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February 24, 2016

National staff welcome Syrian refugee family to Canada

National Office staff at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) joined with staff from Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC) late Tuesday night at the Winnipeg International Airport to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

The family’s sponsorship is a joint partnership between the three national offices.

Last fall, CLWR staff members began collecting pledges to sponsor one person. CLWR extended the invitation to the two churches to join the initiative, making it possible to bring an entire family to Canada.

“Last summer our church adopted a policy on welcoming the stranger. It is so wonderful to put that policy into action,” says ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson. “As a church we have also committed ourselves to sponsoring 500 refugees in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. I'm delighted that myself and my colleagues at the National Office will get to participate in this commitment in a hands-on way!”

The husband and wife are in their early thirties, and they both worked as English teachers in Syria. They have two young sons under the age of nine. The family fled to Jordan after the Syrian conflict began and were living in the capital city of Amman before being connected to CLWR in Winnipeg. A relative of the family was also at the airport to greet them and provide them with a place to stay for their first night in Winnipeg.

With just a few days' notice of the family’s arrival, there was a scramble over the weekend to make final arrangements for an apartment, furniture and household items, a phone and groceries to last for the first few days.

Arrangements quickly fell into place thanks to CLWR’s experience in this area. CLWR has been a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government since the 1970s and has been facilitating refugee sponsorships for decades for groups of private Canadians.

“My colleagues and I felt it was time to ‘walk-the-walk’ and become sponsors ourselves,” says Robert Granke, CLWR’s executive director. “I have visited Jordan and met Syrian mothers and fathers who are desperate to resettle in a safe place where they can work, educate their children and become part of a community. We knew we could support a family in this way.”     

This is the first time national office staff from the ELCIC, CLWR and LCC have joined together to sponsor a refugee family.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 114,592 baptized members in 525 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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