There are many churches in the Greater Toronto Area that cater to people of different ethnic, cultural and language groups. One such church is Dominion Church International, which was founded in 2002 by a Ugandan Canadian couple, pastors Rose and Robert Kazibwein. It is its mission to reach out to those in the East African Community and beyond. However, the current housing crisis in Toronto and surrounding areas has brought a whole new level of need for those arriving in Canada from Uganda and other African countries.
It all began in late June of 2023 when pastor and PAOC credential holder Eddie Jjumba received a phone call from a church member, Fred, asking him If he could find someone to take in four asylum seekers. He agreed to find some people after Sunday service. In the meantime, Fred had gone downtown to pick up the four people at the Toronto Shelter, Support and Housing Administration at 129 Peter Street, where newcomers were sleeping on the street, waiting to be given a space in a shelter. However, the shelters were full, temporarily housing 9,000 people in the City of Toronto.
When Pastor Eddie called Fred to let him know that he had found private homes to take in these four people, he was informed that there were now 25 people who said they needed a place to stay. Pastor Eddie and the Dominion Church leadership team quickly sprang into action and were able to find three vans, one of which belonged to the church, to go downtown and pick up the 25 people. Having only secured homes for four people, the others were housed in the church that night. The next day Pastor Eddie and Mr. Henry Ssali of the University of Toronto African Alumni Association, called an emergency Zoom meeting. They included people from Pastor Eddie’s congregation as well as others in the African community which added up to approximately 200 people on the Zoom call. When he made the appeal for assistance for the people who had spent the night at the church, volunteers graciously offered their homes to each person on the list. Although the hosts and guests were complete strangers, and some were quite skeptical, the hospitality and shared trust between hosts and guests have grown. They have developed relationships of mutual respect, which has only been possible by the grace of God, according to Pastor Eddie.
After that day, Pastor Eddie and some others in the church started receiving daily phone calls from people looking for shelter. Soon he realized that this was more than any one person could handle and decided to form two committees to deal with the influx of people and find them private homes to take them in. In mid-July a press conference was held by Black-led organizations and Pastor Eddie was asked to speak at it. Following this event, his phone became a call centre, fielding calls from people daily. This housing crisis continued to grow as the church tried its best to accommodate 40 people, then 60, and now six weeks later they have 210 people staying at the church waiting for housing and more are arriving daily. Initially the landlord was not in favour of having people stay in the building, but permission was urged to allow this temporary set-up to continue. The church facility only has two showers, no kitchen, and the sanctuary which is used for sleeping on cots provided by the Greater Toronto Area regional director for the PAOC, Joel Spiridigliozzi, Rabbi Yacov of Beth Tzedec, Holy Blossoms and other local donors.
Pastor Judith James of Revivaltime Tabernacle, which is the other church that had been housing over 200 people before the September school season began, has been providing cooked meals, along with several other volunteers. However, the need is great, the resources are dwindling, and the volunteers are exhausted. Yet Pastor Eddie is not giving up. In fact, he has a great vision for a future facility that would meet the needs of his growing community.
According to Pastor Eddie: “In 2019 God gave us a vision to construct a multi-purpose community centre with the following facilities:
- A Place of Worship [Sanctuary]
- 500 bed youth/family shelter
- 300 capacity recreation facility
- A child-care facility
- A counseling hub for families, individuals needing mental health supports, settlement services and spiritual care
- A community Internet radio station.”
Those who would like to support this ongoing effort either by volunteering their resources and/or their time, please contact the church by visiting their website. But most of all, Pastor Eddie asks everyone to pray earnestly for these people and for the volunteers who are helping in so many ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Visit https://dominionchurchinttoronto.ca/supporting-the-refugee-crisis-in-canada-5/
Photos courtesy Dominion Church.
#GoodNews #ThisIsGoodNews #DominionChurch