During coffee hour at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ontario, church members and guests are greeted by a team of volunteers. Behind the coffee carafes are long-time members, as well as a Muslim mother and daughter from war-torn Syria. They are giving back to thank St. Andrew’s for providing a safe and accepting place for their family to thrive.
Born in Conflict
Due to Syria’s civil war, many families wake up to the sounds of bombs falling, too close for comfort. So it was for this mother, her husband, and their children—one of whom was born “as the ground shook with the fallout from bombing.”
After fleeing Syria for neighbouring Turkey, things didn’t look much better. The family lived hand to mouth and were unable to send their children to school. With her mother, the eldest daughter of 10 years worked at a clothing manufacturing company to support the family while the eight year old daughter babysat the younger children.
One day, a life-changing offer was given to this family—to be sponsored to Canada as refugees.
Responding to God’s Call
For many years, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Ontario has responded to God’s call to serve and defend the vulnerable and persecuted. In 2016, the St. Andrew’s Refugee Sponsorship Committee welcomed the Abdo family into the safety of Canada and the friendship of their church community.
After finding and furnishing an apartment for their new friends, members of St. Andrew’s continue to assist this family well beyond their first year in Canada, when support is required as part of the sponsorship agreement.
Helped by extra tutoring funded by St. Andrew’s, the eldest daughter is now catching up in high school instead of going to work with her mom. She returns this favour by tutoring her classmates in English. The other children are learning and socializing in their schools and, each summer, have the opportunity to go to camp through the support of the congregation.
The efforts of St. Andrew’s to help this family are nowhere near complete. Realizing the continued physical difficulties of the father, they agreed with the family to co-sponsor some very important helpers—three members of their extended family have now also arrived in Canada.
“The children are excited,” remarks Sally Martin, a representative from St. Andrew’s. “They have anxiously awaited the arrival of their aunt and grandparents.”
This year, St. Andrew’s hopes to raise $40,000 to assist the family and begin pursuing additional sponsorship opportunities. You can be a part of this church’s continuing efforts by attending their afternoon fundraiser of refreshment and song ($100/$50 tax receipt) on October 20!
For more information or for ticket reservations, email the Rev. Dr. Robert Faris at b [dot] faris [at] standrewstoronto [dot] org.