Refugee support continues to grow
Paradise group meets to consider sponsoring another family
The group that was first to start the process of bringing refugees to the region through the Baptist Church is looking at a repeat performance.
Paul Carline couldn’t be happier. He’s the director of Intercultural Ministries with the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and spent Sunday in Paradise where just two years ago a tiny congregation struggling to survive brought an Iraqi mother and her five daughters halfway around the world and cared for them for a year.
“They were our first church out of the block,” said Carline of Saint John, NB. “I had just sent an email to our national office saying we were going to set a goal of bringing 50 families to Atlantic Canada (which was a huge step for us because before that we were only sponsoring about one family a year). I had no sooner sent that email than my phone rang and it was Gordon Hay, one of the leaders of the church here saying that they felt – they’d never done anything like this before - God wanted them to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. To me it was a gift. It was just a confirmation that we were heading in the right direction.”
Carline and his assistant, plus numerous church and community groups, have been responsible for bringing 100 refugee families – 500 people – to Atlantic Canada over the past two years.
It started with Hay and the group Paradise Refugee Support.
“I came out here to meet with them,” Carline said. “It was March 7, 2015. Twenty people in Gordon and Carol’s living room from about nine different churches and various communities. So it was wonderful that the Paradise group organized, not just the little church here, but they partnered with the Bridgetown church and with the community. It was a community effort.”
But Carline was further amazed that not only did they sponsor a refugee family, the Paradise group helped start about six other groups that also sponsored families - and conducted a lot of the training in this area.
“We’re still letting churches know that it’s still possible to sponsor. There’s still lots of refugees out there,” said Carline.
At Sunday’s Paradise meeting there were representatives from groups in Middleton, Bear River, Bridgetown, and Digby.
“What we wanted to do today was to bring together some people who had been involved in recent refugee sponsorship and just take a pulse and see if there’s an opportunity to move forward in that way in the future, in the near future actually,” said Paradise Pastor Mark Reece.
Reece said Carline identified and underscored the need that exists in places like Syria and the Middle East, and even in East Africa.
“What we’re seeing an increase in now is groups helping already-arrived families to bring their relatives,” said Carline. “Sort of the echo effect, which is our priority. That’s the kind of sponsorship that we really are encouraging.”
“We’ve been discussing that we need to do something more, that it’s not enough to come to church and sit in the pews -- that that is not what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Deacon Susan Saunders. “We’re supposed to be acting and finding needs and acting on those needs and helping people. And it seems to be a need that’s close to our hearts. It was successful last time, I think, from all perspectives.”
She said there were some, herself included, who were a little hesitant at the beginning.
“Then as it started to build momentum I could see it was a positive thing,” said Saunders who wants to take a more active role this time. “I see our group, along with the community, maybe starting that again.”
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Rev. Paul Carline, director of Intercultural Ministries with the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, was in Paradise on Feb. 13 to update the Paradise Baptist Church congregation on the latest plans to bring refugees to the region. He said the need still exists. Representatives from other refugee support groups in Middleton, Bridgetown, Bear River, and Digby also attended.