With a violent civil war and years in a refugee camp behind them, Phillip, Esther, Arene and Catherine flew more than 10,000 kilometres from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to Brussels to Montreal to Fredericton this week. The long trip is only the start of their challenging journey.
A smiling welcoming committee waved balloons, welcome signs and Canadian flags at the airport. Parishioners came from the cathedral, Christ Church Parish Church, St. Margaret’s, St. Mary (York), All Saints in Marysville and Anglican parishes around Gagetown. Four exhausted people who hadn’t slept for two nights looked bewildered by all the attention.
“They were overwhelmed, probably feeling as if they had landed on another planet, but we made them feel as welcome, safe and comfortable as we could,” said committee member Doug Milander from the cathedral. “When we drove up to the door of the apartment building and I said, “this is your home,” Phillip began to sob.
“I don’t know what he had expected, but he could not believe what was happening. By the time he saw the spacious rooms, homey furnishings, and all the food, he cried harder. He thanked us and shook our hands many times.”
Phillip’s wife Esther deplaned in an airline wheelchair and walks very haltingly with a cane. The teenaged children look healthy and were curious. Everything is new for them: 24/7 electricity, potable running water, modern bathrooms and appliances.
“This is an incredible and emotional experience for everyone,” said Kelly Humber-Kelly from St. Margaret’s who completed much of the paperwork related to the refugee sponsorship. “Everyone on the committee thanks you for the prayers, funds, and donated items you have given to this project in the past several months.
“But it’s no longer a project. These are people with hopes and dreams, a family who needs our help and loving care to regain their independence and transition to a new life in Canada.”
Updates will be provided as events unfold for the family. Ongoing prayers are appreciated.