When RiverCross Church was presented with a need for support, their Joint Assisted Sponsorship (JAS) team, led by Joe Page, jumped into action. With outstretched arms they welcomed a pregnant, widowed mother and her five children on the run from their home in Tajikistan. A commitment that provided significant settlement assistance, help adjusting to life in Canada and most importantly emotional support.
The team which included Page, Blair Thompson, Doreen Humphrey, Lois Vincent, Cynthia Shaw and Kelly Munroe, took on an incredible task. They were presented with a family suffering the loss of their husband and father, arriving in a foreign country with no family support, speaking little to no English, with 5 children under 14 and one on the way.
RiverCross Church JAS team is one of this year’s YMCA of Greater Saint John Peace Medallion recipients; an honor they felt was un-deserving and overwhelming.
“You just do what you are supposed to do…it became such a privilege to be able to help do whatever I could that I never thought of it as being something that should be looked at as more than helping out,” said Shaw.
David Peterson is a Resettlement Counsellor at the YMCA of Greater Saint John. He said that the JAS group made the family feel welcome in their new community.
“The situation was overwhelming … and it was the JAS group who made the successful integration of the family into our community possible” Peterson explained.Their assistance which was to last two years has exceeded with continued dedication to this family. Today members of the JAS group are considered aunts, uncles and nanas to the children.
“We are not ready to give them up, they are part of who we are now”, said Thompson.
The JAS team in the beginning worked with the family continuously. They were getting them established, assisting with homework, teaching them to make lunches for school and helping with bedtime routine. They now consider themselves family and have a strong relationship.
“It certainly has been an honor to serve this family and represent the church in this process as well. As we are serving them we are representing other members of this church and we have had the total support of the church family,” Explained Page.
The decision to nominate the team from a Peace Medallion was straightforward for Peterson. “We saw the tremendous work they did at the beginning, and they continued supporting the family longer than we would have expected. Their commitment was enduring and born out of a real love for the young mother and her children,” Peterson said.
For Page, Peace is not just the absence of fear.
“I think peace is the presence of joy,” he said. “When I see this family turning from this life of fear they were living when they came here, to now experiencing so many joys of not only living in Canada, but being happy here and thriving here, I see that process of peace taking place in their lives and in their family.”
The RiverCross JAS team will receive their Peace Medallion on Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 at the Peace Breakfast held at the Delta at 7:30am. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the birthday of the husband and father the family lost before they came to Canada.