Pastor Darin Phillips and Amber Kinsey. (Gerry Beltgens photo)

Ladysmith church extends hand to Syrian refugeess

Oceanview Church holds paint night to support Syrian refugees

Gerry Beltgens Special to the Chronicle

Oceanview Church lives by the tenets “Love God, love others, serve the world.”

And that means their good works go beyond the borders of Ladysmith.

Members of the church have launched a campaign to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada and are nearly halfway toward the $40,000 needed to help make it happen.

“We have a supportive congregation,” said Pastor Darin Phillips. “Their heart is already there.”

The process started, when the congregation met with a family that had made it and heard their story. A Syrian family that had settled in Nanaimo had invited the pastor and his family to dinner. They spoke of their close relations living as refugees in Turkey.

After hearing the story, the congregation began to research the process of bringing that family to Canada.

Canada took in 40,000 Syrian refugees but Turkey has taken in 3.5 million. They are living throughout the country in designated areas and cannot travel out of their area without a special travel document. The refugees are not legally allowed to work so they must scrape up work for low cash wages. Living conditions are dire.

It was estimated that the project would cost the church around $40,000. It was agreed that the fundraising would be separate from the regular community fundraising so as to not impact local projects.

Elements involved in bringing the family to Ladysmith includes finding housing, productive work, appropriate food, education and english classes and access to health care. Planning would need to include a commitment to support the family both physically and financially as needed for a full year.

The paper work alone is time consuming and costly with translation costs running up to 28 cents per word. Thankfully they have been able to work with a local interpreter to keep costs down.

The fact that Oceanview Church is Christian and the family is Muslim was not a big barrier. Christians and Muslims were part of a fabric of support for refugees along their migration path. While Syria is predominantly Muslim, 10% or roughly 1.8 million Syrians are Christian.

Amber Kinsey, a new member of the community, stepped up to lead the project. When the plan was put to the congregation it was approved with 95% support in October 2018.

The congregation raised $1,800 at the first meeting, $4,000 at a Christmas event and $16,000 within the first month and a half. The Nanaimo family had moved to Vancouver for work and housing by this time but came back to Ladysmith to participate in the Christmas fundraiser and Facetimed with the family in Turkey and congregation.

Oceanview Church continues to fundraise as the immigration and government paperwork progresses. The next project is a Paint Night to be held at the Church Hall on May 4.

They are also taking orders for sea soil and will be selling bags at the church April 18 and 24 with a Spring Garden and Plant sale finishing things off on May 25. Call 250-245-2113 or check the Oceanview Facebook page for more information.

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