Two Stouffville churches have come together to sponsor an Iraqi refugee family. The family, who can’t be named for safety reasons, is currently living in Jordan.
Eastridge Evangelical Missionary Church and Springvale Baptist Church are working together to support the family through the SHARE program. SHARE stands for Stouffville Help and Awareness for Refugees and the Exiled, which is fitting, since giving help is what the churches want to do.
The family is Christian, but Conny Chubbuck, leader of the Eastridge volunteers, said the churches weren’t looking for a Christian family to support.
“For me, personally, it was we wanted to help a family,” she said. “At first the thought was to support a Muslim family, because it would be showing the love of God to all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds.”
Bridget Boadway, a volunteer on a SHARE committee who also attends Eastridge, agrees. “I know that it was a concern for some people within the two churches, but for the majority of people on the committee, we just wanted to help people.”
However, when the volunteers heard the family’s story, and learned about the hardships they faced because of their faith, the two churches sponsored them, Chubbuck said.
It’s believed the family fled Mosul in 2014, due to of ISIS forcing Christian families out of their homes.
The family consists of a mother, father, aunt, two boys in their late teens to early twenties and a younger daughter, still in elementary school.
The older children can’t finish high school in Jordan, Chubbuck said, although the daughter is attending school.
Before fleeing ISIS, the father owned a small restaurant and catering business. Now he and his wife can’t work because they are refugees. His wife was a biochemistry professor, and speaks English well. The aunt was a seamstress.
“They can’t work at this point, so they’re just waiting,” Boadway said.
She said the churches are sending some money to the family to help cover their living expenses while they wait to be processed.
The family was recently interviewed to move to Canada, but no one knows yet how long it will be before they arrive.
Chubbuck said the family almost ended up in San Diego. “When it took Canada so long to process their papers, then the U.S. stepped in,” she said.
First the American elections, and then Trump’s travel ban, prohibiting mirgants from seven Middle-Eastern countries from getting into the U.S., prevented the family from entering America. “When the actual travel ban hit,” Chubbuck said, “then the [family’s] process was stopped.”
While she is unsure of the family’s current living situation, Boadway from Eastridge said the family started in a Catholic mission compound in Jordan, then moved to an apartment.
Despite having no housing prepared for the family, because of the uncertainty of the timeline, the churches have collected necessary items for when the family finally arrives.
“The community has been very gracious in giving tons of furniture, household items, clothing,” Boadway said. “I believe the housing committee had to turn away some furniture because we just had too much.”
The surplus has been directed to other families in the community who need a helping hand.
Springvale and Eastridge had not originally planned to work together. Both churches were planning on helping refugees on their own.
In September, Eastridge applied to sponsor a family, but found they could not afford it. They heard from friends at Springvale that Springvale was also looking to help refugees.
“They didn’t have a lot of people yet on their team,” Chubbuck said, “We had a lot of people, but no one to back us.” The two came together and have reinforced their relationship.
“I think it’s been very positive,” Boadway said, “between the two churches wanting to work together.”
By coming together Springvale and Eastridge have been able to support each other as they work to get the family into Canada, which Boadway describes as a “climb up a mountain.”