FOUR SEASONS IN CANADA
At the end of this month (December 2016) I will mark 10 years since I left home, Eritrea. Helen will have few more months to go after me to complete 10 years. We lived most of that period as refugees.
Being a refugee had been very uncomfortable for us until early this year. What is wrong with being a refugee? Did Jesus’ not live as a “refugee” in Egypt? Well, being a refugee as we had experienced it as a family in the past is being vulnerable. Think of someone refusing to sit at a table where you are, for a meal because of you being a refugee. How would you feel? Think of someone avoiding the seat next to yours in a bus. Think of a policeman threatening to destroy your documents and arrest you if you don’t give him the money he demands. Etc…. All these: just because you are a refugee. Won’t you want to get out of such a situation? Well, I wanted. Helen wanted. My daughters wanted too. We all prayed to be out of that situation. We asked friends and family members to pray for us in this regard, and God answered the prayers at the right time.
Wait a minute, here, I want to make it clear that by mentioning these challenges I don’t mean to undermine the positive sides of being a refugee – at least for me. The first thing, it made us put our trust in God firmly. Secondly, we had some freedoms that we enjoyed, including freedom of worship that we didn’t have at home. At home even carrying a bible in public was a risky venture, whether you read it or not – forget about sharing from it.
Therefore I am so grateful to my former host country. Despite the challenges, here and there, as I had began to mention above, it gave me some freedoms that I never enjoyed while at home.
Believing that it would reduce our vulnerability and challenges, one of my dear friends offered to sponsor us to come to Canada. As a result we came to Canada towards the end of February 2016. Let me share some of my experience in Canada from the last ten months.
ENCOUNTER WITH SNOW AND COLD WEATHER
None of the four of us had any experience with snow, and extreme cold weather. Our first exposure was in Winnipeg, Canada; when we exited from the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. We had just exited the airport building and were heading to my friends’ cars. Yes, that was the time we first happened to be physically present where snow is. It was very cold. Shamna tried to uncover her ears – she was not used to that type of coverings, and said, “Why does the cold want to take my ears?”
Despite the exhaustion from the long flights the girls kept asking, “Dad, can we play in the snow? We want to make snow man, and snow balls…” Ironically the snow was not that exciting for their Mom and Dad. So they had to wait about 2 weeks for their Mom and Dad to let them play in and with snow. They loved it, and later we loved it too! It is beautiful!
Few weeks after our arrival to Canada Winter was gone, spring took over. And we kept adjusting. We are still adjusting….
Summer came and it brought a lot of fun for all of us. Going to the nearby park was the girls’ favorite thing. It was lovable for Helen and me to see our girls play freely after all the years we lived in fear and vulnerability as refugees. It was also a unique experience to move around without any fear after all these years.
Fall came. I had thought it is called “fall” because the leaves begin to fall from the trees. But then one morning found lots of snow falling. Hmm, is my understanding of fall getting modified? It is fall, and even snow is falling. May be in fall anything may fall. I should be careful not to let my body slip and fall!
On Sundays, in the morning, we worship in an English service then late in the afternoon we go for Tigrigna (Eritrean) service. Both services are different from the ones we were used to in the past. Yet we love them. In the English Services church we have a great privilege to learn from the pastor’s wonderful and deep sermons. In the Eritrean Church we have the privilege to still have the taste of “home”. Have the opportunity to know almost everybody in the church. (Well this is a tiny church. That makes it easy to know every body). There, I also get opportunities to preach from time to time, and once I had the opportunity to do a training on Biblical Orality – Simply The Story approach. It ran for 5 Sundays and 2 Saturdays. We had about 25 attendants.
I joined the Kairos Course Facilitators team in Edmonton. I had written about Kairos Course in my past blog updates. So far I participated in conducting one Kairos Course few months ago. If my memory serves me well, 19 people attended. There is one scheduled for February next year.
Canadian friends of Chinese origin
Edmonton has lovely people from all over the world! Among them are people with Chinese descent. There is a Chinese church from which I met few people that I have loved SO MUCH. Through them I got some materials that kept me busy studying for some months. And through one of them I am getting to know some gardeners in Edmonton.
God has provided me a job in a way that I had never imagined. I do site management at certain residential apartments complex. There I interact with people of different origins and nationalities. Canadians, Americans, Caribbeans, South Americans, Africans, Asians, people from the Middle East, and Europeans. Different cultures to appreciate! I use the bus and train services to go to work. I use the time in the bus and train to read.
Before coming to Canada I was wondering if I would be able to have opportunity to do some gardening there. Well I believe I am going to have some lovable handling of the Canadian soil from the next spring. Already have contacts for that reason, and attended a half day session on compost making.
Had the opportunity to travel to Ottawa and speak during Eritrean Pastors meeting. Great initiatives taken by the Eritrean pastors to work together to reach out the Eritrean Diaspora in Canada and beyond. The message I delivered was from Nehemiah 3.
Helen and the girls are going to school. The girls love the school. It follows a different system than the one they were used to in Kenya, but they like it. Helen is doing some English course. She has done very well in the past few months. She will continue for the next 2 terms.
We are learning new cultural practices. There is a lot to learn. Some of the practices we come across them as a surprise, some we read. Let me give you 2 examples from the many cultural practices we are struggling to learn. 1- When you speak to someone or someone is speaking to you, look at the person’s eyes. In our culture doing so would mean disrespect and threatening. Not so here, in fact almost the opposite. 2- When in a queue don’t cross arms on chest, it has negative meaning. In our culture, it would mean showing respect to those in the queue. Well the aspect of cultural shock is unavoidable, but it is lovable when you reach to the level of reasoning out and accepting the cultural practice (not necessarily to practice it though).
We have now seen four seasons in Canada – for 10 good months – awarded with freedom and dignity. We can’t be grateful enough to God and the government and people of Canada.
As a child Jesus went to Egypt for safety reasons. Different culture, different religion. Helen and I never meant to leave home at the time we left it. But God had his own agenda in our lives. When I first went to Sudan first I never meant to go beyond it. I thought that would be a safe place where I could live and serve God. We are now here very far not only from home, but also from Soudan (South Sudan and Sudan), the lands and people we dearly love.
We believe our being here at this appointed time is perfectly God’s will. Despite our being far, not only me but also my whole family keeps thinking and praying for South Sudan. For the last 2 years my daughters have continually prayed for the children of South Sudan. At times Fasika prays, “God, please help us to go to South Sudan for Dad to teach the people, and Mom to help the sick.”
We keep following the situation in South Sudan through the media, and from our contacts. There is a lot of need for prayer. We believe God can change everything for good. Please join us in prayer for this beloved country of South Sudan.
In addition we would appreciate your prayers for our continued adjustment, and wise use of our time here as well as opportunities for ministry while here.
Many of our friends had been praying for our coming to Canada, because they know the situation in which we were. Likewise many had been praying and are still praying for our adjustment in Canada. We strongly acknowledge the role of of our friends and ministry colleagues in our lives. We are so grateful for this. We love you and pray for you!
Happy New Year!