Amal and Mohammad, Loay’s parents, celebrated his birth in early 2013, when the war in Syria was growing more violent by the day. In this Syrian family’s hometown, bombings were becoming a regular occurrence and many families were forced to flee for their safety. Shortly after Loay’s birth, Amal and Mohammad took their firstborn son and fled the only home they had ever known. They hoped to come back someday. Loay’s name, meaning small but strong, was a symbol of their resilience and determination to carry on until their return to Syria. Resettlement to a third country such as Canada was an option that rarely crossed their minds.
“What is our community going to do?” asked a small church congregation in Drayton, Ontario, when confronted with image after image of the pain and suffering of Syrian refugees
“What is our community going to do?” asked a small church congregation in Drayton, Ontario, when confronted with image after image of the pain and suffering of Syrian refugees such as Amal, Mohammad and Loay. It was late in the year 2015. The Canadian public was beginning to learn more about the dire crisis taking place halfway around the world.
Conditions were very poor in Zaatari Refugee Camp for the young Syrian family. Shortly after arriving at this dusty UNCHR-sponsored tent city, Amal and Mohammad left and made their way towards the city of Irbid. They hoped the relocation might offer better living conditions and work opportunities. Shortly after they arrived in the city of nearly 2 million people, they began volunteering with the Red Cross to support other Syrian refugees. Mohammad distributed hygiene kits and Amal led cooking classes. “In helping others,” they said, “we forgot our problems.”
While in Jordan, their second child, a daughter, was born. They named her Lama, which means beauty and hope in Arabic. Their belief was that the chaotic world around them still held evidence of both.
Like the church congregation in Drayton, Amal and Mohammad were constantly being inundated with media reports about the devastation in Syria and of the harrowing journeys that Syrian refugees were taking to cross the Mediterranean. This forced them to reflect on the sad possibility that they might never be able to return to Syria. Mohammad saw these desperate journeys across the Mediterranean as acts of bold hope. He began to consider trying to seek a new life in Europe with his family. “Every boat that crosses the sea, my soul goes with them. Let me try, even if I sink,” he said.
At the same time, Canada was beginning to discuss how it would respond to the growing Syrian refugee crisis. Amal and Mohammad became increasingly aware that resettlement to a third country, such as Canada, might be the most hopeful option for their future. Slowly, they forced themselves to reorient their vision from dreams of returning home to Syria to dreams of beginning a new life in Canada.
On Nov. 27, 2015, Amal and Mohammad received a life-changing phone call from a UNHCR representative in Jordan. One of the mandates of the UNHCR is to refer refugees to other countries of safety. The couple was asked if they wanted to resettle in Canada. Without hesitation, Mohammad excitedly told the woman on the other end of the line that this was the voice of hope for which his family had been waiting.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Drayton Reformed Church had made a decision to sponsor a family as a way to respond in compassion to the refugee crisis in the Middle East. After making this commitment to welcome a family, momentum and support quickly developed.
The church’s enthusiasm faced a significant challenge when trying to be matched with a refugee family. At the time, Canadian government officials were trying to keep up with the enormous public groundswell of support for the cause of Syrian refugee resettlement.
Finally, in March 2016 a match was made. Amal, Mohammad, Loay, and Lama would be resettling in the small town of Drayton, Ontario. The church congregation was elated, and began mobilizing in preparation to welcome the family.
In June of 2016, Mohammad, Amal and their two children arrived in Canada. Loay, now almost four years old, was thrilled to fly inside one of the big planes he had often seen flying overhead in Jordan.
Once in Drayton, Ontario, the family immersed themselves fully in Canadian life. After attending a Canada Day celebration they remarked, “Canada is so organized.” While the family is grateful for their new peaceful life, they pray every day for family and friends that remain in Syria.
“I don’t think you are a human – you are an angel,” Amal tells Cori often.
Amal has made a very close bond with a member of the sponsorship committee named Cori. “I don’t think you are a human – you are an angel,” Amal tells Cori often.
Mohammad has taken great initiative in launching a painting business named, “The Man with the Brush.” He is very grateful for the support and mentoring he has received from Bill, a member of Drayton Reformed Church. This business has had a very good start and is well-recognized within the local community.
Amal, too, dreams one day of opening her own business, with aspirations of owning either a restaurant or a florist shop. Amal’s eyes light up when she is asked about these dreams, and she has no doubts that soon she will turn those dreams into reality.
Amal, Mohammad, and their family have settled very well into the Drayton community. They feel blessed by the enfolding welcome of not only Drayton Reformed Church but the entire town.
With God’s Grace, Drayton Reformed Church and World Renew have been able to walk alongside Amal, Mohammad, Loay, and Lama as they settle in Canada. While the sponsorship period has recently ended, the relationships formed through it continue to grow richer.
World Renew is grateful for your continued support of this life-changing ministry and ask that you prayerfully consider joining us in walking alongside refugees as they establish new lives in Canada. Every refugee has fled conflict and persecution that we can hardly imagine; each refugee is precious in God’s eyes, each an image-bearer of our Creator.
This piece represents the beginning of World Renew’s Refugee Sponsorship Storytelling Project. A new story will be posted to World Renew’s website each month until the end of 2018.
We would love to talk with you about what’s involved in becoming a refugee sponsor. If you would like more information or have questions, we strongly encourage you reach out to Rebecca Walker, Refugee Coordinator:
- by phone: 1-800-730-3490
- by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org