Tag: Canada

In Canada, seeking redemption for a long, dark chapter

In Canada, seeking redemption for a long, dark chapter

Ministry strives to overcome — and atone for — nation’s 120-year history of snatching indigenous children from their parents.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

DAUPHIN, Manitoba — The boy felt nauseous.

A knot gripped him in the pit of his stomach.

He couldn’t explain the feeling, but it overcame him each time he walked into the long, rectangular building.

Nearly four decades later, the Métis tribal member — who grew up to be a social worker in this rural Canadian community — understands better why the Mackay Residential School caused him such inner turmoil.

“Even if you weren’t the one abused and suffering the genocide and loss of your culture, you absorbed that just by being there,” said the tribal member, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Dave. “They call that the common experience.”

Jamie Harvey can’t escape the ugly history of the building where he and the 30-member Dauphin Church of Christ serve the needy in this town 200 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Winnipeg.

For many in Dauphin, haunting memories remain attached to the 26,000-square-foot building that now houses low-income apartments, a free clothing store, a community food bank, children’s playrooms and the congregation’s worship area.

Until the late 1980s, the structure served as an Indian Residential School — one of 139 such facilities nationwide that were built by the government and run by Christian denominations.

“They forced kids on the reservations to leave their families and come to the schools from the middle of August to the end of June every year,” Harvey said, recounting Canada’s 120-year effort at mandatory assimilation. “The point was to force them to learn English and math and remove their language and culture from them.”

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This story appears in the June 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Before baby bird leaves the nest, a trip to remember

Before baby bird leaves the nest, a trip to remember

A father and soon-to-fly-away daughter enjoy a travel adventure north of the U.S. border.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

TORONTO — “A six-hour layover, eh?”

I posted that wisecrack on Facebook as my 17-year-old daughter, Kendall, and I awaited a connecting flight.

It was early afternoon on a snowy, late winter day at Toronto Pearson International Airport. My youngest child and I were in the middle of a four-city, 20-hour travel adventure that was part work and part something deeper.

The work part is easy to explain: I was chasing stories — as I love to do — for The Christian Chronicle.

The something deeper part requires more explanation: I was trying — as much as possible — to create memories that will sustain me (and keep the tears from overwhelming me) as my baby bird grows up and flies away.

In just a few months, this intelligent young woman — who is every bit as sassy, charming and fun to be around as her mother and every bit as driven, argumentative and (sometimes) insecure as her father — is leaving home. She’s decided to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

I couldn’t be more proud of her.

She studied hard, made top grades and was honored as one of her high school’s valedictorians. She joined our home congregation, the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma, on mission trips to Mexico, Nicaragua, Utah and Colorado. She starred in school plays and excelled in debate. She taught herself to knit and worked at a yarn store. In fact, she made me a black cap for this trip.

She plans to major in political science and history and then, at some point, become president of the United States.

In my mind, though, she’s still the little girl with a red hair bow who would stand by the bathroom door and watch me shave. She’d see the white cream on my cheeks and pretend I was Santa Claus. “Daddy, will you buy me a present?” she loved to ask.

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This column appears in the June 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Syrian refugees find ‘second family’ in Canadian churches

Toronto-area Christians welcomed Muslim strangers and ‘gained so much in the process.’

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario — Ten-year-old Mohammed and his sister Miriam, 6, shriek with excitement when they hear knocking at the front door.

The pint-sized Syrian refugees are expecting Jori Warren, one of a handful of Canadian church members bringing meals while the children’s mother, Samia, recovers from gallbladder surgery.

“Jori!” Mohammed exclaims as he jumps up. “I’ll get it.”

“No!” Miriam protests. “I want to get it.”

The brother and sister trip over each other as they run to answer the door.

A year ago, two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus — sponsored the Faham Katan family’s resettlement to Canada.

In the United States, new President Donald Trump’s push to bar refugees from Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

On this recent Saturday — with Mohammed, Miriam and their four other sisters all home from school — the Faham Katan household buzzes with chatter and laughter.

In the living room, the Muslim father, Moamar, 44, visits with minister Noel Walker and his wife, Julie, from the Tintern Church of Christ, which joined with the Beamsville Church of Christ to help the family start a new life here in Canada’s Niagara region.

A hijab covers the head of 18-year-old Samira — the oldest sister — as she serves tiny cups of expresso to the family’s guests.

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This story appears in the April 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

In rural Canada, churches that once shunned one another open their hearts to Syrian refugees

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

DAUPHIN, Manitoba (RNS) Ken Yakielashek, a Roman Catholic and semiretired farmer in the Canadian Prairies, says he remembers when Christians of varying denominations “wouldn’t talk to one another.”

To Yakielashek, that makes what’s happened in Dauphin — a rural community 200 miles northwest of the provincial capital of Winnipeg — all the more remarkable.

A year and a half ago, three churches put aside theological differences and came together to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian refugee families to this town of 8,500.

“We have three different theological outlooks on things, but they’ve been pushed to the background,” said Ron Marlin, a lay leader for Dauphin First United Church, a liberal mainline Protestant congregation.

“The focus was very much on helping our neighbors in need,” agreed Cordell Lind, whose wife, the Rev. Lorayln Lind, serves as pastor for the conservative evangelical First Baptist Church of Dauphin.

In the United States, new President Trump’s effort to bar refugees from certain Muslim-majority nations deemed terrorism threats — including Syria — has dominated headlines for weeks.

But here in Canada, the government has welcomed more than 40,000 men, women and children fleeing Syria’s civil war since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s October 2015 election.

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Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Canadian churches embrace Syrian refugees

Canadian churches embrace Syrian refugees

Two congregations adopt a family displaced by a civil war that has claimed half a million lives.

Third Place, Feature Article, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

BEAMSVILLE, Ontario
— As war ravaged their homeland, a Syrian family of eight fled for their lives.

The Muslim father, mother and six children — among 4 million Syrians who have escaped to neighboring countries — ended up in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

There, they lived in a barn for four years.

Conditions became so dire that the family —including a daughter with cerebral palsy — contemplated returning home, despite the 5-year-old civil war that has claimed an estimated 470,000 lives.

“Inhumane” is the single word that an Arabic interpreter used to translate the Syrians’ lengthy description of the camp.

Enter two Churches of Christ south of Toronto — their hearts touched by the plight of strangers abroad and resolved to show the love of Jesus to a suffering family.

“When I saw the images on TV, I thought, ‘Where would we go? Who would accept us?’” said Linda Minter, a member of the Tintern Church of Christ in Vineland, Ontario, which joined with the nearby Beamsville Church of Christ to sponsor the family’s resettlement to Canada.

Fast-forward to a recent Sunday night: A “meet and greet” event brought together the Syrian refugees — the mother and daughters wearing traditional Muslim hijabs — and their Christian supporters.

Church members prepared Syrian dishes such as baklava and showered the family with gifts that included handmade quilts.

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This story appears in the May 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

More precious than gold

More precious than gold (reporting from Vancouver, British Columbia). Currents.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – For two weeks, the world’s spotlight will shine on this coastal metropolis as athletes from more than 80 nations compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Long after the Games end in late February, however, the Pacific Northwest city will retain its international flavor, as leaders of Churches of Christ can attest.

Roughly half the 2.1 million residents of Vancouver and surrounding communities were born outside of Canada and speak a native language other than English.

“It’s like the United Nations,” elder John Clelland said of the multicultural crowd of 150 that worships each Sunday morning at the South Burnaby Church of Christ, east of Vancouver.

Growing up, Belisha Duan accompanied her mother to a Buddhist temple. As an adult, the Chinese immigrant claimed no religious affiliation.

But when a friend invited her to visit the South Burnaby church, she accepted.

Quake stirs tears, ripples of compassion: Christian students join forces to help. Page 1.

Her lifetime of love, faith and devotion (reporting from Huntingdon, Tenn.). Inside Story.

Military families find second ‘home’ at church (reporting from Tacoma, Wash.). Second Front.

Lead me to Calgary

Lead me to Calgary

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

CALGARY, Alberta — In the shadow of a white steeple, spray-painted graffiti defames the beige brick wall of the Calgary Church of Christ.

The black scrawls testify to the gritty nature of the area served by the 300-member church — one of only eight a cappella Churches of Christ in a province nearly the size of Texas.

“It’s not uncommon for us to have drug deals going down in our parking lot,” said Kelly Carter, lead minister for the only mainstream Church of Christ in this city of 1.1 million souls east of the Rocky Mountains.

But what some might see as a burden, Carter counts as a blessing, as the church endeavors to share Jesus in an ethnically diverse boomtown known for its oil-and-gas headquarters and love for hockey, football and country music.

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