When a close friend called on him to coordinate a Somali family’s move to Nova Scotia, Rev. John Postuma couldn’t say no. But in the next six months of ironing out logistics, his day job as a pastor never came up.
“As Christians, we don’t have a choice if God puts these people on our way,” says the Christian Reformed Church regional pastor, adding that it’s the work of the Great Commission. “The nations of the world have come to our very doorsteps.”
On the run since Somalia’s civil war began in 1991, Abdulkadir Abdi, his wife Hawa and their six children left a Kenyan refugee camp bound for Kentville, Nova Scotia in April 2016.
Seeking a larger Somali community, the Muslim family moved to Hamilton one year later. But after months of trying to find their footing – at first living in a shelter and then unable to find work – they yearned for their East Coast home.
But Postuma had a long to-do list first.
While Fundy Express Transport in Kentville donated space for the furniture, the truck couldn’t legally park on their street. Postuma borrowed a nearby Christian Reformed Church’s parking lot and two friends with pick-up trucks pitched in to shuttle furniture.
An Anglican church rounded up boxes and a friend who owns a moving company chipped in mattress covers, plastic wrap and tips to pack the truck. On move day in late May, eight volunteers did the heavy lifting.
While most of the family would fly – just avoiding a rumoured WestJet strike – there was another hiccup: Hawa was eight months pregnant and couldn’t join them. Luckily, a relative of the Nova Scotia team offered to drive. While the family’s 18-year-old van was safety-checked, it broke down and had to be sold to a tow truck driver to finish the trip out in a rental car.
Catalyst for Christ
Throughout the process, Postuma had to navigate more than logistics.
With their oldest child as interpreter, the Abdis relied on him to make sense of Canadian life, from credit card bills to driver’s licence restrictions.
“Every time I came, he showed me another piece of paper or mail,” recalls Postuma, who turned to God when he felt in over his head. “It stretches us beyond our comfort zone. I see myself more as a catalyst for Christ. I could not do it myself – it’s done in community.”
That community stretched across church lines, drawing together Anglican, Baptist and Christian Reformed churches.
It’s a scene playing out across Canada.
The UN Refugee Agency says Canada has resettled 42,901 refugees since May 2015. According to a recent public opinion study by the Angus Reid Institute and Christian think-tank Cardus, half of surveyed new Canadians credit religious communities with finding a job or housing or learning a new language.
The UN agency estimates nearly one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds due to conflict or persecution – totalling 68.5 million people worldwide.
“It’s an opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to demonstrate Matthew 25: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me,’” says Postuma, who gave the Abdis a parting gift: a card stuffed with his monthly thanks offering. “It was very emotional when I said goodbye. The more I met the family and engaged in their lives, the more I grew to love them.”
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