Pastoral Letter Concerning Refugees

April 27, 2016

To the members of the Parish of St. Stephen the Martyr, Burnaby.

Last Sunday our faith community of St. Stephen the Martyr celebrated Spring Rogation and Earth Day Sunday. During our worship service, we heard these words from the Book of Deuteronomy:

“The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.”

This passage, of course, refers to, our Hebrew forefathers, those ancient refugees from Egypt who would become the people of Israel. It celebrates the abundance given by the Creator and emphasizes the importance of those receiving this abundance to share this gift with others, in gratitude.

Last Sunday, after our worship service, the St. Stephen the Martyr Refugee Team met to discuss a request from REST, a group of six North Vancouver Churches, for St. Stephen the Martyr to provide assistance to a Government of Canada sponsored refugee family of six who have been living in a motel for the last two months while they look for a suitable place to rent. This is a family comprised of six people: a mother, two young men ages 14 and 19; a 26 year old woman (who is a hairdresser, does nails, etc.); and, two young women, age 22 and 24 who are physically handicapped (no use of arms or legs).

It has been a challenge for this family to find an apartment with three bed rooms and is
wheel chair accessible, but they recently found one listed near the Lougheed Mall which is suitable. The family, with the assistance of Shannon Muir, Coordinator of REST, has also looked at co-op housing in Coquitlam (which might qualify for supplemental Diocesan assistance). The search for a suitable apartment is dependent on the family’s ability to pay the rent and still have sufficient money to pay for living expenses. But first, they require a guarantee of sufficient funds to pay for the rent.

A second challenge is finding an apartment which is priced within their ability to pay. The Federal Government provides the family with $2,000 per month for their first year in Canada, which is to cover the cost of all their living expenses, including rent, food, transportation and utilities. The rental cost of the apartment referred to earlier is $2,200 per month.

Our St. Stephen the Martyr Refugee Team, in the spirit of the reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, recommends that our faith community seriously consider providing assistance to this family in two ways.

The first way is by helping them find household goods and clothing, practicing English, etc; and, helping them become oriented to living in a Canadian community.

A second way the Team recommends assisting this family is by providing up to $500 per month to supplement their rent, food, incidentals, etc. This would allow them to move out of the temporary motel accommodation to a three bed room apartment. They cannot do this until they are assured of money to supplement the Government of Canada funding.

Our Refugee Team plans to raise money through fund-raising events (Two are already confirmed), and individual donors, as well as exploring the possibility of funds from the Diocesan Refugee Fund. Some members of the St. Stephen the Martyr’s Refugee Team are willing to contribute out of their own pockets to a Refugee Fund and they believe there are others in our faith community who are also willing to make a commitment. For example, the Reverend Gary Hamblin will commit $100 per month for twelve months from his own pocket, as an incentive for others to donate. We suggest that we work toward providing up to $500 per month until the end of December, 2016 from St. Stephen’s fund-raisers and individual donors. At that time, depending on the continued need of the family for supplemental funding, we could consider a continuation up to April 30, 2017.

Of course, it must be understood that these commitments will not detract from the donors’ obligations to continue to contribute to the upkeep and programs of St. Stephen the Martyr, Burnaby. This project must be considered separate from those obligations.

We stress that the need is urgent and we encourage our faith community to give immediate prayer and attention to this proposal.

Our Parish Council has encouraged the St. Stephen the Martyr Refugee Team to explore opportunities to assist Syrian Refugees and we believe this is a project which, with God’s help, we are capable of supporting. We are not alone in this. The REST project team in North Vancouver will provide any reasonable support and it will be very helpful for us to draw on the experience they have had, especially during this past year, but also in previous years of refugee sponsorship. The St. Stephen the Martyr Refugee Team will seek others in Burnaby and Coquitlam who are interested in making a contribution, financial and non-financial to this family.

Yours in Christ,

The Reverend Gary Hamblin
Interim Priest in Charge

David Nash
Bishop’s Warden

Sharon Mack
People’s Warden

Pamela Park
Coordinator, Refugee Team

PS. Your support is crucial to helping us show our gratitude to God for the abundance which God has given to us! To show your support for this project, please contact Pam Park, Refugee Team Coordinator or the church office.

About St Stephen the Martyr Anglican

St. Stephen the Martyr is an intercultural congregation, with members representing several ethnic groups, races and cultures. The congregation gathers for worship at 10 am on Sundays and church festivals, to celebrate Holy Eucharist and engage in Christian formation.
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