When Liberian refugee Esther Gmah was in hospital for months last fall, she had time on her hands to hatch a plan.
“I want to visit all the churches helping my family,” she announced to a refugee sponsorship committee volunteer one day. “To say thank you,” she added.
Several parishes raised money and did paperwork to bring the family from a refugee camp in Ivory Coast to Canada last July, and volunteers have been helping them to acclimatize to Canadian life.
It was almost Christmas when she was released from hospital, winter storms were brewing, and it was not the best time for a woman who must use a walker to start hitting the road. However, Esther was determined.
So far, she has worshipped at several of the churches involved in the sponsorship of her family. Prior to her hospitalization, the family had attended services at St. Margaret’s in Fredericton, situated near their apartment, and have returned there, too.
I want to visit all the churches helping my family.
Despite wintry weather, they have made the rounds, taking part in a Christmas Day service at Christ Church Cathedral and later trying the 10 o’clock and 11:45 services. They have also made a few Sunday trips to St. Mary York and to Christ Church Parish Church with sponsorship committee members.
Sunday, Feb. 12Th, was a highlight for the whole family because they travelled much farther afield to meet people who have helped them. At a worship service in St. John’s Anglican at Gagetown, they received beautiful, handmade valentines from children in the congregation.
Joined by parishioners from St. Stephen’s in Queenstown, people from St. John’s held a reception afterwards and presented colourful flowers and boxes of chocolates to the family. Esther’s daughter, 17-year-old Catherine, pronounced the day “awesome.” The family was invited to come back for a service in the summer, perhaps to enjoy a picnic and a boat ride on the St. John River.
The Rev. Christian Persaud, who oversees multi-point parishes, said he would like them to visit the Parish of Cambridge and Waterborough which has also contributed to the refugee sponsorship fund. Esther had no idea where the church of the Good Shepherd in Cambridge Narrows might be, but she readily agreed to a future visit.
There was a sad event the same week as the joyous visit to Gagetown. St. Mary York volunteer Anne Buckland died unexpectedly. The family cried while attending the funeral of “a good lady” whom they adored.
Anglican churches in the Marysville area of Fredericton, Stanley, Nasonworth, Zealand and Fredericton Junction are also on the roster although visits have not yet been arranged.
“God is good to us, and we say thank you very, very much to be here in Canada,” Esther’s husband, Phillip Weah, summed up.