Trusting the Fear

Hi, I am Jared La Mar. I am a second year Corporate Comm major with a film minor. I got involved with TRAC last summer when Matt Hayashi explained what he does as a video editor for TRAC. I have always been passionate about making videos since I was a kid, but I have never applied it to a worthy cause. When Matt asked me to join the team, my heart was in the wrong spot. I was excited to join the team because I’d be making videos, but once I started understanding the issue at hand my perspective changed to how people need to understand this crisis that the world is going through. Before I had joined TRAC I had little to no knowledge of the refugee crisis, but when I first met the Kapanda family it opened my eyes to the ignorance that so many people have towards refugees. The family was so grateful and joyful for everything God had given them, even though they had every right to feel down and lonely, being in a new country. Seeing the smiles on their faces and watching God’s love pour out of them destroyed any negative stigma towards refugees that I had been naïve about previously.

This also made me excited for the future of TRAC. If university students can bring a family to Canada, what can we not do? A long term dream that I want to see TRAC achieve is creating a short term mission program in partnership with Global Projects. Living in Canada, there is only so much we can do. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own privileged bubble that we often forget that there is a world of hurt and suffering out there. I believe that God has put us in our privileged situations to help those in need. If I hadn’t joined TRAC I doubt that I would have these overwhelming thoughts of ministry. Even though these dreams of ministry overwhelm me, I know that it’s all for the glory of God, and it’s because of our situation that he works through us. 

-Jared La Mar

 

The Closest I'll Ever Be to Being on a Track Team

My name is Hannah Grills, and I am a first-year business student at Trinity Western University.  I was introduced to TRAC by the director of the merchandise team, my good friend, Ava Sawatzy. Ava explained to me at the beginning of the school year what TRAC was all about and asked me if I’d be interested in joining the merchandise team. Thankfully, I said yes! From that day on, I have been a part of the merchandise team, and I help where help is needed. 

In my first few months with TRAC, I have come to the realization that a few committed people, single-mindedly sharing a goal, can make a significant impact on the lives of a group of refugees. Just last week, at TRAC’s Night of Stories event, I was blown away by the dedication and hard work of other local refugee resettlement organizations. Representatives came to talk with TRAC and Trinity Western students about the refugee crisis and their experiences walking alongside refugees who have fled to Canada. It was encouraging to hear from other people who feel called by God to devote their time to helping refugees, like Peter and Dawn-Lynn Prediger, who co-founded and direct Inasmuch Community Society. Peter and Dawn-Lynn provide a home in Abbotsford as transitional housing for refugee claimants.  Their whole focus is on making refugees feel at home and like family. The Predigers also provide for the needs of their new “family members” like food, clothing, medical care, transportation, English lessons, and so much more.  

            The collective message that stood out to me from all who spoke was that, even though they are the ones investing in the lives of refugees, they feel like they have been equally as blessed in the process.

            All in all, it has been an honour to be on the TRAC team and to witness how our small contribution can make tangible change for good in other people’s lives. It’s so exciting to see God’s hand in the work to support refugees right here at home.

"Oh, but you must."

"In early September, I got an email from one of our partner organizations describing an urgent need. They had recently connected with a family of newly arrived refugee claimants that had no support as they began their Canadian journey. As claimants, these people receive virtually nothing and some end up on the street. In order to avoid this, the organization was trying to develop a settlement team. My initial thought was that there was no way we could meet this need. Our team was stretched so thin and I didn't know of anybody (let alone a group) that was willing to make such a large commitment. I began to write a response but my heart had been grabbed, and I knew that I needed to say we would help. God is so faithful, and when we shared about this opportunity an incredible team quickly formed (pictured above). The following post is written by Lauren Bolander, a leading member of the settlement team. This post reveals the heart of our inspiring volunteers that commit to developing relationships and serving in the refugee and newcomer community."

-Jordan 

When my mom had her first child she found herself running out of time in the day. My dad and her had just moved to a new church and bought their first house. Waking up at 5:30am was exhausting and she couldn’t find the time to pray or read her Bible. She was overwhelmed. My mom told her mentor how she was so exhausted and couldn’t bring herself to wake up any earlier to do her devotions. Without hesitation, her mentor simply responded, “Oh, but you must.”

When I heard about TRAC’s need for a second settlement team, I was intrigued. I knew I wanted to get involved with a ministry, but I didn’t want to commit to something too time-consuming; second year was supposed to be the year that I brought up my grades and focused on school (for the first time in all of my schooling experience). I was asked to be the new settlement team leader, but I said no because I didn’t think I had the time. I quickly heard those four convicting words: “Oh, but you must.” I believe that the most fundamental part of a Christian faith is selfless service and love. But I have begun to notice that as a community of Christians, we don’t serve often enough or for the right reasons. Serving doesn’t always have to be a time-consuming volunteer position, but we ought to do something to focus on the needs of other people; in fact, we must. Serving should not just be another thing we add to our list of things to do, nor should it be for own selfish benefit. Yet somehow that is what I have made it to be.

The family I am working with was a family of three (almost four) when I met them. They had not yet been accepted as refugees in Canada, making them refugee claimants - meaning that the government was not giving them any help. They needed a place to live, a way to pay for it, a doctor to deliver their baby, a school to send their 11-year-old son to, and more. I was overwhelmed by the list and did not know where to begin. But, to my surprise, the family did most of these things on their own. I had ignorantly assumed that they would desperately need our help settling into this new lifestyle. But in reality, they just needed a lot of love, financial support, and people who could help them if they ran into any problems or had questions. It took me a couple of months to realize this, but when I did I was overwhelmingly convicted. The point of serving is adapting to the needs of people, not what we think they need. It is selfless service. At first, I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to help this family, since they were so independent, but I should have been rejoicing with them. Just because they are refugees does not mean that they are incapable of doing things for themselves. I am learning that I am here to love this family in the way that they need, not the way that I originally thought they needed. They need people who will build relationships with them and welcome them into this new life. They need people who will show them love, hope, and grace because that is what has been shown to us. And that is what we shall do, not because it is another thing to check off the list, but because it is what we have been called to do. Because we must.

I leave you with this. If you call yourself a follower of Christ, you are called to live a life that is centered on other people. Even though we are in university, we cannot use that as an excuse to only focus on school. We cannot forget our calling. It is hard and it is humbling, but I pray that we may be humbled every day so that we can step outside of ourselves and serve. May we step outside of this bubble we call school and allow Christ to open our eyes. May we step outside of the excuses and hear the words “Oh, but you must.”

Lauren Bolander

Track x TRAC

My name is Christopher Weiss and I am a third-year human kinetics student at Trinity Western.  I also compete for the Trinity Spartans Track and Field team in the disciplines of the pole vault and decathlon.  To avoid confusion, I am a member of both the Track team at Trinity and now the TRAC team.  I joined the Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign team at the beginning of the school year and help in the merchandise department. 

 

This year I was looking for an opportunity to work and serve with my time, ideas and talents.  I felt as though God was putting in on my heart to get involved in outreach and it just so happened that I was already well connected with many members involved with TRAC.  Last year the vision and mission of bringing a refugee family to Langley was brought to the Trinity community by the Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign.  The campaign quickly grew and spread all across campus and the Trinity community in the form of T-shirts and sweatshirts bearing the TRAC key logo.  I remember purchasing all forms of the TRAC merch to support the cause but was left wondering how I could take my support to the next level.  During the summer, some of my friends involved with the TRAC ministry proposed a position to me of helping with the merchandise team.  I didn’t think much of the conversation till the beginning of this school year where I felt God calling me to join and serve in TRAC.  With this I asked members on the team if the position on the merchandise team was still available and here we are today!

 

As a student athlete, it can be hard to find an outlet to serve in outreach and ministry when a lot of your energy and time is focused into your academics and athletics.  It is important to remain faithful and patient in that God is working in all aspects of our lives even when the evidence may not be clear.  I feel very blessed with my position I have been given on the TRAC team as it allows me to serve within my busy lifestyle.  I’ll be at the TRAC Tuesday booth outside TWUSA from 10 to 11:30 so swing by and pick up some merch! (Booth runs from 10-3 if you can’t make it then.)

More Than Merchandise

Ever since high school, I have loved clothes. I love the way they look, the way they express personality, and the way they can be used as a form of communication. My name is Ava Sawatzky and I am a second-year business student. I have the great honor and privilege of directing the merchandise team.

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During my first year at Trinity, I heard about TRAC, but I finally joined in the summer of 2017. I met a member of the TRAC team and she later asked if I wanted to join the merchandise team. Since I was young, I was always a little business woman playing store and charging people taxes for their purchases using my dad’s old cheque books. The idea of combining my studies and skills in business with my passion, clothes, was too good to pass up. I love being able to use different analytical and creative skills to benefit the team. As the director, my role focuses on marketing our brand and products through social media, communicating with my merchandise team of five, and creating profitable products.

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However, merchandise is more than clothes or mugs or pins. This merchandise is life-changing. The sale of TRAC’s products was enough to bring over the Kapanda family from Kenya. But it wasn’t only through good marketing or prices; it was through God. The guidance of God has made it possible for our team to work together and through His presence, we have been successful in bringing awareness to the refugee crisis.

The refugee crisis hits home since my grandparents were refugees from the Ukraine during the Second World War. They fled the communist regime in the Soviet Union because of faith-based persecution and arrived in Canada in 1945. It has been a privilege to walk alongside the Kapanda family and raise money for our latest project, a scholarship for a student with history as a refugee.

If you are interested in supporting TRAC, consider buying merch. Our next booth is Tuesday, November 14 outside of TWUSA from 10-3.

Home.

Hi everyone,

The Kapanda family arrived on August 28, and it has been a whirlwind of blessings and learning experiences for our team as we start this phase of the sponsorship process. Four members of our team that are involved in settlement have briefly written about their experiences so far. It's not possible to put in words all the adventures our group has had, and the extent of personal transformation that has occurred, but I hope these write-ups provide a glimpse of what this journey has been like.

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Johanna Alderliesten:

These past weeks have been beautiful, joyful, stretching, and transformative. From the beginning of the Sharing Space Sponsorship project to the day we received the notice of arrival, it's been task oriented. Send emails. Meet people. Plans events. Visit rental homes. Shop for groceries. Since the morning of arrival, standing at the airport, I was reminded of the gravity and uncertainty of the days and months to come. It's no longer just a checklist, but a relationship: intentional time, enjoying moments, being present. More than that, it's learning how to balance the two, somehow working together with a common goal, but remembering that things don't always go according to plan. These next weeks are going to be... precious.

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Jordan Koslowsky:

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.

Jessie Reek:

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On August 28th, the day of the Kapanda families arrival, none of us knew what to expect, who we were going to meet, and how they were going to react to this insane transition. In the four hours of waiting at the airport, the anticipation was building up. I was constantly thinking back to all the families I had met in my journey last year to Germany and Greece working in refugee camps wondering, why this family? God placed this thought in my mind, “out of all the refugee families, all the fathers and mothers struggling to keep their families alive I have chosen this family for you”. As soon as I saw those three precious kids and their beautiful parents walk through the doors I knew this was the family we were meant to be with. In those first few moments of meeting them all, tears filling our eyes, we prayed and praised Jesus for bringing us all together. Since that moment I have seen the kids continue to grow, laugh, and discover exciting things like McDonalds cheeseburgers, ice-cream, and monkey bars. I have seen the parents experiencing washing machines, learning how to grocery shop, and being so eager to learn English so they can share with the world how excited they are to be here, in their new home. I asked a few people who have spent brief moments with the family if they could describe them in one word what it would be, and I don’t think I could have said it any better myself. Authentic, courageous, faithful, united, joyful, loving, honouring, bold, and inspiring. I cannot thank God enough for placing this family in our lives. Already they have taught me that in all things we need to praise Jesus and thank Him for His goodness. They are motivated and eager to settle into their new life here, and I cannot wait to see how God uses their passions and strength to inspire everyone around them.

Malia Scholz:

TRAC’s logo symbolizes hope. When the Kapanda family arrived, they didn’t know who was going to meet them or where they were going to be taken.  When I told the father at the airport that we were taking them to their new home, a flood of hope, peace, and joy filled his eyes and spilled out in the form of tears as he repeated back to me, “I have a home?”.

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Handing Kapanda the key to his new home was the most anticipated part of settlement.  The key that is on the hoodies and t-shirts we sold to raise money to sponsor a refugee family, the key that encompasses the hope and new life we have in Christ as Christians, the key that represents the passion and love that Jesus has engrained in us to open ourselves up for Him to move in us, the key that represents a group of university students taking action because of the hope Jesus gives us. Kapanda turned the key, walked in the door of his new home, and immediately praised God for His blessing and providence.

Putting myself in the shoes of the Kapanda family is impossible.  I can’t begin to imagine the pain, fear, and loss they’ve experienced in their lives to bring them here as refugees forced from their home. The hope they have in Christ is courageous beyond belief and is continually expressed as they transition into a foreign world with peace and joy.  

There is so much darkness in our world, the Kapanda family has lived through it, but no offense or suffering can exhaust the depths of His love.  They are a testament to Christ’s redemptive heart, grace, and the hope we have in Him.

Thank you for supporting TRAC, thank you for helping us bring the Kapanda family to a safe new home, thank you to all the servant hearts who helped us move into their new home, and are working with us to continue settling the Kapanda family.  Christ’s love, hope, and passion is reflected by you and your willingness to come alongside us.

Why Do I Volunteer?

I see volunteering as an act of defiance. A resistance against my own natural tendencies, against passivity, and against hatred. My natural tendency is to have my perspective focused on myself, and to be selfish with my time. I am guilty of occupying my time with activities and tasks that will make my own life more comfortable. I am tired of the constant information, updates, and statistics. I am heartbroken that each time I become more desensitized to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. I firmly believe that hatred can be defeated if we choose to put ourselves in positions where God’s goodness and perfection can shine through our weakness.

Last year, I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre (MEFC). I spent time teaching English to intelligent men and woman whose homeland was Syria. I played games, colored, and laughed with vibrant, joyful children from Iraq. I drank tea and listened to the stories of wise, quiet mothers from Lebanon. Most of all, I learnt about generosity and resilience at the MEFC. I was deeply moved by the generosity and selflessness of those who work hard to offer opportunities, access to community services, and a community to people from the Middle East, Africa and other cultures. Finally, the resilience of the families and individuals who have undergone unimaginable hardship, was astonishing and inspiring.

Over the past few weeks, God has repeatedly been whispering the word “empty” to me. He has been challenging me to try to empty myself emotionally and physically through serving others. He is humbling me by reminding me that my comfort does not always come first, and that I am meant to be a servant, like Jesus was. I encourage you to try and empty yourself, and trust that God will always fill you right back up. Time spent for others is never wasted time. I challenge you to serve, even if the task seems insignificant. Even if no one notices, serve with all your heart.

I am grateful for TRAC and for the opportunities it has given me to live for more than just myself. I am excited that TRAC is offering opportunities to others who feel similar tugs in their hearts. Opportunities such as teaching ESL classes, being a part of a settlement team, or simply spending quality time with the Kapanda family (the refugee family from the Congo that TRAC is supporting through sponsorship).

In conclusion, I am angry about the injustices in the world, but I have chosen to recognize my anger as a blessing and a driving force. I am guilty of selfishness, but I refuse to give up on trying to be more selfless. I believe in love, and I will never stop doing what I can to offer that love to every precious person in the world. This is why I volunteer.

New Hope Volunteer Opportunity

September is rapidly approaching and TRAC is ramping up for another exciting year. This summer, our team, led by TRAC’s Volunteer Coordinator Andrea Rodriguez, has been working on partnering with local organizations to provide volunteer opportunities that fit all commitment levels.

New Hope Community Services is an organization working in Surrey that supports refugee claimants and immigrants through housing, employment, and community. TRAC is partnering with New Hope to establish a settlement team for a recently arrived Government Sponsored refugee family that is living at New Hope.

This opportunity is one of the most involved and rewarding volunteer opportunities available with TRAC. Walking alongside a recently arrived family is the most tangible way to experience mutual learning. TWU alumni Keith and Melissa Reed have taken the step of joining a settlement team to help a refugee family settle in Canada. This is what they have to say about their experience:

“In November of 2015, we were invited to be part of a group of Canadian families who had the goal of sponsoring a refugee family to come to Canada. We rarely follow local news stories and our knowledge of international events is limited, so we knew very little about the worldwide refugee crisis outside of the fact that there was one. However, as we discussed this invitation we knew that our family needed to take action. 

Our decision to be part of this sponsorship group is one that we have come to call a decision of cerebral obedience. In our minds, we knew that a worldwide refugee crisis demanded a response of some kind on our part. Our thoughts went to the teachings of Jesus who commanded His followers to love others as themselves and to serve the least of these. In our hearts we felt God calling us to respond in this particular way, so we obeyed.

We anticipated a lot of work and we prepared for it. Since our roles on the team were finances (Keith) and household goods (Melissa), we created spreadsheets and collected blankets, couches and dishes. Our minds were ready to do what needed to be done. Little did we know that when our sponsored family arrived in November 2016 that our cerebral obedience would turn into incredible joy. 

When our 6-year-old son learned that our group had finalized a rental suite for the family, something that all of us had been praying for, he joyfully shouted, “God did it!” Despite her expression in the picture, our 4-year-old adores their oldest daughter, loving to climb into her lap, hold her hand, and spend time with her. And this Christmas we were overjoyed to see the family set up a Christmas tree in their home for the first time in 4 years, below it carefully displayed a small nativity set that had travelled with them from Syria to Armenia to Lebanon and now their home in Canada.” - Keith ('03) and Melissa Kroeker ('03) Reed

Joining this team with New Hope is a substantial commitment. There will be challenges and there will also be unexplainable joys. By engaging in this opportunity, you have the ability to impact the lives of this family and the lives of the generations to come. It is also an opportunity to learn and grow in ways you can’t anticipate. Each position has unique responsibilities but the overall purpose of the entire settlement team is to develop relationships, and provide friendship and support for the family as they transition to a new country and culture.  

To learn about this volunteer opportunity, and other TRAC volunteer opportunities, visit our volunteer page. If you have questions email Andrea at volunteer.trac.twu@gmail.com.

Sponsorship Update!

Hello everybody,

Last Thursday, May 25 we received some very exciting news: we have been matched with a family of five from the Democratic Republic of the Congo! After being paired with a sponsorship group, families usually arrive 4-12 weeks later. This means that the TRAC team is eagerly preparing for the family to arrive, learning about the DRC, and practicing French and Swahili.

Our most immediate need before welcoming the family is finding suitable housing for a family of five. Numerous families have already reached out to offer furnishings and other necessities. Moving forward, we will continue to share ways you can get involved and release as much information about the family that is appropriate and available, but we are appreciative of any suggestions, insights, or donations!

While we anticipate many unexpected occurrences throughout this next phase of the sponsorship process we are so thankful that we have such a supportive and generous community behind us. Thank you for your continual support, you have made reaching this milestone a possibility!

Additionally, if you would like to “subscribe” to more frequent email updates from TRAC, please email us at trac.twu@gmail.com to be put on your email list.

With purpose and passion,

Jordan

 

TRAC Stories: Tima Kurdi, finding hope in tragedy.

“Too many people had died in the war and we were still all silent,” Tima Kurdi said, “It took only one picture, of that little boy, to touch our humanity.”

Alan Kurdi is the child that became a symbol for the Syrian refugee crisis. His photo became so viral that it is almost impossible that you didn’t see it. A little 3-year-old who drowned with his mother and brother trying to get to Europe was now face down in the sand at a beach in Turkey. Dead, just like thousands of other innocent people that have lost their lives as a result of the Syrian war.

Tima Kurdi, Alan’s aunt, is a face of a refugee crisis that is often described with faceless numbers. She is a Syrian living in Coquitlam who fled her home country in 1992. After the Syrian war started in 2011, her family fled the country, just like millions of others in a similar position. On September 3rd, 2015, she received the news that her sister in law and two nephews had drowned.

Out of her pain, she found strength. She is now using her influence to speak for the millions of victims that remain hidden in history, becoming a strong advocate for Syrian refugees. But she isn’t simply revealing the incredibly tragic stories of the war. “I’m not here today to make you feel sorry for me and my family,” she said, “I am here to plant the seed of hope.”

When we received her in the NorthWest Auditorium, the night of the 12th of February, 2017 for the “Night of Stories” event we could all experience how powerful her message was. She stressed that while we cannot avoid tragedy, we must respond to it with open arms willing to help those who are suffering. “If I couldn’t save my own family, let’s save the others,” she said.

Tima is very serious and extremely committed. I approached her after the event, expressing my condolences for her still vivid suffering and my admiration for her advocacy work. She thanked me for the work TRAC was doing, but did not give much importance to my praise, as someone who is so committed to the people she is working for that she intentionally makes herself invisible.

Even though she has international recognition, she maintains a profile of simplicity and just raises her voice loud and clear when it’s needed, speaking on behalf of her people. She has met with Prime Ministers, Presidents, and international leaders. She has given Ted Talks and conferences globally. However, her business card still only lists her as a hair stylist, the profession she once had in Coquitlam.

“I am not responsible for those decisions [of opening the borders to refugees], I am not a politician, but my voice was heard,” she said. She is an example for most of us who tend to think that we are powerless and cannot make a difference because we are not in charge of the decision-making.

Turns out, we do have a decision: to speak up, stop being part of the silent majority, and start acting today, just as Tima did. Among other things, she created the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation,” an organization that raises funds to provide nutritious food, medication, school supplies, and medication to children living in refugee camps.

After the event, Tima met with TRAC’s team. “Every time I tell my story it is very painful,” she said in tears, “I need at least a month of recovery after I give a speech like this.” But she keeps doing it for one reason: people need to hear her story and be inspired to make a change. Tima has used her painful experience to inspire strength and hope. Let’s embrace that hope and follow her example as we respond to the global refugee crisis.

If you are eager to get involved and to hear these words from her own mouth, consider attending tomorrow’s fundraiser. Tima is also in need of volunteers to help her with the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation.” To hear more about these opportunities, please email trac.twu@gmail.com

-Emilio Rodríguez, TRAC’s journalist.

TRAC Update

Hello friends of TRAC!

Thank you so much for your support throughout the past four months. Each one of you has contributed to the development of TRAC and I am continually inspired by the generosity of the TWU community. Since our kick-off event on February 2, TRAC has grown in unimaginable ways. Summer break has provided an appreciated opportunity to reflect on the journey of TRAC, and I am excited to share with you what has taken place. I hope it encourages you and represents the tangible impact that your support has made in the lives of those who need it.

Sponsorship

Since TRAC began, our main project has been to sponsor a refugee family in their first year of resettlement through a partnership with MCC. Initially, we intended to sponsor a family of six which required a fundraising goal of $34,000. We set out with big plans for how to raise these funds, but the generosity of our community blew everyone away. Throughout our initial months, we were engaged in a variety of events. These included our Kick-Off Event, a TRAC Night at TWU volleyball games, the Night of Stories, TRAC Day at a Pole Vault meet, Voices for TRAC, Fort-Printing Co.’s Launch, the SAMC disPLACE production, and a Year-End Party. These events allowed us to reach new audiences and to grow closer to our goal.

Another component of our fundraising efforts has included selling merchandise. We started off with an initial order of 22 t-shirts, and ended the semester having sold 376 pieces of merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, crewnecks, and baseball t-shirts! Every single piece of merchandise was hand folded and each order was personalized by name with a TRAC tag. All of the profits from these sales went directly to supporting our family.

Finally, we received constant donations through our online donation registry. Generous individuals contributed for no benefit, and we are so thankful to each and every one of our donors.

The money raised from events, merchandise sales, and donations has resulted in a total of $26,463.43. While this total is below our initial goal of $34,000, consultation with members of the refugee services community and other sponsorship groups led TRAC to change our family size from six to four. This was done to ensure that we provide resources responsibly and effectively and act within our means as a first-time sponsorship group. This smaller family size decreases the originally quoted financial sponsorship requirement, resulting in an amount which has been exceeded after raising $26,463.43.

Reaching and exceeding our goal is a major accomplishment for all of us, and I want to thank each of you that has made this possible. This milestone means that we are moving forward with the sponsorship process and we are working hard to be prepared for the family we will be blessed to do life with.

Volunteering

The volunteering component of TRAC is something we are excited to see continual growth in. We have developed relationships with a variety of fantastic organizations doing work locally and globally. These organizations include the Mennonite Central Committee, the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre, The Kurdi Foundation, KinBrace, PuCKS, Inasmuch, the Refugee and Immigrant Welcome Centre, and New Hope Community Services. We have supported these groups through teaching English, providing childcare, facility maintenance, fundraising and event support, and advertising. We have also connected with other sponsorship groups in the area and are moving towards providing friendship and English support for refugee children. To date, we have had approximately thirty volunteers working with different organizations.

This summer we will continue to have a variety of volunteer opportunities available for TWU students. We are also continuing to seek new partnership opportunities to volunteer locally. Whether you are local or live around the world there are options for you, if you are interested email us at volunteer.trac.twu@gmail.com.

Team Update

Our team has continued to grow since TRAC formed last fall. Each new addition is a talented, caring, and intelligent individual that is ready and eager to contribute their time to mobilize the TWU community in response to the refugee crisis. In total, there are 13 members of our leadership committee with varying responsibilities. We are looking forward to adding first years and others to the group in the fall.

The Future

Moving forward, TRAC is hoping to set-up a scholarship for students who arrived in Canada as refugees. While there is a lot of preliminary work yet to be done, we are hoping to arrange this project to keep the TWU community involved in fundraising and refugee relief.

With purpose and passion,

Jordan and the TRAC team

7 things you need to know about the refugee crisis

1. Why is it a “global” refugee crisis?

Although most attention is put on the Syrian refugee crisis, TRAC wants to emphasize that refugees are coming from all over the world. Displacement is a reality in many countries, even in the Americas. For this reason, TRAC has decided to sponsor a refugee family without preference to their origin.

In 2015, 53% of the world´s refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia[1]. These are all countries suffering from brutal wars. Refugees are also coming from Sudan, Congo DR, China, Colombia, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and others[2].

2. What is a displaced person?

Displaced people are those who are forced to move from their locality or environment and occupational activities due to a number of factors that include armed conflict, natural disasters, famine, development and economic changes[3]. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)[4]. Perhaps the most alarming case is that of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), those who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border. The number of IDPs is hard to measure, they are not eligible for protection under the same international system as refugees, and don´t have a single international body entrusted with their protection and assistance.

3. What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who is outside of their own country, has a well-founded fear of persecution due to his/her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to return[5]. To be considered a refugee, one must be outside their home country and be recognized under refugee status. Among the nearly 65.3 displaced people in the world, 21.3 million have refugee status, over half of whom are under the age of 18[6]. Although refugees themselves are already an area of concern, one must also think about the millions that are Internally Displaced and are not even recognized as refugees, and thus are not eligible for the same refugee protection.

*I must add that there are several shortcomings on this original definition of “refugee” taken after the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. These include the fact that people fleeing environmental conditions or natural disasters cannot receive refugee protection.  Regional instruments such as the “OAU Convention” and the “Cartagena Declaration on Refugees” have expanded the term. For more information on the issue please visit this article from the LSE

4. Who grants the refugee status?

Governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCF) have the primary responsibility of determining who is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law, through a legal process called Refugee Status Determination (RSDs)[7]. In 2013, UNHCR remained responsible for implementing the RSD procedure in more than 50 countries. In another 20 countries, UNHCR conducted RSDjointly with, or parallel to, the governments[8].

5. How many refugees have come to Canada?

From November 4, 2015, to January 29, 2017 Canada has received 40,081 refugees[9]. These come under three different categories: Government Assisted Refugees account for 54% of these refugees, Privately Sponsored refugees for 36% and Blended Visa Office-referred refugees for 10%. British Columbia receives approximately 1664 refugees each year. In 2015, B.C. received refugees from 17 different countries.

6. Under what category does TRAC fall under?

Government Assisted Refugees are those referred to the government by the UNHCR and supported financially by the government for up to one year. Privately Sponsored Refugees are those that are sponsored by a group of people in Canada who volunteer to help them adjust to life in Canada, which includes financial support for up to one year, and emotional and social support that goes further.

Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugees are essentially a mix of both: the UNHCR matches refugees identified for resettlement with private sponsors in Canada. The Government provides 6 months of financial support, and the private sponsors provide for the other 6 months, as well as emotional and social support from the day they come to Canada. TRAC is a sponsorship group working under this category.

7. What does the Bible say about refugees?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”- Leviticus 19, 33-34 (NIV).

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt”- Exodus 23:9

"So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me," says the Lord Almighty”- Malachi 3:5

These are just a few Bible verses among the many that discuss the topic of the foreigner or the neighbour, and how we ought to love them. TRAC firmly believes that it is our Christian duty to care for the refugees in the world. One of the ways we show our love is by learning more about what these people are going through.

After knowing about the issues, we can pray, raise awareness, and act. Thank you for reading through this post. Please, be encouraged to research more about this topic following the links below, and if you want to be involved and contribute, make sure to contact us. Let´s keep spreading awareness and love.

God Bless,

Emilio Rodríguez

 

References:

[1] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] UNESCO, “Displaced person/Displacement”. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/displaced-person-displacement/

[4] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[5] UNHCR, “Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees” http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf

[6]UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”.  http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[7]UNCHR, “Refugee Status Determination”. http://www.unhcr.org/refugee-status-determination.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Government of Canada, “Refugees”. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp

Our Volunteering Experience

“Helping people because people matter” is the motto of the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre (MEFC). Its founders, Adel & Layla Masoud, are two of the most inspiring Christians I have met. They have their own story of hardship, fleeing from Kuwait and coming to Canada in 1997. Now, they feel called to share the love of God with newcomers by giving them a warm welcome to Canada.

The MEFC is a place where “Arabs can meet together, learn from one another, and help one another”. The visitors are mainly Arab newcomers, many of them refugees, who find in the center a safe space to build friendship and to receive help in a wide range of areas that go from job searching to assistance with Canadian tax forms.

Although the center is focused on Arabic culture, visitors from other backgrounds also attend the center. In the same way, volunteers are welcomed regardless of their cultural background, knowledge of Arabic culture, or proficiency in Arab—although any of these are great assets.

Several members of our community have been serving regularly in the MEFC this semester: Noah Bradley, Mary Kate Looby, Andrea Rodriguez, Amy Saya, Sarah Kazanowski, Jordan Koslowsky and myself. It feels like we have been welcomed into a new family where Layla, Adel, the whole staff and visitors of the center have received us with open arms offering their friendship.

We have volunteered by giving ESL classes, playing with the kids while their parents are studying, distributing the donations received, participating in padlocks and community meals and helping out with various chores in the center. Most importantly, we have met amazing people from very different backgrounds and unique stories who are seeking a new life in Canada.

Layla expressed her interest in having volunteers that come to the center for the right reasons: to share the love of Christ, offer their time in friendship and service for others, and treat the visitors with dignity and affection. We as volunteers leave behind the stereotypes, the “us versus them” mentality, or any “hero complex” that hinders the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts, and approach our service with humbleness and willingness to learn from them as well.

Noah Bradley, a 4th year TWU student, was our most active volunteer. He shares his experience while serving as an ESL teacher this semester:

The most valuable thing about teaching English at the MEFC was seeing the enthusiasm and laughter of the students while they were learning. Without those two things, I think the personal connection wouldn’t have been made. You could clearly see that they were happy to be there. I think that gave everyone joy and a special connection.

Joy, friendship, warmth and generosity are some of the things that make the MEFC a home for everyone that visits.

If you want to be a part of the Middle Eastern Friendship Center, here´s your chance! We need volunteers from the TWU community who are staying in the Lower Mainland for the summer and that feel call to give part of their time to share the love of Christ with this newcomers to Canada. Please email tractwu@gmail.com to get more information about your options.

-Emilio Rodríguez

As Christ Loves, We Should Love

March 15 marked the 6th year anniversary of the conflict that is still raging in Syria.  Since then, there have been over 5 million people who have fled the country.  Over the years, this refugee crisis has appeared in other countries like Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia, among others.  Overall, about 11 million people have had to leave their homes to survive.  Thousands of these refugees die on their way to safer countries.  Many of those who have made it to safety have not been integrated into the society of their new home.

My name is Kristen Jones and I am a second year studying Applied Linguistics.  I was oblivious to what was happening with the refugee crisis until recently.  This year, I began to pay attention to what people were saying about this world crisis and I was ashamed that I had ignored this incredibly heart-breaking problem.  As I learned more about the crisis, my heart broke more and more.

I attended Missions Fest in January and sat in on a couple of seminars that spoke about the refugee crisis.  The statistics and stories and experiences were a wake-up call that I desperately needed.  This world is hurting, and I was doing nothing.

This semester, I felt like God was gently pushing me to do more with my time.  I had a new passion to invest myself in people.  And then I heard about TRAC.  I joined the team mid-March, and have been abundantly blessed through it.  God has given me a love for people that I’ve never met, and has handed me an opportunity to help those who need it.  I have learned that as believers, it is our job to notice and care for those who are hurting.  Not just because they need it, but also because through our service they can see God’s love.  Often the best way to share the gospel with someone is through loving them.

Rather than have a specific job on the TRAC team, I fill in where I am needed.  I love listening to people and walking with them through life, and I can’t wait to do this with the refugee family that our team will be sponsoring.  I am excited to work with my team to share Christ’s love and compassion for this family.

I encourage you to continue to read about the refugee crisis.  Don’t let it be good enough for you to just know that there is one.  Learn about it and let the words of people’s stories sink in and register deep in your heart.  I implore you, if you are a Christ follower, to learn more about this issue; and when you know more, let God use you to serve those in need.  We are each called to follow Christ’s example of caring for those in need.

-Kristen Jones

A Story to Remember

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about storytelling. I love how you’re brought into another person’s life and can share their experiences and feel what they’ve felt through a well told story. Unfortunately, many stories don’t have happy endings, and I’ve been impacted by the many heartbreaking stories coming from around the world, but specifically the Middle East and Asia.

My first experience with a refugee crisis was when I was around 10 years old when the Karen came from Myanmar (Burma) into Canada. I didn’t really understand a lot about the situation at the time, but I was happy to help in whatever way I could. At the time, the way in which I could help best was through basketball. Once a week, we’d get a group of guys together both from Canada and Myanmar and we’d just play basketball and hang out together afterwards and talk for a bit. Knowing some of their gruesome stories made seeing us all smiling together playing basketball all the more rewarding.

When I heard the stories that Jordie (TRAC’s Director) told after coming back from the Middle East, I knew that I wanted to help share these stories and the stories of others who were passionate about the refugee crisis. I have a passion for videography and graphic design, and I’m very excited that I can use my skills for such a great cause while glorifying God.

It has been so encouraging to see the support that TRAC has gotten from everyone in and around the TWU community. And after seeing how successful the Karen community has been after such a short period of time, I’m hopeful for the family that we will be bringing in.

Thank you all for your continual prayer and support. I look forward to the day when we can look back and tell this story that is unfolding right now as a message of hope and inspiration for other refugees.

-Matt Hayashi

Hearing & Responding

As being in my first year of university, I’ve been introduced to a lot of new things over the span of these past seven months. I have especially seen the presence of Jesus in amazing ways and have grown so much deeper in my faith, one reason including how I joined TRAC as the events assistant.

During my first semester, I didn’t really know anything about the refugee crisis besides how tragic and devasting it is. I would try to think of how Jesus would respond to this and what He would do, but one day, the Lord revealed to me one passage from the Bible that blew it out of the water. In Matthew 2, when Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. This is when I realized, Jesus was a refugee. A refugee defined is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Of course, this is different from the current Syrian refugee crisis, but it answered the questions I had.

After this and on the night of the TRAC launch event, I had such an overwhelming feeling from the Lord that I needed to join. That night I had a dream I was amidst the refugee crisis and was praying for funds for a refugee family. So immediately, I got in touch with TRAC and told them I wanted to join. My heart has broken so much from this crisis, that I knew I wanted to be involved with this long-term. Ultimately to be able to help in nations at refugee camps and provide settlement to families is what my heart strives for in this crisis.

Through my involvement in TRAC, I’ve seen the beauty of people’s hearts wanting to help something that we’re not all used to hearing about or frankly even seeing. To be attending university, living on campus, and knowing I’m safe is the greatest blessing. So greatly I want to provide others with the same and so much more to help make this difference. As TRAC continues, please pray for the millions of refugees around the world. I pray you are all touched by this and are inspired to help those who desperately are searching for safety and love.

-Celia Jardine

Trust in the Uncertainty

I am a third-year business student, who can shamelessly admit, has no clue where he is going upon completing his degree. Although this has been frustrating at times, it has left me with no other choice than to trust God with my future. My decision to be involved with TRAC and the refugee crisis came from this trust. It made me realized that life is full of uncertainty.

Will I ever see my family again? Will I be able to provide for them? Will I have a physical structure to call home tomorrow? All these questions relate to the uncertainty a refugee may feel on an every-day basis. This is how the crisis spoke to me. Not being involved almost seemed as if I was declining the emulation of the love and care God has for everyone. I believe that the comfort experienced through trusting in God must be shared. This very comfort spawns from the love that He has for us– the same love we are called to seek out and spread and the same love that does not completely remove uncertainty, but that leads us to peace through the confidence in the safekeeping of our future in His hands.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. God is preparing us through TRAC to do His good works. Even though we approach the summer and the following months with uncertainty, the trust everyone involved in TRAC has in God is what encourages us to keep pushing closer towards our goal. I hope that TRAC’s efforts can motivate others to keep trusting in Him, including the family we will be welcoming here.

The image above shows a road leading into the fog. An individual standing at the very beginning of the road does not know what lies ahead. The only ones who do know are those who live beyond the fog. Similarly, the family we will sponsor is uncertain of what lies ahead. But, what the family doesn’t know is that by only the grace of God, TRAC is in the process of preparing a future for them beyond the fog of uncertainty.

-Carter Perran

Passion

I choked back tears, struggling to maintain my composure as I watched the recurring scene play out in front of me.  The kids simply couldn’t understand each other and the frustration was increasing.  One was explaining the game repeatedly in an exasperated tone and the other was trying to follow and respond in patchy English with a look of terror and embarrassment on her face.

I have been passionate about working with refugees for almost a year now, since refugee children started flooding the Surrey school system and my after school fitness programs for at-risk youth.  These sweet souls didn’t speak the same language as their peers and leaders, they didn’t have snacks when most of the other kids did, they didn’t understand any of the games or activities, they wore shorts and tank-tops in the snow; they were clearly different and it was hard.

Working with these kids during their first 4 months in Canada as they transitioned into a new culture and language, after experiencing such trauma transformed me and stretched me in ways I never expected.  I saw what a tangible support I could be to hurting hearts who were going through unimaginable internal and external conflict. What I didn’t realize then is that Jesus was planting a seed and preparing my heart for an undeniably passionate love.

When I heard Jordie’s vision for TRAC, I was immediately captivated by his authentic passion.  There aren’t too many things that light a fire in me more than listening to people speak with genuine love and commitment.  I saw Jesus in the faces of every picture shown in his presentation, and heard the laughter of my little Syrian friends in my head.  TRAC’s mission spoke to me and gave me the palpable way to continue to pursue growth for that seed in my heart that I had been craving.

Its so easy to feel helpless when we look at the map and see all of the pain in the world. Countries suffering from war, hurricanes, persecution, corruption, poverty... pull up any news channel and the list goes on.  However, overshadowing all of that tribulation, I see hope because I know that the Savior we serve loves redemption. No offence or suffering can exhaust the depths of His love. Our world is a beautiful mess, as overwhelming brokenness becomes whole by the grace of Jesus' redemptive heart.  Through TRAC we desire to be Jesus’ hands and feet, playing a small part in healing brokenness in our shattered world through Christ’s power, even if it’s just the brokenness of one family.

My name is Malia Scholz, I’m a first year in Kinesiology at Trinity Western and the Volunteer Coordinator for TRAC.  This role fits my passion for the refugee crisis and for working with people perfectly.  I am so excited to see how Jesus’s vast redemption and love continues to mold hearts to love His children like He does, through TRAC.  As individuals, we are relatively insignificant pieces in this massive world, but by allowing Christ’s immeasurable power to work in our weakness we are believing that the Lord will perform healing even beyond our goals for TRAC.

-Malia

Fuelled by Love

Canada is a multi-cultural nation. This is why I didn’t think the refugee crisis was important for me to be educated on because I thought it wasn’t too hard to apply for refugee status within Canada. But the fact is that Canada has the space and resources to have more refugees and yet we haven’t increased the amount of people that we are welcoming into the country.

Psalm 82:3 says “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.”

As Christians, I feel that it is our mission to help those when we are given the chance to get involved. In December I went on a missions trip to Mexico and saw the poverty of a country that is so connected to us. I came home with an ache in my heart and felt the need to get involved in something that would make a difference for people who couldn’t be heard by the masses.

I saw TRAC as my opportunity to make a difference for people on the other side of the world while I could still focus on being a student. I’ve always had this desire to get involved in something that feels important to me. After I attended the initial launch event, I felt this need pressed on my heart that I had to get involved in what TRAC was doing. I talked to Jordan right away and expressed this and he welcomed me to the team. Now in my role as merchandise coordinator, I have the opportunity to contribute my time and skills to a cause that I am passionate about. This is why TWU is so special. Here we can adopt a cause that our whole community can get behind.

-Miranda Friesen