Mill Bay church bringing in Syrian refugee family

A small Cowichan Valley church is doing its part to help refugees from war-torn Syria.

A small Cowichan Valley church is doing its part to help refugees from war-torn Syria.

The Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship is working to bring three refugees — a woman, her nine-year-old son and her mother — to settle in the Cowichan Valley.

The family is currently in Lebanon and are among 100 refugees that the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada are working with the Canadian government to bring to Canada. The government is screening the refugees overseas before they come to their new home.

“We’re one of the first four churches to go through the process, so we’re kind of fumbling our way through,” said Tammy Klassen, the pastor of family ministry at Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship.

The 29-year-old woman is a widow who lost her husband in bombings earlier in the war. Her mother, who is 58, lost her husband to a heart attack four years ago. The family was chosen by the church from a list of 100 refugees that about 30 churches across Western Canada are trying to help.

“You have to pick quick, because they get snatched up quick,” Klassen said.

The church hopes to have the family of Sunni Muslims settled in the Cowichan Valley by Christmas. In addition to financial help, they will be providing plenty of other assistance to the trio.

“We’ve been told the mom speaks some English,” Klassen said. “She does have a Grade 12 education. They have both worked in housekeeping, so we’re hoping to line up jobs for them.”

In order to bring the family here, the church will have to raise $15,000. That’s a lot of money for a congregation that typically has about 60 members each Sunday.

“We’ve already raised about a third of it just through the church,” Klassen said. “We’re doing okay, but there’s a ways to go still.”

Fortunately, there is a large window for the church to raise all the money.

“We’re sponsoring them for a year, and it doesn’t have to be all in our pocket before they arrive,” Klassen noted.

The church’s next public fundraising event is a bottle drive on Oct. 17. They will be collecting bottles at the corner of Butterfield Road and the Trans-Canada Highway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Other fundraisers will be scheduled in the future as well.

The family they are helping may not share the Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship’s faith, but that doesn’t matter. What matters, says Klassen, is that they are in need.

“We just feel like our call is to help people,” she said. “If the people who need the most help are Sunni Muslim, we’ll help them.”

For more information on how you can help the church help the refugee family, call Tammy Klassen at 250-701-1794 or email