If you are faith-based group sponsoring refugees, you are doing them a great service

Privately-sponsored refugees are more likely than government-sponsored refugees to have Canadian friends for the long haul. That was one of the insights presented about immigration and refugees at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” conference, held recently in Ottawa.

If you are part of a faith group sponsoring refugees, this will ring true for you, as private sponsors are normally very involved, at least in the beginning months, of a newcomer’s settlement experience into Canada. Driving someone to the dentist, going grocery shopping with them and helping their kids adjust to a new school are all potential ingredients for a life-long bond. Plus, you care.

“Faith and Settlement Partnership: Setting Immigrants and Canada Up for Success” was the name of one workshop offered at the conference. A panel presented some of the initial findings of a multi-partner research project (of the same name as the workshop) going on now in Canada by the Centre for Community-Based Research.

The research is tackling three main questions:

  • To what extent are faith/settlement partnerships viewed positively?
  • What types of partnerships presently exist and how could they be improved?
  • How can effective partnerships be better facilitated?

Initial results show that faith groups tend to work better with short term focused projects. They are very effective at mobilizing for immediate action. Sometimes faith groups give out inaccurate information to newcomers, and settlement agencies have to clear things up when needed.

The research is showing that there needs to be more collaboration between government and faith groups, in order for faith groups to be more integrated in the world of sponsoring refugees in Canada, and for the sake of the refugee. Trust is key. A recurring theme to the research into partnerships between faith based groups and settlement agencies was the need to be friends, and nurture that relationship. And collaboration is key to responding to service gaps. Faith based services and organizations should be part of the settlement supports offered newcomers, suggest the research. Faith helps people overcome challenges and find meaning in difficulties. Faith is significant for the integration of newcomers, so clergy and faith based groups can and should be part of the settlement process. Settlement brings a lot of stressors, faith can be used to mitigate many of them.

The researchers feel there is energy and excitement around the prospect of a closer partnership. And incase you wondered, Mississauga, Ont.,  is the third most attractive city (after Montreal and Toronto) for recent immigrants born in Syria.

And, not surprisingly, less bureaucratic red tape would help everyone.

Karen Stiller is a senior editor of Faith Today. Read about the experience of some churches settling refugees in Canada for the first time. Subscribe today

Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Last week the March for Life wound its way through downtown Ottawa. Thousands of people filled the streets carrying pro-life signs and banners. As I thought about the issue of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on the two situations involving abortions I have been closely involved with in my life.

One was a friend years and years ago, when we were barely out of our teens, the other was more recently with another young woman. In both situations, but particularly the most recent one now that I’ve had children of my own and know more about the issue, I worked hard to try to present alternatives to abortion. Ultimately, I failed. I arranged a meeting between the young woman and a crisis pregnancy centre worker in my living room. I met with her myself whenever she’d let me, trying to listen and to gently persuade her to walk the path of courage and sacrifice and yes, what seemed to her to be the more difficult path, — and not have the abortion.

In the end, though, she did.
Continue reading Fear of parents is a factor in abortions

Gary Chapman on the history of The 5 Love Languages

By Gary Chapman

I have always liked wildflowers.  There is something exciting about scattering seed and waiting and watching to see what comes up.  However, through the years I have sometimes been disappointed when few seeds germinate.  My friend George, who has a “green thumb” told me, “It’s the soil.”  With a question mark in my eyes, I said, “I thought wildflowers grew every-where.”  “They do,” he replied, “but some flourish in one soil, but struggle in another.  It’s the soil,” he repeated.

As a marriage counselor, I discovered that the same principle is true in marriage.  Take love, for example.  I’ve seen husbands expend great energy and often lots of money to show their wives how much they love her.  Then, they step back to see their “love seeds” grow and produce a smile.  However, the wife doesn’t give any evidence that a seed has been planted.  The problem?  It’s the soil.

One wife considers flowers a huge expression of love, while another wife says, “Why did you spend money on flowers?  They will be dead in three days.”  Or, a wife may spend hours cleaning the house and is disappointed when her husband doesn’t even notice.  She was expecting accolades, but all she received was silence.

The reality is that what makes one person feel loved does not make another person feel loved.  We tend to think, “If I see it as an act of love, they will receive it as an act of love.”  That is a false assumption.  This explains why so many spouses are disappointed when they plant seeds of love that never germinate.
Continue reading Gary Chapman on the history of The 5 Love Languages

Why the Parent Cafe works so well

Ask most parents what they most need within their busy schedules, and they might say an occasional safe place to talk and share and be supported in what is one of the most difficult jobs in the world: being a good parent.

Here is an early poster for the Parent Cafe, welcoming harried parents to a night of learning and mutual support.

The May/Jun Faith Today features a story about an innovative and effective ministry to meet this need created by New Song Church in Port Perry, Ont., a congregation of the Anglican Network in Canada. In the spirit of full disclosure, that was the church where my husband served for the last five years. I was involved in the Parent Cafe ministry from the beginning, and I’m convinced this elegant idea can easily be transplanted into other congregations, especially in areas where there might not be visible social problems to help solve, but more hidden needs, like support and community for busy parents and families stretched in 100 directions.

The idea is simple: When parents get better, the whole family gets better. Parenting is one of the most difficult (and most rewarding!) things in the world and it’s easier and better when parents support each other and freely share their knowledge and experience.
Continue reading Why the Parent Cafe works so well

Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

I knew that I knew her from somewhere. The woman at the end of my row in a workshop at the “Our Whole Society: Religion and Citizenship at Canada’s 150th” in Ottawa was eerily familiar, but I couldn’t quite place her.

I caught a glimpse at her name tag and did a quick google. I discovered we shared one Facebook friend, and that was an old elementary school friend of mine, who was later my university roommate.

I realized with a jolt of surprise that this woman was the mother of my old friend. It had been at least 28 years since I had seen her, and now here we were at a conference dedicated to thinking about the role of religion in our country.

After I introduced myself, we exclaimed and embraced, and I thought how interesting it was to be at a faith-based-and-centered conference with my friend’s mother, who I had always known as the “Mormon Mother.” They were the family who didn’t drink tea and were very mysterious and somewhat exotic, with a host of other rules and practices that back then I did not understand, or even try to, quite honestly.  Back then,  I just knew that my friend came from a very religious family, and that we were different. I never, ever would have thought I would someday find myself at the same conference with her family.

But all of the faiths present at this conference, and there are several, share concerns about the topics being addressed at the conference, which include religious freedom, solidarity in diversity, reconciliation, and immigration and refugees. We are here together.
Continue reading Our Whole Society conference brings old and new friends together

“Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

By Taylor Hyatt

For many frustrated pro-life advocates, 2017 got off to a great start. The movement received some unexpected attention when the network of Women’s Marches took the world by storm.

Thousands will gather on Parliament Hill on May 11. Taylor Hyatt will be one of them.

In particular, the Washington protest ignited a fierce debate after its organizers denied the pro-life group New Wave Feminists an official sponsorship role. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the American March for Life a few days later. Friends were asking me what I thought of it all…and forgetting that the only March about which I can say anything of substance is held in Ottawa!
Continue reading “Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

Faith Today is going to Uganda

This week, one of Faith Today‘s senior editors, Karen Stiller, is flying to Uganda to visit refugee camps that are welcoming the seemingly never-ending flow of ordinary women, men and children fleeing the seemingly never-ending conflict in South Sudan.

“This is one of my favourite shots from the South Sudan trip five years ago,” says Stiller. “It reminds me that kids are kids no matter what, and joy happens, even when your life has been turned inside out.”

Samaritan’s Purse, an EFC affiliate, is there in the camp providing clean water, health care, improved sanitation and other programs, including a trauma healing program for the people who have lived through more than we can imagine.

It was roughly five years ago that we visited camps in South Sudan for the story “A Visit to the World’s Newest Country.” That situation was bad enough; internally displaced South Sudanese making their way to, and their homes in, the rough, temporary camps within their own country.  Back then, the world was still optimistic about South Sudan’s opportunity to build something new. But the conflict in recent months has just grown worse, and so has the possibility of a severe famine. Families are fleeing and they often end up in northern Uganda– a country that borders their young, struggling nation and receives the largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the world.

The team travelling to Uganda, which includes two or three other journalists, will visit two refugee settlements, as well as maternal/newborn health projects and a rehabilitation program that helps women and their children out of a life of prostitution.

“Today I’m packing my small bag for a week of what is usually pretty rough travel, but an incredible privilege to travel to spots like these and try to understand what people who are just like you and me are going through,” says Stiller. “When I visited South Sudan in 2012, I was also struck by the presence of Canadian workers in the camps and the incredible work they were doing. I’ll look for more of those stories as well, even as we focus on the most important story: the lives of the South Sudanese and how they are struggling to survive and flourish under such unimaginable pressure.”

We hope that Karen will be able to post blogs or photos from the field, but we know internet capability is not predictable in these circumstances. Watch for updates!

Faith Today is happy to be recognized as an excellent source of Christian journalism in Canada. By subscribing to Faith Today, you help keep journalism like ours healthy and ready to tell important stories like the ones you will read in recent months about the people being helped and the work being done in one of the world’s most troubled areas by a Canadian Christian organization. We tell the stories other people don’t tell, and ask the questions other people aren’t asking. Join us

Seven great reasons to grab hold of the May/Jun Faith Today

Hey folks! We are excited, as always, about the next issue of Faith Today. And we think you will be too. Here are seven great things coming up, and seven great reasons to subscribe today

(1) “Help Your Kids Embrace the Faith: Trading in picture-perfect faith for authentic experience with Jesus” is our cover essay from Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach of Ottawa. She is the author of the upcoming book Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Two-Year-Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow—and How Your Kids Can Too (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

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(2) “Voyeurism, Exploitation or Edgy Fiction? The mixed messages of Pure” looks at the new CBC TV series about a Mennonite mafia.

(3) The Five Love Languages turns 25: Our mini-interview with Gary Chapman. Is your love language words of affirmation? Quality time? Receiving gifts, acts of service or physical touch? It’s been 25 years since the release of Gary Chapman’s enormously best-selling book The Five Love Languages. Chapman had several Canadian speaking engagements this year to mark the milestone. He spoke with Faith Today about the book, its legacy and the new challenge to modern marriages.

(4) “How to Lead Well When Leading Is Hard: Agents of Change in a Resistant Culture” is an essay by Gary Nelson, president of Tyndale University College & Seminary.

(5) “The Shack Controversy: How the Label ‘Christian’ Can Lead Us All Astray” is a feature article by senior writer Patricia Paddey, addressing the new movie based on a controversial bestselling novel by Canadian born “missionary kid” William Paul Young.

(6) “Listening to the diaspora church: A conversation in Toronto leads to insights and knowledge about immigrants and the Church.” Staff from the Tyndale Intercultural Ministry Centre share what we all need to hear from a recent gathering of nine immigrant church planters at The People’s Church in Toronto.

(7) An investigative piece by Craig Macartney into why and how Compassion International was forced out of India after 48 years in that country. Compassion centres ran out of money because the government banned them from receiving any foreign funds—cutting off support for 145,000 children and their families. The move is part of a growing wave of nationalism that is spurring a sharp increase of Christian persecution.

Plus challenging columns by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., James A. Beverley, Carolyn Arends and Bruce Clemenger. Each issue of Faith Today now comes with a new copy of Love Is Moving, the EFC’s magazine for young adults. Subscribers are encouraged to enjoy it themselves or to give their copy to a young person you know and love.

Making peace with creation: the story behind the new film out of Regent College

In “Making Peace with Creation” poet and theologian Loren Wilkinson presents a compelling and compassionate vision for life in the 21st century.

by Iwan Russell-Jones

I knew that I had to make this film after my wife, Amanda, and I took part in the ‘Boat Course’, a remarkable educational experience that Loren and Mary Ruth Wilkinson devised and have been offering at Regent College for many years.

From the Wilkinson’s home on Galiano students and teachers set off together in two rowing boats on an 8-day voyage around the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, to think, study, discuss and meditate on the meaning of life on this our beautiful and fragile planet – to ponder Technology, Wilderness and Creation (to give the course its correct title).

It was an unforgettable trip – shipping our oars while a pod of Orcas crossed the channel just metres in front of us, standing in wonder on the beach in the dead of night as the sea was lit up by millions of plankton working their miracle of bioluminescence, reading the Scriptures and praying together using the rhythms of Celtic daily prayer in the stunning setting of the Pacific Northwest, contemplating the devastating long-term impact of the acidification of the oceans …  And weaving it all together with insight, poetry and passion was Loren himself, who has spent decades of his life thinking and teaching about the human experience and its relationship to a biblical understanding of creation.

Continue reading Making peace with creation: the story behind the new film out of Regent College

My conversation with a man whose wife died by assisted suicide

The other day I met a man whose wife had died by assisted suicide earlier this year. We sat beside each other on an airplane and struck up conversation, as people do. We discovered we were both writers of a sort, and that was our starting point.

I don’t really remember how it came up, but I must have asked him about his wife. He was an elderly man and something he said made me think he was widowed fairly recently. Then he told me this really enormous thing: that his wife had fought cancer for years and had entered a new, final phase of not winning the fight anymore and so she had chosen assisted suicide about four months ago, with his support.

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This seemed like a huge disclosure, a big, sad, tragic thing to share. I don’t know if the ease of his disclosure is a statement about how writers tend to go deep quickly with each other, or maybe it’s more a statement about the potential “ordinariness” of what we are now doing in Canada, by having assisted suicide.

Or, maybe, he was just sad and it was recent and so he blurted it out to a stranger. Then, almost right after he told me, this kind, quiet man asked me what kind of writing I do.

So, I told him I wrote mostly about faith things, and religious things, and that my husband is a minister. I’m not sure why I added that bit about my husband, but I think I said it because I wanted to assure him that I understood grief, and he was clearly grieving.
Continue reading My conversation with a man whose wife died by assisted suicide

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