A friend had heard that the New Hope Community Services Society had purchased a building and was able to provide housing to a refugee family just arrived into Canada. Every situation is unique but this one was a little different. It was a single mom with her daughter. I didn't get into the "back story" but it must have checked out somehow. The government had recognized the situation. Death? Divorce? Separation? Something else? People coming from other parts of the world have different stories. But then again, Canadians have different stories. We are all just human living out our lives.
We couldn't help them, today.
I wished we could have been helpful. We take possession of our new property on January 1. It will take a couple of weeks before we get things cleaned up and ready for residents. Our goal is to have it completely full by the end of February. Methinks it won't take that long. My hope is that part way through January we will be ready to start receiving residents.
He grew up in El Salvador. The 60's and 70's were turbulent times. The tension between political and military forces was palpable. Young men were not conscripted into military duty, they were abducted. They had a choice. Join--or die. Or someone in your family will die.
Ernesto heard the knock on the door and faced the conversation. As a student finishing high school he was prime fodder for the push to joint he military forces to fight the evils of the day. Fighting the evils of the day meant rooting out dissidents from local villages, interrogating them, and if necessary liquidating them. All in the name of protecting the country.
One problem, he wasn't a fighter. And he had a sympathy for the claims that some were making. Joining the military wasn't an option. But then again, neither was dying. So, he made a choice. He kissed his mama good bye and left one evening travelling by bus to a neighbouring country. Once there he began to learn a trade working in a shop. Welding, metal working, craftsmanship. But he wasn't a citizen. Pay was "under the table". He had no permanency.
One day someone told him that Canada would be a safe place for him. He couldn't go home, and he couldn't really stay where he was, so, going to Canada was potentially a move forward. He showed up at the Canadian embassy one afternoon to explain his situation. The Canadian official listened to his story, especially about his inability to return to El Salvador without fear of great harm even death. The official asked him to fill out some papers recording his situation. Three months later he received a letter from the consulate inviting him to a second meeting. It was there that he was informed that they would recognize his status as a "refugee". They needed to do some background checks including health and criminal inspections, but if they checked out, he would be welcomed to Canada.
Three months after that he received word that he had passage to Canada and so as a mid 20's guy he came to Canada to start a new life.
Fast forward 20 years he lives in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. He has family here. He has a job. He drives a truck for a living picking up and delivering freight. He pays taxes. He attends a church. He lives a quiet life contributing where he can. He smiles easily. He misses El Salvador, and he loves Canada.
That's a success story.
Patience is a virtue. It's a "fruit of the Spirit". It's highly recommended as a deep spiritual characteristic. For some it's an abundance. For others (like me) it can be a rare bird in the forest. Waiting is a hard thing for some people.
If we as Canadians can wrestle with waiting, how about those we serve who have sat for months even years "waiting" for the world to change. The day to day routine of a refugee is predictable. It's not structured, it's flat. Living in a camp or settled into a temporary waiting zone. Struggling to make ends meet on limited resources. Doing what one can to expedite movement but knowing that it's beyond your influence. Endless lines. People with papers asking questions. Telling you nothing. For those without patience it can breed resentment even despair.
Here in Canada we have been working hard. We were told several months ago to "be ready" for a flood of Syrians. It hasn't materialized. We know on one hand that it's not totally a bad thing that the pipeline didn't gush. We didn't see anything in October/November but we did experience a fair degree of anxiety. If anything, we celebrate that we did a lot of preparation. We still have lots to do but we are better prepared than we were 60 days ago.
Where are things at today? We will soon have a 13 unit apartment building ready for occupancy. The units are large and especially good for families. We are "open" and waiting.
Patience my friend, patience.
If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering with New Hope, check out our Take Action page, call us at 778-394-1191, or email us at
New Hope Community Services Society
13478 Hilton Road
Surrey, BC V3R 5J4