on a Turkish beach rocked social media and shocked the global community with the sad reality of the risks that hundreds of thousands of displaced families were taking just to find peace away from the nation's civil war. The 3-year-old Syrian boy, who would later be identified as Aylan Kurdi, was just one of 12 refugees aboard an overcrowded dinghy who drowned that day in their quest to reach the Greek island of Kos from the Turkish town of Bodrum. The boys' aunt told the National Post that the boys and their father, Abdullah, were trying to flee to Canada, where she planned to sponsor them in their quest for asylum. Something about Aylan's lifeless body, dressed in a bright red T-shirt, blue shorts and tennis shoes, washed up onto that beach seemed to catalyze the world into action.
Here in Langley, a group of 6 families, connected by their shared experiences and time at Jericho Ridge, began banding together to explore the idea of privately sponsoring a Syrian family to come to Canada. They reached out to Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) refugee sponsorship program office in Abbotsford and began raising the necessary funding and volunteer horsepower necessary to undertake this effort. “Since 1979, MCC has helped refugees who have no prospect of returning home to start a new life in Canada through our sponsorship program. Sponsorship is a one-year commitment. The sponsoring group helps the refugee family with practical things like housing, finances, and grocery shopping, as well as offering friendship and emotional support. While the legal sponsorship lasts a year, the relationships that are formed are often transforming and everlasting. Throughout the stages of the sponsorship process, MCC provides the sponsors with training opportunities and support.” (see https://mcccanada.ca/learn/what/refugees/sponsorship). The Jericho 6 said “yes” and began the process of waiting and praying and hoping that God would bring them a Syrian family to support.
On the other side of the world, God was at work in the lives of the Barsoumian family. They were displaced from their home by the conflict in Syrian and life was very difficult for them. But they managed to put together an application to the Canadian government who was actively working to process and settle refugees. After all of the necessary background checks and paperwork was completed, the Jericho 6 got the news that one member of the family would be arriving in Oct 2016. The rest followed that November.
On their first Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, we took time as a church to reflect on God’s goodness and to celebrate how grateful we are that they are part of our lives and our community. Click here to listen to the audio file as Pastor Wally, Tyler Schacter, Walter Gorlitz and Nigel Chuah reflect on the journey and on the road ahead!