Heather Geertsma and Aviv Telang joined Renew Church, the new church blend in Missasauga, Ontario (Bartley Sawatsky, lead pastor), several months ago. As they set down roots with the church family, they also paid close attention to the refugee crisis in Syria, which is displacing thousands of Syrian families from their homes.
The couple keenly felt the disconnect: they had a home church and their brothers and sisters in Christ across the world did not even have a home.
“We feel moved to help,” said Heather.
“The Syrian refugee situation is the largest crisis in the world right now. It cries out for action. We want to help and this seems like a good way to do it. It was my husband that came home one day from work and said we should sponsor a family. I agreed and we started our research.”
They came up with a plan: partner with others in their church, in the form of a private sponsor group, and bring a displaced family to Canada.
Undertaking a venture of this magnitude is no easy task. The couple is looking for four additional families who will join the group, “who are willing to make a serious commitment of time, money and resources to bring a displaced family to Canada,” says Heather. She notes that Canada is one of only two countries in the world that allow private citizens to sponsor unrelated families (even the US doesn’t allow this), so living in Canada gives them a unique opportunity.
As does their place as a part of a church – not only the local church in Missasauga, but a global church that can gather around them to pray, give resources, and come alongside them as partners. Over the last several months, they have spent time researching, praying, and preparing for the next step.
“We hope that first God will guide us in this process of simply getting our application off the ground,” Heather says. “Once we have completed the application and are able to welcome a refugee family, we pray that God will use our service to witness to the family, our church, and our neighborhood. We would like this service to bring glory back to God’s name, by providing to those who cannot return the favor (Luke 14:13,14).”
As the husband-wife team have started their journey with this initiative, they have already felt God changing them. “Due to this commitment, God is already moving in my heart,” says Heather. “It struck me that I felt more alive due to this service opportunity. I thought to myself – if I don’t feel alive at times, it’s because I’m not letting Jesus use me – we become like the old vessels before our rebirth.”
But they are, as their church’s namesake implies, renewed.
The Geertsmas currently have four families committed to the project and have sent out an application to be matched with a SAH (sponsorship agreement holder). They are still accepting cash donations. As they continue the process as a partnership with their church, don’t forget to pray for their efforts. Send Heather a letter of encouragement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.