By Bethany Kaposhi
Cross-Cultural Engagement Team Member
God’s love leads his people to serve in surprising ways. And in doing so, we not only express his love to those in need but are transformed as well.
Between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of displaced people around the world hovered around 40 million. Since 2010, that number has doubled. Currently more than 80 million of our global neighbours have been uprooted from their places of birth, their communities, their homelands. They’ve been forced to leave out of fear for their lives and a desire for freedom.
In response, and hastened by the war in Ukraine, McKernan Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta, developed the Refugee Assistance Ministry (RAM) in April 2022, with the goal of assisting a family to settle in Edmonton. Working with a local refugee support organization called Refugee Bridge, Pastor Dan Schroth connected with a group of nine Ukrainians, consisting of a family of six plus grandma and two female friends. Pastor Dan and the team at McKernan started to walk with them, building relationships via Facebook and Google Translate, and praying for them as they fled Ukraine in May.
While they waited on visas in Poland, the RAM team worked with volunteers from McKernan to raise funds, secure a rental house and furnish it, and gather information on the various processes for setting up healthcare, education, benefits, and more . . . and then we all waited some more. The visa applications took months longer than anticipated, but finally, in early September, they arrived in Edmonton!
The RAM ministry has a hub-and-spoke structure, with a core team of five coordinating the efforts of volunteers in all the areas of need as a family resettles in a new land. The team is set up to provide help with finances, housing and maintenance, transportation, furnishings and clothing, education, homemaking and social needs, medical care, employment, and communications. In this case, the commitment of RAM is to provide for this group’s needs for six months as they put down roots in Edmonton.
As a team, the experience has far exceeded our expectations. In the last five months, we’ve made more than a few mistakes, laughed a lot, cried a little, and learned more about local support services than we ever thought we’d need to know (with so much more to learn). The financial and material donations that came together so quickly blew us away, and we were so often reminded not to limit God with our small asks!
The McKernan family continues to demonstrate true hospitality in serving our Ukrainian family; gathering clothing, providing rides, accompanying the family to countless appointments, expediting medical care, donating dental services, and so much more. And through these acts of service, we are sensing a rising spirit of love and compassion directed outwards from McKernan. God is opening our eyes to the increasing number of immigrants and refugees in Edmonton from all around the world in need of assistance. He’s maturing our faith and giving us opportunities to live out the love of Christ in tangible and practical ways to “the least of these.” Assisting this family has served as a catalyst for the formalization of a ministry we believe is near to God’s heart – care for the stranger. And as we bless others, we too are blessed in the process.
“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 ESV)
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)