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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”.
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.