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Four Decades of Sponsorship

Canadian CRCs have supported more than 7,500 refugees over the past 40 years.

Maria was only five years old when she came to Canada nearly 40 years ago. Her family fled their home in Cambodia during the Vietnam War, after American bombs destroyed their village and killed many neighbours. They finally found safety in a refugee camp in Thailand, from which they left for Canada.

It was a very special Sunday in April 1980 when deacons at Maranatha Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Cambridge, Ont., shuttled her family of eight to church for the first time. Attending church became a regular event for Kim Tang, the family’s matriarch; her oldest daughter Phorn with her husband Somchanh and their three children Cheng, Chong and Eng; and Kim’s younger daughters Maria and Jenny. Sadly, Mr. Tang Sr. had died in the refugee camp.

I remember how we embraced each other and how responsive the congregation was to meeting the Tang family’s needs.

Maria is one of several thousand refugees who have come to Canada sponsored by CRC churches under World Renew’s Sponsorship Agreement with the federal government. This year we celebrate 40 years of refugee sponsorship! Since 2000, 3,644 applications have been submitted through World Renew and 1,477 refugees received into Canada! Prior to that we don’t have accurate records, but those numbers are also in the thousands.

Maria tells me that her mother Kim, now in her late 80s, is doing well. She has 9 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren! Somchanh and Phorn own their own home, which is also the case for their children. Although Somchanh and Phorn are retired, they still run a catering business from their home. Phorn says she will bring something delicious to sample to the anniversary celebration in Hamilton! 

  • Rick DeGraaf, a former Christian Courier columnist, invites people in the Hamilton, Ont., area to a Refugee Sponsorship celebration at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Hamilton District Christian High.

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