Refugee Sponsorship Fund
Jesus once said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in”. Generous hospitality is one of the defining characteristics of followers of Jesus.
Recognizing this calling, Cornerstone is in the process of setting up an ongoing Refugee Sponsorship Fund.
So far Cornerstone has sponsored two Syrian families as they’ve begun a new life here in PEI, and are at various stages in process with other families. Our financial commitments to the first two families have concluded but we remain in contact as friends.
The hope is that the Refugee Sponsorship Fund will support refugees from various parts of the world over time.
Currently we are in a discerning process about our fifth possible sponsorship.
Alicia MacEachern is coordinating the sponsorship team.
Here are some links you may find helpful:
For a much more detailed collection of links and information, visit the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada website. Cornerstone is a part of the CBAC’s network of 400+ churches and it is one of the few Sponsorship Agreement Holder organizations in Atlantic Canada.
Questions and Answers
Are we still going to be supporting the other mission initiatives we have in the past, like the soup kitchen?
Yes, focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis and the sponsorship of refugees is a way of aligning our local and global efforts, but doesn’t eliminate other commitments. If you aren’t aware, our Mission offerings support local partnerships (Camp Seggie, the soup kitchen, Open Door Outreach, the Island Pregnancy Centre, etc.) as well as our global partnerships (Lebanon). The Mission committee is planning to evaluate all of the partnerships (local and global) that we have had but for we are not planning to stop support for any of those partnerships.
Would it be a better use of our money to support the refugees who are in camps through our partnerships in Lebanon, etc? There are likely major problems within the refugee camps that aren’t being addressed, perhaps we should focus on helping the people in refugee camps resettle instead.
Our hope is to increase support to our existing global partnerships as well as add refugee sponsorship. We want to address both sides of the Syrian refugee crisis:
1) Ministry to refugees in Lebanon, which will be for years to come but ultimately temporary as they find new places to live;
2) Permanent settlement issues, through refugee sponsorship.
Both are necessary. Each approach allows different types of participation. Some of us are able to help financially, others can help more practically with time and relationships. As a church we want many different people to engage in helping with this issue in many different ways, and sponsoring a refugee family here will create more opportunities and ways for people to be involved.
Would it be more effective if we did ____ instead of refugee sponsorship?
Refugee sponsorship has been identified by many global agencies, our own global partners, and even our own Canadian government, as having a high priority. It is only one part of a solution, but it is something Cornerstone can readily do as one church in multiple locations. Remember, refugee sponsorship is only part of how our church is addressing the issue; we are also continuing to support or global partnerships in Lebanon. Funding from our Mission Offerings also goes to support local partnerships (see above) and Cornerstone also has an active and generous Benevolent ministry for needs within our congregations and communities.
Why are we focusing on Syrian refugees when there are other refugees who have been waiting for sponsorship for much longer?
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of needs all over the world. There are a few reasons why this issue is worth our focus.
1) The scope of the Syrian refugee crisis is massive. (1 in 4 refugees in the world is a Syrian)
2) Through our existing global mission partnerships we have already been heavily invested in the Lebanon region for many years; this is now the dominant issue there.
3) Our Canadian government has taken unprecedented effort to bring Syrian refugees to Canada; this is a refugee set that they are actively seeking to bring to Canada.
4) Our convention, Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, is now equipped to provide a tremendous amount of support for this specific refugee crisis. The resources we have available through the CBAC are very significant and did not exist previously.
5) With all this in place, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario in which Cornerstone could step out for its first refugee sponsorship. If it goes well there may be the opportunity for more.
While we have focused on Syrian refugees in the past we are currently discerning what might be next.
I’ve heard that pre-approved refugees aren’t the ones who need the most help since those people are usually better educated and have employable skills; it may be worth waiting longer to sponsor a family that isn’t pre-approved in order to help a family come to Canada that wouldn’t have as much chance to rebuild their lives at home due to lack of opportunity, education, etc.
This may be one reason to choose Private sponsorship versus a Blended Visa sponsorship. However “waiting longer” is not a solution. Refugees are refugees. They need help now. If anything, this is the reason we should consider doing refugee sponsorship on an ongoing basis, so that we address as many needs as possible.
Should we prioritize helping Christian refugees since they have likely been persecuted?
Maybe? There is no easy answer to this question. We could do that through a Private sponsorship, though we would have much less choice through a Blended Visa sponsorship. The greatest priority for us as Christ-followers is to show compassion to those who are in need (even enemies and strangers). We sponsor refugees not because THEY are Christians but because WE are Christians.
In 2018, Pastor Gordon had a chance to visit our partners at ABTS, in Lebanon. As part of that time, leaders at the Middle East Consultation asked churches from the West NOT to pursue bringing Middle East leaders and pastors to North America, as they are deeply needed in the Middle East. Thus far we have felt it best to honour that request as we consider sponsorship cases.
Do we have to choose between Blended Visa or Private Sponsorship, can’t we do both?
Sure, that’s possible! If the church feels strongly about raising the support and sponsoring more than one family, that would be great. We want to hear that from you! Perhaps we will do a number of sponsorships over the course of time.
If our sponsored family gets into any kind of trouble financially, legally, family problems, or whatever is the church held responsible?
No. Our commitment is to support their basic needs, not every possible need they may have. Like all citizens of Canada, they bear personal responsibility for their actions and have responsibilities and obligations to the government of Canada.
From the CIC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) website:
Sponsoring groups agree to provide the refugees with care, lodging, settlement assistance and support for the duration of the sponsorship period. Normally, this is 12 months starting from the refugee’s arrival in Canada or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.
Private sponsors normally support the sponsored refugees by:
- providing the cost of food, rent and household utilities and other day-to-day living expenses;
- providing clothing, furniture and other household goods;
- locating interpreters;
- selecting a family physician and dentist;
- assisting with applying for provincial health-care coverage;
- enrolling children in school and adults in language training;
- introducing newcomers to people with similar personal interests;
- providing orientation with regard to banking services, transportation, etc.; and
- helping in the search for employment.
Will they attend our church when they arrive?
Maybe… They will certainly be welcome to! But we have to enter this without any expectations from the people who come. Most Syrians come from a Muslim background, a minority are Christian. Whoever we sponsor we hope to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ to them, without expectations for them to respond in a certain way. We are responsible to serve Christ, regardless of a person’s background, and we can do that faithfully no matter how they respond.
Should this be done through our Benevolent ministry instead of through Missions?
Cornerstone has a very active Benevolent ministry (AKA Community Care), administered by the Elders. The purpose of this is to show compassion and care primarily for those within our church body during times of need. Since refugee sponsorship is a ministry to people outside of our church and directly related to our global mission work it is best handled through our Mission ministry. Through refugee sponsorship we will be doing locally what our mission partners have been doing globally: serving the Syrian people as a witness to Christ’s love.
This type of ministry is thoroughly evangelistic: embodying the Good News of the Kingdom of God for all people, demonstrating Christ’s goodness and relevance in every aspect of life. We will have countless opportunities to bear witness to the love and grace of Christ, and will actively seek to do so through this ministry. In many ways this is an extension of the kinds of things we’ve done in reaching out to those who are new to Canada, and our sponsorship family will be invited to participate in all of those ministries. However, we should always remember that in evangelism and mission activity we are not responsible for how people respond, or expect them to respond in a certain way; all we can do is faithfully serve Christ and leave the results to Him. We can control what we do (share the Gospel) but not force them to do something (attend church).
Serving the mission of Christ like this is an opportunity for us to learn more about His ways, to point a family to Him, and to show our surrounding community an example of what Gospel life looks like. That is the mission of the church.
Will you be looking for families to pledge financial support?
You can support refugee sponsorship by giving to our mission offerings. It is also possible to designate specifically to the refugee sponsorship fund.
Can I help by _____?
Yes, probably! They will need help in every possible way. If you have something to offer, please let the Sponsorship Team know once it is formed.