Syrian Family Update

New Arrival at the Elaywi Home!

There has been a good deal of excitement at the Elaywi family home in the last several weeks. Khalid finished his ESL training and is now grateful to be working. The kids are getting excited for a new school year to arrive, and in the midst of it all, they welcomed a new Canadian baby sister!

Join the volunteers from the Grace Bethel Refugee Sponsorship Team in welcoming baby Janna to the world. Congratulations to Dallen, Khalid and the rest of the family.


One Saturday Afternoon

By Tracy Simons


One Saturday in April when I arrived at the Elaywi house, the kids were excited to tell me about the family dance they had gone to at their school the previous night with their mom (Dallen).

“We went back to the school with Mom last night and the music was playing in the gym! There were

strobe lights and we all had so much fun! Dad did not go because he was tired."

Then Amneh explained that she needed wood for a bridge project at school. Amneh described the pieces as approximately 3 feet long by 6 inches wide with two smaller pieces for the end. Well, the first phone call I made was to my dad to ask if he had wood at home — and those of you who know my dad (Leo Stein) will understand why. I caught him at Boonie Doon Mall having coffee with his brothers-in-law.

“I’ll check when I get home, but probably yes,” he told me.

Dad called back a little later and confirmed he had the wood.

Later in the day, after I had dropped off her dad, Khalid, for physio, I went back to the house to pick up Amneh. Dallen had company, a mom and her two daughters who attended the same school as the kids, one in Fatmeh's kindergarten class and the second in Grade 4. The mom mentioned her son did the bridge project last year. I asked a bit about the project and found out the project is to be built at home and then brought back to school on Monday — more than just a few pieces of wood.

My Dad was in for a surprise.

Amneh and I headed to Dad's place.

When we arrived, he showed us the pieces of wood and asked how she was making the bridge. Amneh pulled out from her pocket a bag of popsicle sticks and tried to explain her vision and how she would use the sticks.  She then mentioned the teacher suggested looking at pictures of bridges. I pulled out my phone and googled bridge images and up came what looked like the Golden Gate Bridge, and that became our blueprint.

Then I dropped the extra news for my Dad: we needed to build it now.  So off to the back garage the three of us went.   


Amneh explained that cars have to be able to drive over the bridge, so we found a third piece of wood for the centre pillar and started drawing the holes for the cars to drive through.  As Dad started to cut the hole, I located the safety glasses and reminded my Dad this was Amneh's project, so he passed the jigsaw to her and explained there was a pencil line she had to follow and explained how the saw worked. She was very methodical and concentrated to follow the line.  She did very well.


Then came the sanding of the hole. And then we needed more holes in the pillar above, where the car drives through, so out came another saw to make the circles. Finally came the hammer and nails to put the wood pieces together.


At this point, Amneh explained that the cars need to get up to the bridge so we needed a board on each end — a ramp. So out came more wood and the mitre saw was needed to cut the piece in half.  That saw was loud so she stood further back. Then Dad had to add a triangle piece under the ramp for support so that those little toy cars would not collapse the ramp.


Well, we weren’t done yet. Dad pulled out some finishing nails for the side: the bridge needed guide ropes, and we needed to be able to connect the side ropes to the bottom of the bridge. Dad found some red rope and that became the larger ropes on the side — and we could not have those ends fray so out came a lighter to melt the ends of the rope to prevent that from happening. Amneh was smiling and happy the entire time.


We put the finished bridge — now about three feet high and four feet long — into my car, having to lower the back seat to slide the bridge sideways into the car through the trunk.


We then went into the house. I began looking for some wool for the side rope. I showed Amneh my old room which was now a sewing room.


“Where is your mom?” she asked.

I tried to explain how she had died and was now in heaven. She did not understand the concept of death, but moved on to the colouring books that were in the office. I found the wool and Dad gave her the cartoon book and coloring books to take home.


I am not sure who had more fun this afternoon — me, Dad, or Amneh.


We went back to the Elaywi house with the project. Mauth's face was priceless has he opened the door and Amneh was standing there holding the bridge. “Wow!” he exclaimed, his eyes wide with surprise. Amneh’s beaming smile lit up the room.


I gave the wool to Khalid and explained how he could help Amneh finish the project. I brought up the picture that was our guide and he nodded understanding.


They thanked me ... and of coursed asked me to stay for supper. I had to decline, explaining that I had to get home to prepare supper for my family.


What an enjoyable afternoon — so much more thrilling than my original plan of going to the office to work on quarter end.






Refugee Update - May 2017 - Canada is a Salad

Melinda Gillingham, one of the Grace / Bethel Refugee Team volunteers, is our resident bus rider. She’s been showing Dallen the routes to and from her ESL School, the doctor’s office and other essential locations and working together on learning the English words to ride and get where she needs to be. On one of these rides some women were chatting behind them. Dallen’s ears perked up and she asked Melinda, “they are not speaking English, are they?” No, it is Tagalog, they are probably from the Philippines, Melinda explained. Dallen paused and searched for the English words to express what she was seeing on the bus and around her in the community. “Canada speaking is like a salad,” was her reply. They went on to talk about the different cultures here and the ingredients Dallen would have had in her salads in Syria.

I grew up with the adage that: “Canada is a mosaic.” A collection of colourful tiles representing cultures, faiths, values, and all the myriad of communities to which we each belong. Each tile is distinct and has its own story reflected in the colours, textures, flaws and beauty. Together the tiles make a piece of art that has a beauty different, but arising from, these individual pieces. This image is central in how I understand my country. It often enters my head when I think about the other communities to which I belong. I think it resonates for me because it’s not dissimilar from how I understand the Church and my place in it: “All of you together are Christ’s body and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, NLT). We don’t need to think the same or have the same experiences or views. Instead we each bring our strengths and diverse talents and perspectives. I loved that this way of seeing Canada was evident to Dallen, all the more so because her analogy used food, which is her art form. Delicious ingredients, that each have their own unique flavour but that are all mixed up to make something that is much more complex and tastier together.

This month marks one year that the Elawyi’s have been in Canada and that we have been in each other’s lives. In our case, the group (the project’s organizing committee) and the family have agreed to extend our support until December. This means taking the budget we had allotted to supporting the family and extending roughly the same amount of support across an longer period. This is in part because there is a baby due this summer and Khalid wants to stay in school. He’s doing very well and by December should have the employment level English that he hopes will help him find a good job to support his family.

Looking back at where we all were a year ago it’s hard not to marvel at how much has changed. A year later, the whole family’s English skills have grown in leaps and bounds. The kids are fitting in well at school and learning every day. New sports, foods, holidays, and activities have been experienced. There are birthday party invites, neighbourhood moms over for coffee, and Dallen volunteers regularly at the school. Khalid has finished his driver training, is studying hard and enjoying watching how much we enjoy watching hockey. “Life will continue to go on the day after the Oiler’s lose the match,” he assured one of my daughters. The kids are loving skating and bike riding and trips to the park. And the mountain of forms, government and community systems and programs we have navigated together has settled into a more manageable state. We all cherish learning about each other’s backgrounds and families and spending time together. We have been very Blessed to be matched with a family that is as much a Blessing to us as we hope we are to them.

Much is made of Month 13 in the refugee community, when the sponsor group and family cut the sponsor ties and go it on their own. When we had a meeting with the family, about what Month 13 would look like for all of us, we talked about budgets, needs and plans. But in the midst of it, Dallen explained through an interpreter that they do not place much importance on material things. “This” . . . she said gesturing at the group sitting, problem solving, talking, laughing, and eating together . . . “This is what we care about.” We couldn’t agree more. So for now, for our Month 13 and beyond, this salad is staying all mixed up.

Submitted by Crystal Willie.


Refugee Update - September 2016
For the Elaywi family and the volunteer team from Grace and Bethel, this summer has been easier to manage and one filled with fun and exciting experiences. There is eagerness from the kids about getting back to school and excitement from Khalid at starting English classes. And there have been significantly fewer challenges than we saw in the first six weeks. Looking back on the first three months, I see that meeting the Elaywi Family has been an experience full of the unexpected. It was unexpected how much we would use technology to make the relationships work and how the volunteer roles would ignite such interest and commitment.

It was unexpected how seemingly small jobs like a trip to the food bank or to the bank can stretch on and on. And then it was unexpected how things that seemed hard suddenly became easier. I think for me, the thing that was most unexpected is how the process has acted like a mirror, reflecting back to me things about our own society. The act of explaining Canadian culture, systems (like educational, government, banking systems), and ways of thinking and acting in simple English — though they may be complex ideas with lots of variables — helps a person to see things from a really new perspective. Many of those experiences make me feel very lucky. Like how fortunate I am for the access I have had to education and health and dental care over my life. For how nearby my family is. For the doors that have been opened to me as a woman that are closed to so many other women in other parts of the world. I am grateful to be a Canadian. For all we may disagree about politics and policy from time to time, our nation provides us the opportunity to worship as we choose, to receive an education and medical care regardless of our income level, to pursue work for fair wages and to raise our families and live our lives in relative peace and safety. And the people we call neighbours are incredibly caring in understated ways that often go unnoticed.  Other things reflect back a society that has its struggles. Thinking about what is really needed to equip a home for a family of six, under the capable and thoughtful leadership of Amanda Heinrich, showed me that we are a society with far more stuff than we need. Helping Dallen navigate the less expensive box stores looking for (and not finding) the healthy ingredients from home that make up the delicious slow-cooked dishes she feeds her family shines a light on how much we rely on cheap and over-processed food items rather than making healthier food from scratch -  not to mention that finding time for healthy scratch cooking is tough for working Canadian parents.

Curtis and Andrea Boehm and Michael Annett helping the family to learn the transit system so they can get themselves to commitments and appointments has shown us how much we are a society centred on cars. There are so many things that a family simply can’t do if transit is their only way to get around. We pride ourselves on how much we fit into our days, on our ability to multitask and on the busyness in our calendars — but how does that impact our relationships, our thinking, and our health? There’s something pretty lovely about being invited for tea or coffee and delicious sweets every time I show up at the door. Being part of a team so ready to live their faith, to share the love they find in Jesus and to give of themselves, their time and their talents is a privilege and a delight. The Elaywis are a family that is easy to be around and there are many, many opportunities over the next several months for you to join our team and look at your world from a different angle.

Please prayerfully consider signing up to volunteer. Below are some areas where we have the greatest need. We are told that the first three months are the hardest for all parties; now that we have reached that milestone, thanks are due to all of the people who have donated funds and household needs so far, to the volunteers who have helped with everything from bike set up to medical appointment driving, and to the team leaders who have done a fantastic job of keeping everyone informed and pulling in the same direction. Thank you to all who have held us and the Elaywis in your prayers. We would also like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Patel of Sherwood Dental and Dr. Laatsch of Princess Elizabeth Dental for donating dental services to the Elaywi family. We are very blessed and grateful for the generosity of our community.

In the coming weeks and months, we need volunteer drivers as well as ESL help and people to learn how to teach and practice English with Dallen. If you can help with these roles or others, please call or email Crystal Willie (780-993-4985, cwillie@incentre.net) or Matt Ziprick (780-417-7775, matt.ziprick@bethelchurch.com).
by Crystal Willie

Refugee Update - June 2016
By now, most members will be aware that our Syrian family, the Elaywis, arrived in Edmonton on May 24th. Their journey began in a refugee camp in Jordan, from where they travelled to Germany, and then on to Edmonton. A number of team leaders from the joint Bethel-Grace Refugee Committee met them at the airport and transported them to their temporary housing. As none of the family speaks English-and no-one on the committee speaks Arabic-everyone was very grateful for the benefits of technology, as Google Translate made communication possible.

The Elaywis are a family of six. The father, Khalid, is a carpenter by trade. The mother is Dallen. They have four children. The eldest daughter, Amneh, is eight. Muath, seven, is the only son, and Sanaa and Fatmeh, the youngest daughters, are five and four. Prior to coming to Edmonton, they lived for three years in a small apartment provided by the United Nations. 

The day after they arrived, Bethel hosted a “Welcome to Canada” potluck celebration, with both western and Arabic cuisine (or as close as we could figure out!). Khalid’s sister and her family had been brought to Edmonton in March with a one-month-old baby! We were able to make contact with them and to arrange to have them join us for the potluck, reuniting the families after a significant separation.

Early in June, a permanent home was located in Goldbar. This location was selected for its easy access to shopping, schools, banking and other amenities. In addition, there are other Syrian families in the complex, including an Arabic speaking neighbor who has helped with translation.

The children all began school for the month of June, including Fatmeh in playschool. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated and energetic team leaders, many basic needs have been put in place, and the family has a solid support system as they begin the huge challenge of acclimating to very different surroundings and culture. We are so grateful for the talents and dedication of our committee members-praise the Lord for gifting His people with such compassion, energy and willingness to serve others.

Bethel and Grace are responsible for the family as the sponsors for a year in a shared arrangement with the government. We are responsible for their costs for the month of June; the government covers the costs for the next six months, and then we pick up the costs for the last five months. To date over $16,000 has been raised, roughly $6,000 by Grace and $10,000 by Bethel. Bethel will be designating the Elaywi family as their Mission of the Month during July and August.

Many thanks to everyone who donated money, furniture, clothes and utensils to help set them up. We will need to continue to support our family financially-but more importantly, with prayer and acts of support. They have come to the end of one journey-but are just embarking on another!

Laura Tanasychuk, with thanks to David Kraatz

Donations to support this special mission project can be made through your offering envelope. Please mark the envelope with the words "Refugee Fund".

Meet the Elaywi family

This week marks a month since Khalid, Dallen, Amneh, Muath, Sanaa, and Fatmeh first set foot on Canadian soil.  And it’s been a whirlwind of a month. Within a couple of short weeks, the family and the volunteer team from Grace and Bethel had found a rental townhome, arranged a move in, furnished the home and stocked the pantry and the essentials, found clothing for the family, set up government ID and meet with various government and community agencies about the resources available to help, set up bank accounts, utilities, insurance and phones. A couple of weeks ago the kids all started school and preschool and are settling into their Goldbar community.

In these first few weeks it has been absolutely phenomenal to watch how so many people have come together to make things happen at just the right time. It’s also been very touching to see the reactions of perfect strangers to the family when we are out and about in the community. Shop owners have spent hours with us helping with translations, explaining cultural differences and making sure they find what they need, customer service reps went the extra mile, a restaurateur bought lunch, Arabic speaking Canadians have offered to help when we encounter them in stores and offices, and all over people stop to say Welcome to Canada.

There have been some hard days: things getting broken or wrecked by busy kids; sometimes things cost more than they should because of miscommunications; driving all over the city for appointments; service providers dropping the ball; and everything taking so much more time than we think it should. It shouldn’t be a surprise that language is our biggest challenge but even though this was anticipated, it’s remarkable to see all the little ways that not being able to communicate with the same vocabulary, shared experience and the nuisance of turns of phrase, makes a big difference. We use gestures and body language, the few words that Khalid knows, and goggle translate to get the basic ideas across – but we don’t have the words to express bigger ideas, to explain why things are the way they are and to share feelings and preferences.

But time will help there. The kids are in school and will learn fast. There are plans for some summer programs for newcomer families to learn and practice English and the ball is rolling to start English as a Second Language classes in the Fall.

In the meantime, many of the basics of getting settled have been taken care of and the Elaywis and our volunteer team are starting to be able to do some of the fun stuff. Bike riding lessons, practicing on the bus and LRT, shopping trips, and making plans for summer festivities. We are very grateful for the opportunities God has provided to share this experience and for the people He has placed in our path at just the right times.

If you want to be involved, or want to get updates on the project or opportunities to serve, please email Pastor Matt, matt.ziprick@bethelchurch.com, or Crystal Willie, cwillie@incentre.net.

March 2016 - 
Refugee Sponsorship

Along with Bethel Lutheran Church, the congregation of Grace has accepted God’s call to reach out in love to support a refugee family through the blended sponsorship program of the Government of Canada. 

Part of the support for this project is financial.  Thanks to generous donations in both congregations in the month of February, we are well on our way to meeting the basic amount required to sponsor a family.  Please keep this mission prayerfully in mind as you plan your offerings for the next few months, however, as funds are still required. 

The project’s most crucial need, however, is people.  At the March 12 meeting of the Refugee Sponsorship committee, Crystal Willie agreed to act as team lead for the organizing committee.  Pastors Curtis Boehm and Matt Ziprick will act jointly to co-ordinate volunteer recruitment in both congregations.  It was agreed that the team lead for Finance will be recruited from Bethel. Crystal went on to outline four additional areas of responsibility for which the organizing committee requires leadership.  Based on research with other local sponsorship groups, the following collaborative teams will need to be established to support the family that needs our help.  This volunteer commitment will extend over the next twelve to eighteen months.

Housing.  The leader of this group will work with a volunteer team and the family to make arrangements for initial, interim and permanent housing and furnishing arrangements.  He or she will also oversee setting up housing-related accounts such as utilities, cell phones and computers.

Transportation and Scheduling.  This Team Leader will work with a volunteer team to co-ordinate schedules, arrange appointments and arrange for personal transportation for family members.

Communication and Community Resources.  Working with a volunteer team, this leader will co-ordinate translator support for family activities, assist family members in their search for employment and help them settle into their new neighbourhood.

Health and Education.  Helping family members access health care coverage and supports and coordinating ESL training and school registration will be the main responsibilities of this team’s leader and volunteers. 

I have a poster in my classroom that reads YOU ARE ESSENTIAL, followed by this quote from Mother Teresa:  “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together, we can do great things.”  The marvel is that we are not asked to do these great things (or small things) on our own—but that we are enveloped and supported by the strength and wisdom of He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Eph. 3:20)

Resting in this assurance, please pray and think about these calls to serve, and speak to Pastor Curtis (at Grace) or Pastor Matt (at Bethel) if you are able to serve in any of these leadership capacities.  Please also consider the people in your circle of loved ones and acquaintances.  Perhaps someone you know might find a niche of service in one of the roles outlined above.  


Laura Tanasychuk