Shima and Mary’s Story
This is the season when we highlight some of the compassion projects we are involved in, and so it is only right to share a very special way that our church has been acting in a compassionate way. Many of you don’t know that nearly four years ago, through the Missions Office, our church leadership was introduced (remotely) to a Christian single mother and her daughter who had fled their home in Iran in hopes of finding some refuge. They ended up living with no legal status in Cypress. However, they were at great risk of deportation and possible execution for their faith if they were found. When the story of this family was shared with the leadership, it was decided that we as a church would sponsor them in hopes of bringing them to Canada where freedom, safety and ultimately a new life could begin.
A number of church staff and volunteers worked tirelessly on the initial application as this was new ground for us. Once the entire application was submitted to Immigration Canada, the clock started ticking with an estimated 36-month wait time for an interview. During this wait time, the only way we could be updated on the file was via fax every six months and only through the officially designated person. Due to civil war, the official embassy managing their file changed three times throughout the process. Over the course of the four years, there was communication to the mother and her church, but it was difficult. How does one provide hope with a process one does not know will actually end with the result we wish for? The fluctuations in the mother’s emotional and psychological wellbeing could be noted over the course of the communication. It was a difficult scenario for all involved. On this side, we felt helpless and often doubted if we were doing all that we could. On the other side, this mom was struggling to find work and stay safe while at the same time doing all she could to protect and provide for her daughter.
The end of May this year a huge door opened when we were informed that a formal interview had finally been granted by the embassy. The day after their interview, their case was accepted and the final process began to bring them over to Canada. Over the next few months, a lot of work was done to get all the details in place. But one huge issue would need to be overcome — how does someone leave a country they have been living in illegally? You don’t just walk up to immigration counter and get easy passage when you have been living illegally. It was a huge struggle and fear. We knew once they were on the final plane to Canada all would be well, but we didn’t know if they would ever get that chance.
There were many emotional phone calls and emails and yet, through it all, God was glorified. Even though they were detained at the airport in Cypress until the last minute, they witnessed (and through them we have also witnessed) many miracles, such as boarding passes being granted after travel documents were scrutinized. Immigration officers being brought to tears and advocating for her release from Cyprus and finally making it onto a plane on the only day the airline wasn’t striking that week. Again, during the connection in Germany, God showed up through a Persian-speaking Air Canada supervisor who recognized their travel documents at final boarding for the flight that would take them to Canada. Then, for all of us waiting to see if they would actually walk of that plane and into Canada, God showed up as they walked through that door in the Calgary airport. God’s name was praised! He has been so faithful! Now we have the privilege to introduce you to some very special women — Shima and her daughter Mary (age 14) who are now a special part of our CrossRoads family. Welcome to your new home!
Shima and Mary arrived safely to their ‘new home’ on October 22. They were immediately taken in by a generous family here at CrossRoads. Together with the MMT, the church is assisting them as they take steps to start their new life here in Alberta. Mary started school the first week here and has been taking part in the youth events. Shima has also jumped in quickly by starting English classes 2 times a week and by coming to our Thrive event each Wednesday. Then, exactly one month after their arrival, Shima and Mary moved into their own place! Little by little this family is finding ways to make Red Deer their home.
All of this is good and we are thankful for those that have already blessed this family, but we need to keep in mind they have a long road ahead of them before they can actually feel and be settled. As their church and as their sponsors, we want to invite you to join in that process. If you or your family would be able to step into the lives of this mother and daughter, they could use your support. We would love to see a couple of you choose to intentionally support this family. They will need immediate assistance in the practical things such as setting up their new home or giving them rides around town but they will also need friendship, community and prayer support over the long run. Please consider how would God have you join us in welcoming this family.
For more on how you can help, please email Pastor Tracy at TracyM@CrossRoadsChurch.ca