+ What is the Refugee Committee

The St. John’s Vancouver Refugee Committee works within the vision of the church as a community of contrast gripped by the gospel of God’s grace. We believe that God is moving the congregation forward to build long-term relationships with refugees. We expect the work of the Refugee Committee to be guided by prayer and to work within the direction and leadership of church clergy, staff and the trustees. We are guided by God’s commandment to love one another, and will wherever possible seek to invite and include refugees within the family of our Church, providing ‘open doors and clear paths’ as noted in St. John’s core goals.

The three streams of refugees that the Refugee Committee intends to support and walk beside include:

  • Refugees outside of Canada whom the Church will apply to sponsor and bring to Vancouver through the community sponsorship option
  • Refugee claimants within Canada and Greater Vancouver
  • Government sponsored refugees (GSRs) and other refugees already in Greater Vancouver.

The work of the Refugee Committee will also include partnering with outside organizations that support refugees and are compatible with the work of the church.
Contact Person: Owen Underhill, underhil@sfu.ca

+ Refugee Committee Members

Jonathan Baylis (Point person for outreach to refugees in Vancouver)
Kallen Fong
Dan Gifford (Trustees liaison)
Bill Reimer
Dorcas Reimer
Wanda Schellenberg
Nabil Abdalla
Owen Underhill (Chair)

+ What is the Refugee Welcome Team?

The Refugee Welcome Team's purpose is to actively "walk alongside" displaced people who are here in Vancouver. It is this group, which currently numbers about sixty, that aims to befriend refugee claimant families on an ongoing basis.

People on the team can get involved in many ways:

  • Befriending displaced people
  • Organizing and attending social events
  • Visiting refugee families weekly
  • Helping find housing, schools, doctors, lawyers
  • Donating their time and professional expertise
  • Renting their suites out at below-market rates to refugees
  • Taking refugees on outings around the city and beyond
  • Inviting them to meals in their homes

Anyone is welcome to join the team! There is no specific commitment involved in joining. If interested, please email Jonathan Baylis, jonathan@baylis.ca, and give your name, location, email address, and phone number. He sends out regular email updates with invitations to events and meetings.

+ What can you pray for?

  • That the Rashids will progress well in their journey to independent, productive lives — English study, more university study, professional work that befits their education level, good health, recovery from the trauma of threat and displacement. That they would be able to bring the rest of their extended family to safety, possibly in Vancouver.
  • That the processing period of the application, for the Afghan family of 4, would be shortened and for their ongoing safety, health, and well-being in difficult circumstances.
  • That the Syrian and other wars would stop and people could live at peace in their home countries.
  • That all refugees would settle well, enabled to contribute to their new communities.
  • That we at St. John’s would have wisdom and discernment to know how to include our new friends into our church life, even if they are not Christians.
  • That we would be wise to know how many families to reach out to, when, and which families. That we would build good partnerships with Kinbrace, The Journey Home Community and other groups.
  • That we would be faithful in our calling to help displaced people not only when they first arrive but as long-term friends

If you would have questions about the Refugee Committee, contact Owen Underhill, underhil@sfu.ca
If you would like to get involved in the Refugee Welcome Team, please contact Jonathan Baylis, jonathan@baylis.ca

St. John's is currently walking alongside One family. Click below to read their story:

+ The Rashid Family

Mr. and Mrs. Rashid are a young, married, Muslim, Kurdish couple from Iraq. They were living in a village 12 km. outside of Mosul, Iraq. Mr. Rashid had graduated from university and was working for an American oil company on a drilling rig, while Mrs. Rashid was three years into a Biology degree and pregnant. ISIS began sending Mr. Rashid threatening letters because of his job with the US company, and when ISIS was preparing to attack Mosul, their extended family was in great danger. The Rashids were forced to flee their home — their story is filled with miraculous works of God.

They fled to a camp in a mountain village some distance to the north of Mosul, abandoning their home. Conditions in the camp were terrible, and one of their nieces died. Mr. Rashid was determined to find a better life for his expected child. He used his US connections to get a visa to fly with his wife to the United States as a visitor. Securing documents to leave Iraq and come to the US is very rare; The family thanks God for this miracle.

They sold everything they had and bought tickets to the US via Turkey. They landed in Washington DC and were interrogated by US Customs, almost being sent back. Because Mrs. Rashid was expecting, the Americans thought they were just trying to get US citizenship for their child and eventually themselves. Eventually, and miraculously, they were cleared and released onto the street. They thank God for this decision, which went against all odds.

They asked an Arab taxi driver to take them to a cheap hotel and ended up in nearby Virginia with nowhere to go and limited funds. Acting on advice from taxi drivers, they traveled to Columbus and Buffalo looking for somewhere to live and a way to earn a living. In Buffalo they reached a very low point. They couldn’t pay to have their baby in the US, there was no way to come to Canada, and their funds were nearly gone.

Someone told them that they could walk into Canada from Blaine, Washington. Somehow, they were allowed to fly to Seattle, even though Mrs. Rashid was nearly ready to have her baby. Being allowed to fly this late in a pregnancy is yet another miracle for which the family thanks God. They bussed to Blaine, discarded everything, and walked through Peace Arch Park in jogging suits with no bags. No one stopped them as they walked into Canada. The Rashids praise God for yet another miracle. They took a taxi to a cheap hotel in Vancouver, where they were advised to declare themselves to Citizenship and Immigration.

Eventually they were referred to Kinbrace Refugee Housing and Support, a faith-based agency in Vancouver, where they applied for and received Refugee Status. The people at Kinbrace helped them and listened to their story. Mrs. Rashid delivered their baby girl at BC Women’s Hospital in November. The Refugee Committee contacted Kinbrace offering to befriend a family and were introduced to the Rashids, who were living in temporary housing at the time. We met them, became friends, helped them find a permanent home, job, doctor, immigration lawyer, community, and are continuing to walk this journey with them.