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  • Relating to Refugees: An interview

    May 03, 2017
    You say that discipleship and biblical training were always your main focus? Were you also involved with physical care?
    Angela: When we served in refugee camps, UNHCR, and WFP (World Food Program) provided food and health care. We helped only in emergency situations.

    In Gesses we were the only organization so were heavily involved in helping with community projects such as well drilling and medical care (first aid and “ambulance” trips) and provided opportunities for income during times of hunger.

    We always attempted to balance physical and spiritual ministry and they ended up being completely intertwined. Jesus has modelled this best. Jesus went through the towns and cities, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).

    How did you invite people to hear the gospel when they were so traumatized?

    Angela: I have only served in refugee camps after their immediate physical needs were met. Refugees deeply desired to tell their story and this begins a relationship and in our case, we called this discipleship.

    Someone recently asked me, how many cups of coffee do you share before you start sharing the gospel?

    Sharing coffee in many cultures is an invitation to friendship. As a disciple of Jesus, I have a passion to share and this usually starts by asking a question, sharing a biblical story or something that I am learning from God’s word during my very first “coffee time.”

    People of other religions are as curious about Christianity as we are about their religion. At the same time, we had to be wise in overtly spiritual discussions in public settings unless we were invited to share or given permission.

    In refugee camps, people are hungry for relationship and truth because their lives have just been turned upside-down and most of them are struggling with incredible loss.

    Do you have thoughts for churches on sharing your faith with refugees?

    Angela: We have had the honour of sharing in numerous evangelical churches and have heard of the thriving compassion ministries to immigrants. While churches seem eager to hear of our compassion ministry and even how people are coming to faith in Ethiopia and Sudan, some have responded with hesitation or even opposition about whether we, in Canada, should be actively sharing the gospel, building bridges to Christ and discipling immigrants.

    Our greatest ministry was not the education we provided nor the endless physical help we provided, but introducing men and women to Jesus Christ—many who are now passionately serving Christ in wartorn South Sudan. This is lasting fruit.

    Rolf and Angela served for 12 years in Sudanese refugee camps. They spent the past five years living among the Gumuz people in Northwest Ethiopia.

    Note: See our 2017 Annual Report for more stories from our "Special Focus on Refugees".
  • Refugees in Sudan: Long-term results

    May 03, 2017
    By an EMC missionary:

    I was 20 years old and fresh out of Bible College when I first stepped into a Sudanese refugee camp. They had been forced to flee when the government began bombing raids and sent soldiers to attack their villages. I heard stories of immense suffering, but I also saw healing begin.

    UNHCR had set up refugee camps in Ethiopia, providing food, shelter and medical help. They invited other organizations to provide vocational training and education. Rolf and I served with SIM, an overtly Christian organization, training teachers in mother tongue literacy and English, always with discipleship and biblical training as our focus.

    Bible study for non-literate women

    We were able to train hundreds of Sudanese teachers allowing more than 10,000 children to receive an education. We also had an open door to disciple these teachers (many from Muslim background), provide biblical education for non-literate church leaders, and run a small Bible school.

    We spent hours visiting in makeshift villages, and celebrated Christian and Muslim holidays in our homes. Over steaming cups of coffee and tea and platters of food, we built bridges, read the Scriptures, and dialogued about faith, hope and freedom in Jesus Christ. Here they had a safe place to search for truth and many responded to the gospel.

    Dawud* arrived in the refugee camp disillusioned with Islam and searching for truth. He asked us to teach his family the Bible. When he and his wife came to faith, they experienced persecution, but were filled with passion and boldness to share about Christ. This last week, we were surprised to receive an email from Dawud, for we had lost contact when he returned to Sudan. He is currently planting churches in and around his community.

    Abdul* was translating the Bible into his language when we last saw him, and had written over 200 Scripture songs. Since being resettled to Canada, he has posted them on the Internet and is dialoguing with his “unreached” people now scattered all over the world through resettlement.

    Little did we know that men and women who spent over two decades as refugees would be among the most qualified English speakers of South Sudan. They would hold government positions, become translators, health workers, teachers, preachers and evangelists. The small Bible school that trained a dozen would result in men passionately and sacrificially planting churches upon their return to war-torn South Sudan.

    Angela Kruse

    *names changed for security reasons

    Note: See our 2017 Annual Report for more stories from our "Special Focus on Refugees".

  • Resettlement: Fast-tracking into Canadian Life

    May 03, 2017
    By one of our churches:

    On February 28, 2016 our church family (Many Rooms Church Community) gathered at the Winnipeg airport to meet the Syrian refugee couple that we had sponsored through MCC. Though we had not met before, our church family had spent much time praying about, preparing for and anticipating this day. In this way, we felt like we already knew each other.

    I will never forget the frightened look on the wife’s face as she tried to be brave and put a smile on her travel-weary face. I remember feeling struck by her fear and thinking how afraid I would feel, if in her situation.

    There were tears of gratitude and words of thanks shared.

    Fast forward one year and it’s hard to believe that this successful, confident couple once showed any signs of uncertainty. Jamal and Waad have taken every opportunity to fast track themselves into productive Canadian life: volunteering, getting a job at the local halal butcher shop, studying English, navigating the driver’s licensing process, and, most recently, purchasing their own home. Their success can only be attributed to their own motivation and willingness to act on the small opportunities that we were able to provide them due to the generosity and openness of our church family.

    Now, after a process of prayer and discernment, our church family has decided to move forward with sponsoring Waad’s immediate family to join us in Canada. Three more churches have graciously accepted our invitation to partner in this larger sponsorship venture of six people. I await the day of Waad’s family’s arrival with great anticipation, knowing that my joy will not come close to that of Jamal and Waad, who will be reunited with their family in a place of security and hope for the future.

    But the joy extends to us, too, as we are blessed to include Jamal and Waad in our own family.

    To God be all the glory! Amen.

    Katie Froese
    Many Rooms Church Community

    Note: See our 2017 Annual Report for more stories from our "Special Focus on Refugees".
  • Resettlement: The Trauma of Separation and Isolation

    May 03, 2017
    From one of our churches:

    Our Refugee Sponsorship Committee was community driven. Two local churches became involved because there were members from one of the churches on the committee and the church also had a suite for the family. Other very active members in the community had no ties to either church.

    When the family arrived they had already been displaced for about five years, living in Lebanon, then Turkey and even separated during the escape from Syria. The father and two sons barely made it to Turkey. There are still two older adult children and small grandchildren living in Syria and one son living in another country. Separation from family is extremely difficult.

    When they arrived here, there were no other Syrians and no other recent refugees, though there were a few Arabic speakers in our community. Language was a huge barrier. Even though Mennonite Central Committee was wonderful in support, there was no one nearby and the nearest large centre was a long way for day-to-day help.

    Our community was generous in donating for the needs of this family, supplying them with all the furniture and household items they needed. They also generously gave their financial support and their time in arranging activities for the family.

    Our literacy director, along with community volunteers, and our Adult Learning Centre were amazing and worked hard to give English lessons. The challenges in learning a new language were significant, but the family worked hard at learning. Once school started the sons had an advantage in language learning.

    In addition to the steep learning curve they had in learning English, they also had challenges with cultural differences, the worry of finding work in Canada, and dealing with the trauma from leaving a war zone—especially with family left behind still living in it. Over time one family member came to need significant help with a medical issue which was difficult to deal with in the north. They asked if we could help them with a move to Winnipeg where they could access better medical care.

    So after five months in our community and with assistance from MCC Manitoba, community volunteers, our church families, and the committee we were able to help them get resettled in Winnipeg. While we in the north continue with their financial support, MCC has arranged a support worker in Winnipeg who helps with daily challenges.

    Janice Imrie, Sandra Schroeder, Judy Schmidt
    Northern Fellowship Chapel

    P.S. We were curious about why the family chose Canada. The son with the best English said he was interested in history and chose Canada because we did not have a history of colonizing or invading other countries.

    Note: See our 2017 Annual Report for more stories from our "Special Focus on Refugees".
  • Refugees in Lesvos

    May 02, 2017
    By EMC missionaries:

    This past year we have spent more than 12 weeks on Lesvos helping in the refugee crisis on Europe’s doorstep. We have been involved
    in helping water-soaked refugees out of boats, giving them dry clothes, giving them water (many have not had anything to drink for a day or more), giving them something to eat even if it is a package of crackers or cookies.

    We have been involved in transporting the refugees from the shoreline to the bus stop camp where Greek authorities picked them up to bring them to the main camp near the capital of the island, Mytilini. Beach cleanup of the rubber dinghies and many, many life jackets was also part of the work this past year. We have spent many hours leading many different teams and GEMers in helping refugees by housing them in tents, fixing their tents, cleaning bathrooms or buildings when they are new arrivals to the island. We have spent a lot time distributing clothes, shoes and hygiene supplies to the refugees, even going out to the town to purchase supplies from donations made to help the refugees physically.

    Throughout our service we pray and strive to make friendships with the refugees, share our life stories with them and ask them about their life stories. It is during this time that we seek to share the love of Christ with them and who He means to us. I have managed to disciple a few of the refugees on my “extra” time when not serving them with clothes, housing, etc.

    What can future volunteers expect to do on Lesvos? There still are new arrivals coming to Lesvos every week. So housing the new arrivals, giving them dry clothes, water, and hygiene supplies still need to be done. Being friends with the many different nationalities that arrive and have arrived continues to be a key component to serving on Lesvos. As many as 60–70 volunteers are needed for the camp to run smoothly with the distributions and housing. The volunteers are with the refugees 24/7 and are needed to serve some simple, basic living needs, from repairing their sleeping quarters, housing them, clothing them or just befriending them.

    Many politicians and media have said that refugees from the Middle East will have a negative effect on their country and want to make it difficult for them immigrate. More often than not the Muslim refugees are being blamed for increased terrorism. It seems that the word refugee is a negative word with all sorts of fear and political baggage.

    Who are the refugees?
    Ashraf* is a refugee who had to leave Afghanistan because he was an English teacher. His life was threatened by the Taliban and so was his family. He is very talented and is waiting for asylum papers for Greece. Raheem, an Iraqi who found Jesus on Lesvos, had to flee because his father was part of the military fighting against ISIS. Betin, a Kurd from northern Iraq who found Jesus on Lesvos, is living in Germany and sharing his new found faith with fellow refugees. Jamali worked with the US military as a translator in the stronghold of ISIS and fled Iraq to not be killed. Omar has never been in his homeland in Palestine. He is 23 years old and has grown up in camps. He found Jesus in Greece. Zaid and Farrah lost their whole family and all their belongings in Iraq while they were at school one day. These are but a few we know from leading the refugee work for Greater Europe Mission on Lesvos these past two years. The world sees them as refugees, as terrorists, but we see them as brothers and sisters and dear friends.

    In Matthew 25:31–46 Jesus is talking about a judgement. Sheep are being received into the Kingdom while the righteous goats are not. Jesus’ view of refugees is not that of the politicians and the media, as being negative to society. Jesus sees the refugees as people in need, people that need food, drink, clothing, visitation and need to be welcomed. Notice in Matthew 25:34–36 (page 8) how many times Jesus said “I was…” “For I was hungry… I was thirsty… I was a stranger… I was naked… I was sick… I was in prison.” Serving the refugees is serving Jesus himself!

    What an opportunity!
    If you would like to serve Jesus on Lesvos please let Tim Dyck know about your interest and he will get us in touch. Special challenge to young, middle aged and older men to serve Jesus on Lesvos!

    Blessings, Ernie and Suzy

    *all names have been changed

    Note: See our 2017 Annual Report for more stories from our "Special Focus on Refugees".
  • Reaching New Cultures

    May 01, 2017
                        
    In the past two years about half of our EMC churches have been involved in supporting a refugee family. Many families arrived having experienced trauma (some as a result of being captured or having family members killed).

    Some were fast-tracked for medical reasons and arrived with disabilities or injuries requiring extra medical attention. Some have experienced additional family trauma since arriving above the challenges of adjusting to Canadian culture and weather.

    Through all this, sponsorship teams are rising to the challenge! Even now, some churches are ready to reach out again. We haven’t resolved major issues of conflict or made much headway towards world peace, but this is us modelling Jesus right now in a torn-up world and turbulent culture.

    Resettlement in Canada: EMC survey responses

    In a few words, what was your biggest surprise or greatest challenge in sponsoring a refugee family?

    "Lovely family, requires very committed team. We are delighted at how much fun we can have together despite the language barrier. We have been taken off guard a few times at the vastness of the cultural divide when communicating."

    "Understanding the culture."

    "The biggest surprise—the willingness to come to church and openness to talking about Christianity."

    "Greatest challenge has been in navigating some differing views and opinions of people involved in the process on our side. Some of the harder questions have been around cultural sensitivity, how to best help the family, limited resources available where we are in a rural location."

    "The greatest challenge was to get a family here."

    "I think that the language barrier has been our greatest challenge although are working hard and progressing in English."

    "Our greatest challenge was the domestic abuse and government agency involvement."

    "Communication."

    "The amount of time/people needed for adequate support."

    "We are still waiting for our family even though our application was accepted a year ago."

    "We were surprised by how well this couple is adjusting and how open they are to friendship. The language barrier presents a challenge at times."

    "That more people didn’t get involved."

    "A huge challenge was mental health issues related to the stress of their refugee experience, including bombing deaths of family members. Trying to help a family who has experienced trauma and separation from family members and we do not have the language nor an interpreter with lots of time or connection."

    "So many unknowns in regards to the situation we entered. Pleasantly surprised by our government worker being a Christian!"

    "Knowing when we have done enough!"

    "The cost of living in Canada."

    *identifying details have been removed.

    - EMC

    Note: To see more of our "Special Focus on Refugees" go to our 2017 Annual Report.

  • Response to the Mosque Shooting in Quebec

    February 02, 2017
    We are deeply saddened and troubled at the recent shooting at the mosque in Quebec. It is a tragedy that defies our understanding, and we want to express our deepest sympathy to those who have been affected by this senseless act. We condemn this act of terror as it has no place within our society.

    As churches in Canada, we have helped to welcome many immigrants into our communities, just as we were also welcomed many years before. We want to extend friendship and hospitality to all those who come to Canada. Please know that you are loved and welcomed. 

    - The Churches of the EMC

  • Want to get more from The Messenger?

    January 17, 2017

    To get more from The Messenger, use both the print/online and website editions, all free to EMCers.

    There are six print issues and six website-format editions in 2017. Together, they provide more information than last year; separately, they provide less.

    The Messenger is free of charge in an enhanced electronic version at the electronic magazine database service Issuu. at https://issuu.com/emcmessenger. On Android or IOS, search the app store for the free Issuu app (Issuu: A World of Magazines). Once downloaded, open the app and search for “The EMC Messenger.”

    The Messenger will begin a six issue print cycle with increased quality in January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    The Messenger has launched a new website at www.emcmessenger.ca. Content is made available weekly (editorials, lead articles, church news updates, missions news, job listings, and more). The website will be optimized for desktop, mobile and tablet viewing, and will be integrated with the EMC’s social media.

    Much is changing here during 2017. Join us in this next stage in the life of The Messenger.

    - EMC

     

  • The Ministry of the Polar Bear Marathon

    December 06, 2016


    The fifth annual Polar Bear Marathon in Churchill, Man., was once again an exciting experience.

    Twenty-four runners were trying to figure out how they would manage in the cold. The atmosphere was full of suspense. It was hard to get their attention and communicate the importance of staying in a group of two or three runners near the accompanying vehicle. The excitement mounted. Will there be bears? The road was sleek with ice.

    The Duke of Marlborough students came out to sing O Canada, and, after a prayer, one of the Rangers started us with a shot from his bear gun. Off we went, each runner with their escort vehicle. We were running east into the most beautiful red sunrise with a light wind on our backs and a mild temperature of -15° C.

    Two highlights for me were the awards dinner and the race’s documentary. It is always great to see runners share about their experiences at the dinner table. To introduce 24 runners and present them with awards, medals, and gifts (T-shirts, a soapstone bear carving, books and certificates) is a great pleasure. The Run the North documentary captures stories of runners, especially those of Tadoule Lake as it relates to their history with Churchill. At a premiere screening in the Churchill school, with about 110 viewers, the feedback was positive. One lady remarked to me, “The marathon is way more than just a marathon.”

    What is the purpose of this crazy Polar Bear Marathon?It is a charity marathon in support of the Athletes in Action (AIA) work done in the Sayisi Dene First Nations community of Tadoule Lake, 250 kms west of Churchill. This work is dependent on volunteers and donations.

    The Marathon has other “spin-off” effects like the networking of international runners and attracting many media producers. The real purpose is that of a Christian ministry. As an AIA/Power to Change staff member I am conscious of my calling to help other runners spiritually. Our mission statement reads, “Helping people know Jesus and experience His Power to Change the world.” Our faith statement includes, “The Lord Jesus Christ commanded all believers to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and to disciple men and women of every nation.”

    How do we as Christians live out that directive? I found myself standing in the midst of 45 running crew and runners at the dinner table. I had prayed about this opportunity and prepared my notes. The Lord granted me peace and calm because I was obeying His voice and I sensed a lot of people were praying for me.

    I shared what Jesus means to me and how my faith helps me and directs my life. I handed out my Christian book about running—Sand in my Shoes.

    I want to speak up for Jesus at the opportune time and love, care, and pray for people. The Lord will take it from there. He is the One who gives life, who came to seek and save that which is lost.

    - Albert Martens

    Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) is an EMC missionary serving with Athletes in Action.

  • Povology Resource Launched During Conference Council

    December 01, 2016

    Want to explore Povology, the study of poverty, theology, Church, and you? A new video curriculum about poverty and the Church was launched on Nov. 26, 2016, at the EMC Conference Council meeting in Rosenort, Man.

    Six half-hour videos and a printable discussion guide feature interviews with folks like Shane Claiborne, Dr. Ronald Sider, Bruxy Cavey, Steve Bell, pastors, missionaries, and professors, including EMCers.

    The topics are Our Homeless Leader, Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Responding to Poverty, Do No Harm, What About The Gospel? and The Power of Small Things.

    The material is now available to all EMC pastors and churches for free via online streaming or digital download. A DVD can be provided upon request.

    Who’s responsible for producing this useful stuff? Pastor Kevin Wiebe (New Life), a PUC communications and media graduate, had the vision for the project and put together the materials. The EMC’s BCM and its Education Committee have endorsed the project. But make no mistake. The project was well underway by then.   

    The series is now available to stream or download, completely free, from www.povology.com. Check out that link for more information about the series as well.

    Prior to its release, Pov.ology was written about in the Winnipeg Free Press and Mennonite World Review.

    We trust that this will be a useful tool for you and your congregation. 

    - EMC

    Pov.ology Promo from EM Conference on Vimeo.

    For a related resource see Follow Me: Exploring More of Our Calling as Christians