Saturday, February 20, 2016
"I hope to continue my studies but the thing I look forward to the most is being able to express myself freely."
"My dream is to offer my wife the wedding party she never had in Syria. All I want is to make her happy."
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the mediation of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, Our Rock and Our Redeemer.
If the foot should say I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.
Or if the ear should say I am not an eye, it too is no less a member than any other part because God has created us all and has arranged each one of us as he chose. Black, white, Jew or Greek, we are all God’s children, wherever born or language we speak.
Over the last few weeks, in the light of a common goal of wanting to help relocate a displaced refugee family here in Acton, I have witnessed and been inspired by, how effectively those different parts of the body have lovingly and passionately, come together to work as one, to achieve that common goal of helping others of God’s creation who are in dire need.
Individuals, businesses and politicians from within the church and indeed from the across the entire community have come together, each bringing their gifts and talents with them to help someone that they have never even seen, but who accept St Paul words, “when one member suffers then we all suffer.”
Even individuals who are completely unconnected with this church have come in to see me after hearing about our Refugee Fund by word of mouth, through newspaper interviews, Facebook, our Blog site or even through Mayor Rick’s Column and they have been donating clothes, furniture and cheques, some of them for as much as $1,000, to help a refugee family escape from the terror of Civil war and the unimaginable atrocities being committed against them by groups like ISIS.
Likewise individuals from within this church have also been incredibly generous in all areas of identified need, whether it be donations of cash, household items or their time. Hours upon hours have been spent researching the availability of resources such as healthcare, transportation, banking, housing, employment opportunities and language interpreters throughout our community. All of these people have been moved by the terrible conditions that they have seen the refugees fleeing from and have stepped up and recognised, that “when one member suffers then we all suffer.”
Back in October we voted unanimously, both as two separate Congregations and later at Parish Council, to write a letter expressing our interest in sponsoring a Refugee family and this was followed up by a presentation here by Rev. Bill Mous from the Cathedral in early December.
As soon as Christmas and New Year were behind us and with a sense of urgency, recognising that every day spent under canvas in a refugee camp without adequate food, water or sanitation poses yet a further risk to the health and wellbeing of the refugees, we held our first Refugee Settlement Committee meeting on Jan 5th. It was co-chaired by Pam Sheldon and Bryn Snow.
We had 29 people attend that meeting and almost everyone in attendance came away with a job that they enthusiastically volunteered to do. Our top priority was to pull together everything that would be required to prepare for the arrival of a family. A family that would need housing, furniture, warm clothing and Middle Eastern food supplies, a family that perhaps spoke no English and would require interpreters and language training, or that perhaps might be Muslim and need to connect with a place of worship, or that perhaps had suffered such harmful trauma that they would be in need of mental health support to help them recover from conditions such as PTSD.
We looked at everything. You name it and we sent people out to gather information and get it figured out. And they did and we also found ways of getting the word out about what we were doing and what we still needed. Newspaper interviews, social media even a new Blogsite were all set in motion.
Just one week later when the group gathered together for our second meeting it was almost all complete. We had a storage unit in Rockwood about to be filled with furniture that had been acquired from here there and everywhere, we had a suitable house already identified and we even had children offering to donate their toys in case we got a family with young children.
Meanwhile a another group of concerned individuals once again led by Pam Sheldon, came together and with the agreement of the Diocese of Niagara, began a separate fundraising campaign to sponsor a second Refugee family under the banner of St. Albans Refugee Family #2. They too are now making tremendous headway with their efforts.
We have now exceeded the $7,000 of locally held funds required for settling the first refugee family into Acton and our partner group is rapidly closing in on their $7,000 as well. In addition the Acton Ministerial group has agreed to work together to sponsor a Refugee family and we will share with them everything that we have already gathered, to assist them in the process.
In today’s Gospel we hear that after weeks of temptation by the Devil to do the wrong thing in the wilderness, Jesus resolute in His mission to transform us and make us a more loving and compassionate part of creation, returned to the Region of Galilee filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And that’s how it feels to me right now, in this place, at this time in the life of St. Albans.
Over the last few weeks there has been temptation for us to do the wrong. It has been impossible to avoid hearing or reading some of the negative things that have been said about refugees from Syria. Whether out of fear, concern, lack of understanding or just plain mean spiritedness, false stories, cruel jokes and half-truths have been shared in an effort to dissuade people from supporting Canada’s efforts to help these vulnerable and needy members of God’s creation. I am overwhelmed with joy to see that the people of St. Albans have refused to yield to the temptation of turning their backs on those who are most in need.
With the Spirit of the Lord upon Him, Jesus returned from His temptation and preached that He was sent to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, because this afternoon I will accompany Pam Sheldon and Jane French, our People’s Warden, to Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton. There, on behalf of the Parish of St. Albans they will sign the official Government papers to accept the responsibility of welcoming, in about 2 weeks time, a Syrian family of 6 who are currently living in a Refugee Camps in Jordan.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us here at St. Albans, to go free the oppressed.
Dad is 29 years old, Mom is 28 and they have a 6yr old son, a 4yr old daughter, and a son and daughter who are both 1yr old and that we assume are twins.
At our meeting this Tuesday at 7pm, that you are all invited to attend, we will be stepping into high gear to ensure that their home is fully furnished and equipped for their arrival. There will be a host of other things to attend to, for instance having a large vehicle equipped with enough baby car seats to transport the family to Acton.
This is our moment, our time to heal and alleviate the pain being suffered by another member of the body. Their lives will be forever changed and improved by your generosity but as Bishop Michael said in a recent interview, it isn’t just the lives of the family that are changed and improved, we are all changed and improved, by sharing our love and compassion with a family in need.
They will no doubt be forever grateful but always remember that it is they, in their hour of need that have provided us, with the opportunity to live out our faith and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus according to His Gospel message and for that, we too, should also be grateful.
And I pray that the power of the Spirit that has fallen upon us, will remain with us always. Amen
Sunday, January 24, 2016
A Family is Coming
The St Alban's Refugee Fund is delighted to share the details of the refugee family. A family of six is set to arrive in a couple of weeks.
The couple we are welcoming into our community is a father (29) and a mother (28) and their four children. Two boys ages 6 and 1 and two girls ages 4 and 1 possibly twins for the two younger ones. They are from Syria and are currently residing in Jordan.
This is an exciting time for the perish and the community. A heartfelt thanks to all involved with this initiative within the parish and the community. Without the warm hearts and commitment we would not have been able to move the family here so quickly.
As mentioned in today's sermon: We have not allowed negativity in our hearts despite all of the negativity that prevails in others and social media. We are following in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus loved everyone of every descent!
Want to help? You can by donating to the St Alban's Refugee Fund at St Albans directly, or click the link below.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
"There’s a degree of urgency. Every day that they’re in a refugee camp or trying to dodge bullets and bombs is a day that they can ill afford.”— Brian Galligan
Mayor Rick Bonnette on the Syrian crisis: 'As I write this today, residents of Halton Hills are once again opening up their hearts and wallets to sponsor Syrian families.'
Halton Hills mayor Rick Bonnette: we are all citizens of the world