Mim Wickett, the coordinator of Tenth's Refugee Ministry, pauses to reflect on the past 12 months. Together we celebrate the good and mourn the difficult things.
For all of us, 2020 will be an unforgettable year...though I think most of us would just prefer to forget the majority of it! But for the Tenth Refugee Support Ministry, 2020 was a season of flourishing. Dozens of new friendships were made, with some life-transforming experiences for newcomers and the Tenth team alike.
This year Tenth was able to provide housing for 4 new households of asylum seekers—either in the Killarney Park newcomers house, by supplementing the rent in market housing, or through the generosity of Tenth members providing space in their homes.
During the summer, 25 refugees were able to enjoy the truly Canadian experience of camping! For a week at Pioneer Pacific Camp on Thetis Island, many firsts occurred—kayaking, swimming in the ocean, canoeing, collecting crabs, trampolining, roasting marshmallows, sleeping in a tent, and riding bikes.
Our twice-monthly community gatherings grew exponentially when we transitioned to the Zoom platform. Isolation took its toll and the online format allowed many more people to participate from across the Lower Mainland. Over 60 refugees participated in our online gatherings throughout the year, and joined together in the summertime for a meet-up in the park.
We welcomed new partners from other churches who were excited to participate in such a vibrant ministry. A Tenth member had the vision to rent a storage garage so we could expedite the flow of donated furniture and household items. One of the dentists in the congregation received a steady flow of clients who desperately needed his services.
God brought the blessings of new jobs, kids starting in new schools, food on many tables, and winter clothes in many closets. Newcomers practiced English with new friends and participated in weekly lessons to help them pass their driver’s tests.
There were hardships too. Stress, anxiety, and depression are a large part of refugee experiences and were made worse this year by worries for family health back home and the forced separation from local support systems. There were health concerns, car accidents, loss of living situations, marriage stress, unscrupulous lawyers, and unresolved tensions between friends.
At the brink of 2021, we wait with anticipation for what God will do as we continue to journey with these new neighbours. At the heart of this ministry is the great love Jesus gives, and it is overflowing. A few weeks ago a 7-year-old boy, who walked with great trepidation across the border with his mother and 2 younger siblings last February, painted a large picture for his wall. It was of parks and playgrounds and people, and on the top, he had entitled it “Community”.
Despite all, 2020 has been an unexpected gift.