For July and August we like to change things up by meeting outside at Beasley Park. This year our summer theme is Testify! We are going to be sharing about how our personal stories intersect with the story of Jesus.
We meet right beside 55 Elgin St (affectionately nicknamed Fort Elgin). Bring a blanket or a chair to be comfortable. If it rains we just head inside to Fort Elgin. Although we have never been accused of being formal, these park gatherings are very creative, laid back and inter generational.
On Sunday June 11th we participated in a TrueCity project called “Welcome the Stranger.” The idea was to get churches in the TrueCity network to talk/think/pray on the same day about welcoming and supporting Newcomers into our city. There is something profound to everyone tackling the same topic at the same time. It is an act of solidarity not just with the other TrueCity churches but also with newcomers in Hamilton and refugees around the world still waiting for a safe place to live.
Susan Neudorf shared some stories of volunteering at Prince of Wales School in a class with a number of Newcomer students. She talked about how these kids are the first Muslims that she has had a relationship with. She tries to help them with their English and is very thankful for Google Translate. As they get closer to the end of the school year Susan has been teaching the kids some board games and card games. Some of the kids have talked about their parents having a hard time learning English because they don’t get to spend all day at school.
As I was researching for our Welcome the Stranger gathering, most of the information I found focused on the Refugee Highway, facts and figures and reasons people have become Refugees. It seemed like a lot of the info was focused on convincing people that this is an important Justice issue. As a church that is in the middle of a Refugee Sponsorship we thought that most of our people were already convinced of the importance of getting involved, so we focused our time differently.
We named that the biblical story is a Story of Refugees & Newcomers. The Jewish people were told by God in Deuteronomy 10:19 to “…love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus and his parents were also refugees, fleeing for their lives back to Egypt. God’s story is tied to the story of those who have no home.
We gave an update on where our own refugee sponsorship was at. We were happy to announce that we are now at the minimum amount of money needed for our sponsorship to happen. We emphasized that this number was very low and just covered the bare necessities (of things like housing) and that we would continue to fund raise to off set other costs that will most definitely come up along the way. We then watched a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) video of another group’s sponsorship journey to help us start to get a picture of what our own future might look like.
Because we are in the waiting period of our sponsorship project, there isn’t a lot that can be done right now. That can sometimes feel frustrating but there is at least one thing that we can do, and that is to be praying. We spent the majority of our time praying for Newcomers and Refugees. We started praying for our smaller local circles and then moved outwards to more global circles.
We prayed for:
People we know who are supporting Newcomers in Hamilton.
Newcomers we have met in Hamilton.
The specific family we are sponsoring that is waiting in a refugee camp in Jordan.
People waiting in Refugee Camps around the world.
Workers and Volunteers helping in Refugee Camps.
People who are still in the countries others are fleeing (both those who stay by choice and those who are forced to stay)
Aid workers and organizations working in countries that are unsafe and unstable.
The Leaders and people with power who are causing this refugee crisis. We prayed that these people who have abused their power would change their ways or that they would lose their power to hurt others.
After we prayed we sang a song called All Ye Refugees by Sandra McCracken. This song has become an important one for us as Commoners (we have even added it to our Hymn-o-tangs). We are very thankful that Sandra has posted the sheet music (for free!) on her website.
We ended our gathering by watching a fun video I got to be part of Last Christmas. The video was an IWC commercial for their Beard Balm fundraiser with 4 guys talking/bragging about their beards. 2 of us were born in Canada, 2 of us were born in Syria, and all of us now live in Hamilton. Not only did I get to live out my dream of being a beard model, I also got to find out how much I had in common with these other beautiful bearded fellows.