How to get involved in welcoming new Canadians to your communityWritten by Josephine Fast
What's inside this article
In Canada, we’re privileged: the world comes to our door. Oftentimes, new immigrants are lonely for family they have left behind, have no job and cannot speak the language. As Christians, we can extend the hand of Christ and do what the Bible encourages us to do – welcome the foreigner.
My youngest son, Riley, volunteered to be a newcomer assistant for his class at school. Whenever new international students arrive, he plays with them at recess, helps them with their schoolwork and shows them around the facilities. Some of these children are now Riley’s dearest friends!
Perhaps your children’s school is looking for parent volunteers to help in classrooms or to assist new students in learning English. The majority of newcomers find the language barrier one of the most difficult parts of their transition into Canada. These people are always looking to practice their English with others who are accepting of their culture and their families. English as a Second Language classes are great places to meet people and help them adjust to life in Canada.
Be a friend
Living in a new country can be isolating when there’s no one to share joys and struggles with. Newcomers can be lonely for the friends and family they have left behind. Our family has made an effort to invite newcomers into our home at different times of the year. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, as well as other holidays, are great times to include people who may never have celebrated these occasions away from their loved ones – or at all! It is a special treat to listen to what life is like around the world and in turn share with our new friends what life is like in Canada.
Organize an event
So much is unfamiliar when first arriving in a new country. The sights, sounds and even the food may seem very strange to our new global friends. Organizing an event where many cultures are celebrated may help immigrants get acquainted with common Canadian foods and customs. God told the Israelites, "Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration" (Deut. 26:11, NLT). Celebrating is a great way for new people to get connected with church families – and an amazing opportunity for the church to meet some very practical needs in the lives of people who are looking for connections.
Start a community welcome team
Some immigrants have sold most of their belongings to come to Canada. A wonderful way to make people feel welcome in the community and address some basic needs is to present newcomers with welcome baskets. Encourage people to donate basic necessities like toiletries, canned goods and information about the community. If you know of a family with children, have your kids go through their toys and find the ones in good condition that they don’t play with anymore.
One year, my daughter and son went through their collection of stuffed animals and picked their best ones to give to the children that were part of a family literacy group I was teaching. Not only did the children receiving these stuffed animals feel blessed, my children were deeply moved when they saw their reaction.
In every community there are lonely people looking to connect with others. As we reach out to those around us, we will be blessed with new friendships, refreshed worldviews and a deeper understanding of the challenges other people endure.
In our own family, these stories have invited us to think more deeply about topics such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, children and war and a host of other tragedies and life circumstances. They have also encouraged us to be more purposeful in meeting people from other countries, sharing with them our friendship and the friendship of Jesus Christ.
Why not take a look around your community right now and plan how your family can reach into all the world from your dining room table? Your life, and the lives of your family members, will be enriched for good.
Josephine Fast lived in Niverville, Manitoba, at the time of publication, with her husband, two sons and three daughters, two of whom were recently adopted from Ethiopia.
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