It’s hard to describe what it's like when a moment comes to fruition that is the result of countless hours, effort, and energy. It started as a distant dream, one that seemed too complicated and substantial to reasonably attempt to accomplish. Yet, just over a year after that dream was planted in my heart, the Kapanda family walked through the doors of the Vancouver International Airport. Each document and email that provided more information about the family made their arrival seem more real, yet when we interacted for the first time everything felt like a dream once more. What made it so special wasn’t just the amount of work and time paying off, but it was how a community joined together to make this dream a reality. It was about how a diverse group of individuals gave what they had and made a tangible difference. I knew it was tangible; a family with a new future was standing right in front of me. Our group stood there with the newly arrived family, so full of thankfulness, joy, and an overwhelming sense of anticipation.
The progression of the arrival day contributed to the anticipation. Johanna, Malia and I met at the family’s home in the morning to finish the preparation and make welcome signs. Some other team members joined us a little later and Shigali, our friend from MCC, came with a meal to put in the fridge for the family. The meal was prepared by a Syrian refugee who arrived less than a year ago and wanted to assist our group. We left for the airport and met other members of our group in the International Arrivals area. We stood there, nervous but so excited, and slowly the time ticked by.
Our group seemed to be the exception rather than the norm in multiple areas of the arrival process. Overall, we are a pretty unique group, but we are one of the few groups to get a few days of notice before arrival, as well as one of the groups that waited over three hours for the family to get through customs. For the final hour, I stood near the glass wall, hoping to catch the first glimpse of the family. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting in anticipation, I saw them walk around the corner. We scrambled to get arranged and when they finally stood in front of us we stood there awkwardly as I finalized some paperwork with a CIC representative. However, when we at last got to share who we were and what we were doing, things couldn’t have gone any smoother. Kapanda immediately stated that this is all from God and through God. It was the truest summary of how this dream came to fruition.
The three weeks since the arrival have been full of stories of God’s providence, but one in particular sticks out. A week after arrival, the kids were preparing to start school so I went to their home with my mom the night before to see if we could help with any preparation. When I walked in, I was surprised to see that they had company (they had only been there for six days)! When I found out who was sitting in the living room, I couldn’t even believe it. Here’s the story:
This summer I got to work with a Congolese lady from the same city as the Kapanda family. When we found out they were arriving, I messaged her to ask for advice for what food to have in their kitchen. She was really excited about the family and offered to show them some stores where they could get food from home. A day after the family arrived, they met my friend and went shopping. When my friend went to church on Sunday she was sharing with some other Congolese friends about the Kapandas. One of the ladies who heard the story immediately went and told her husband, who couldn’t believe what he heard. He immediately followed up with my friend to confirm the names. When he heard the names one more time it sunk in. Kapanda was, in fact, his uncle that had just arrived half an hour from where he lived. Kapanda hadn’t seen his nephew in 15 years, and the family hadn’t seen any extended family members in six and a half years. So, when I walked into the family’s home six days after they arrived I got to meet Kapanda’s nephew and his family, both of whom had no idea that either were living in BC. God is good.
There have been so many other exciting experiences in addition to that story. Our team has learned so much and I am constantly in awe of the love, bravery, and determination of the Kapanda family. This is just the beginning of this phase of the process, but so many people continue to contribute and we have a big, loving God that it is intentionally and continually involved in this process. We can’t wait to see what He has in store.