Brother's Keepers: Paradise group considers sponsoring another refugee family

Published on February 15, 2017

Rev. Paul Carline, director of Intercultural Ministries with the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, was in Paradise on Sunday, Feb. 12 to update the Paradise Baptist Church congregation on the latest plans to bring refugees to the region. He said the need still exists. Representative from other refugee support groups in Middleton, Bridgetown, Bear River, and Digby also attended.

©Lawrence Powell

PARADISE - The group that was first to start the process of bringing refugees to the region through the Baptist Church is looking at doing it again.

Paul Carline couldn’t be happier. He’s the director of Intercultural Ministries with the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada and spent Sunday in Paradise where just two years ago a tiny congregation -- struggling to survive – brought an Iraqi mother and her five daughters halfway around the world and cared for them for a year.

“They were our first church out of the block,” said Carline of Saint John, NB. “I had just sent an email to our national office saying we were going to set a goal of bringing 50 families to Atlantic Canada (which was a huge step for us because before that we were only sponsoring about one family a year). I had no sooner sent that email than my phone rang and it was Gordon Hay, one of the leaders of the church here saying that they felt – they’d never done anything like this before -- and felt that God wanted them to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. To me it was a gift. It was just a confirmation that we were heading in the right direction.”

To me it was a gift. It was just a confirmation that we were heading in the right direction. Paul Carline

Followed Through

Carline and his assistant, plus numerous church and community groups, have been responsible for bringing 100 refugee families – 500 people – to Atlantic Canada over the past two years.

It started with Hay and the group Paradise Refugee Support.

“I came out here to meet with them,” Carline said. “It was March 7, 2015. Twenty people in Gordon and Carol’s living room from about nine different churches and various communities. So it was wonderful that the Paradise group organized, not just the little church here, but they partnered with the Bridgetown church and with the community. It was a community effort.”

But Carline was further amazed that not only did they sponsor a refugee family, the Paradise group helped to start about six other groups that also sponsored families -- and conducted a lot of the training in this area.

Still Sponsoring

“We’re still letting churches know that it’s still possible to sponsor. There’s still lots of refugees out there,” said Carline. “About a third of the refugees we’ve sponsored in the last two years were non-Syrians so people have been open to refugees of all nationalities, and I hope that continues. Of course the Syrian situation is still a crisis in the Middle East.”

“We’re exploring the idea to see what the next step might be,” said Hay after Carline updated those who met in the basement of the Paradise Baptist Church Sunday. There were representatives from groups in Middleton, Bear River, Bridgetown, and Digby. “There’s a lot of people who feel the need to help their neighbor. They’re not just keeping it as their neighbor next door but their global neighbours. A lot of good people, big hearts, wanting to help somebody else.”

“What we wanted to do today was to bring together some people who had been involved in recent refugee sponsorship and just take a pulse and see if there’s an opportunity to move forward in that way in the future, in the near future actually,” said Paradise Pastor Mark Reece. “I think there’s some rumblings here in Paradise for that kind of movement and we’d like to honour that if that exists. And in doing that we think we’d be honouring the Lord in that work.”

The Baptist churches in Paradise and Bridgetown sponsored an Iraqi refugee family in 2015. Now there is talk of sponsoring a second family. A meeting was held Sunday, Feb. 12 at the Paradise United Baptist Church with Rev. Paul Carline updating the congregation and representatives from four other communities about the current need for refugee support. You can find the Paradise Refugee Support Group on Facebook.

©Lawrence Powell

Need Exists

Reece said Carline identified and underscored the need that exists in places like Syria and the Middle East, and even in East Africa.

“So there is encouragement to continue in the work and not give up based on the need that exists globally,” Reece said.

“What we’re seeing an increase in now is groups helping already-arrived families to bring their relatives,” said Carline. “Sort of the echo effect, which is our priority. That’s the kind of sponsorship that we really are encouraging. Family re-unification is a wonderful thing. It helps the first family to settle and it helps the second family to settle well because they have relatives to receive them.”

Carline stressed that these would only be relatives that are refugees themselves.

That doesn’t necessarily apply to the Paradise group because their Iraqi family moved to Toronto last fall. But there are plenty of other ideas to explore and Carline explained many of them.


Need To Do More

“We’ve been discussing that we need to do something more, that it’s not enough to come to church and sit in the pews -- that that is not what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Deacon Susan Saunders. “We’re supposed to be acting and finding needs and acting on those needs and helping people. And it seems to be a need that’s close to our hearts. It was successful last time, I think, from all perspectives.”

She said there were some, herself included, who were a little hesitant at the beginning.

“Then as it started to build momentum I could see it was a positive thing,” said Saunders who wants to take a more active role this time.  “I see our group, along with the community, maybe starting that again.”

For the most part, Carline hears a lot of positives.

“For one thing it’s just reminded people how much we have and what we’ve got to offer,” he said. “For churches -- a lot of these little churches, even the urban ones -- have been sort of in survival mode for years and this has just given them a chance to move from trying to continue to exist to be reminded of why they exist. That’s been a breath of fresh air for a lot of churches.”


Quotes From Carline

The Job: “This used to be the smallest part of my job, now all of a sudden it became the biggest part. It’s starting to balance out a little bit now.”

The Numbers: “In the last two years we’ve submitted over 100 applications for about 500 people. So compared to doing one family a year, we’ve really increased. So it’s been a fulltime job.”

The Sponsorships: “Every sponsorship has been different of course. Every family is different. Every group is different. But in some ways similar to what’s happened here in Paradise. Many of our groups are comprised of several churches and/or community partnerships. So we’ve got Rotary Clubs working with churches. Central New Brunswick -- I think they got the record – 16 churches working together in the Chipman area. Port Bickerton, Sherbrooke. Quite a number of churches of all denominations working together there – a very successful sponsorship. We’ve had a lot of urban groups and a lot of rural. The rural have worked out surprisingly well.”

The Heroes: “There’s been some really tough situations. It’s not in anyone’s control. The real heroes – the groups have done great – the real heroes are the families. What they’re adjusting to, what they’ve been through, the trauma they bring. The families have done wonderfully well. But some of them have come with a lot more limitations than others, so some groups have had a rough ride. As the families have themselves.”

The Hope: “My hope is this wouldn’t be like a flash in the pan. It doesn’t have to continue at the same pace but I’d love to see it continue. I’m glad I’m back here in Paradise and they’re talking about the possibility of going for round two.”

The Future: “I would love to see the family re-unification sponsorships increase. It’s the best gift you can give to a family is to help them bring their relatives. But I’ve love it if a group came and said ‘you know I don’t think we’re supposed to do another refugee family but we realize now this is what we’re supposed to be doing and so we’re looking at other marginalized or vulnerable people in  our community and we want to do something for them.’ I would love to hear those kinds of stories where it’s not just refugees but it’s anyone in need. Hopefully it will be a culture.”