"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."
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.”