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    Finding Refuge

    Separated from their family in the Republic of Congo, Lazare and Georgette Lefu received support from the South Windsor Corps. May 7, 2012 by Kristin Fryer
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    Feature
    When Lazare and Georgette Lefu arrived in Canada in 2007, they knew no one. Due to unsafe conditions, they were forced to flee the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), leaving their jobs, home and four daughters behind. Adjusting to life in a foreign land, the Lefus faced many challenges. But they knew that there was one place in Canada where they would be welcomed. After they settled in Windsor, Ont., they looked up The Salvation Army and made a phone call to the South Windsor Corps.

    Things Fall Apart
    While in Congo-Brazzaville, Lazare was a high school principal, while Georgette was a boat pilot on the Congo River. Together they operated an orphanage, which they opened in 1993. Both were involved in the local Salvation Army corps—Lazare as a youth pastor and Georgette as a nursery worker. When they left, they had five daughters ranging in age from five to 18, and Georgette was pregnant with twins.

    Plagued by war and corruption, the Republic of Congo was never a safe place for the Lefus to live. But in the time leading up to their departure, the situation worsened. As they faced increasing political persecution, they knew they needed to leave as soon as possible. The Lefus decided to seek refuge in North America, but they had no time to plan the trip or raise the funds necessary for the whole family to go at that time. The Lefus took their youngest daughter with them, expecting that the others would be able to join them soon after.

    Five years later, the Lefus are still separated from their four eldest daughters.

    A Windsor Welcome
    On their first Sunday at South Windsor Corps, the Lefus shared their testimony and the congregation responded with great concern, asking questions about their situation and offering support.

    They visited the Lefus at their new home and, recognizing that it was unsuitable, helped them find better housing and gave them “everything that you could need for a house,” as Lazare puts it.
    When Georgette gave birth to twin girls two months prematurely, the congregation looked after the family and later helped them get a car.

    In April 2010, the Lefus were granted “protected person” status by the Canadian government—a crucial step toward reuniting the family. The following month, members of the South Windsor Corps created the Lefu Trust Fund to help cover the cost of bringing the daughters to Canada. In addition to asking for general donations, they held various fundraisers, including a benefit concert that raised just over $4,300.

    Lazare says the trust fund probably has enough to bring the girls to their new home in Canada. The only thing preventing their reunion is paperwork: the Lefus, who are now permanent residents of Canada, are still waiting for the Canadian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, to issue travel visas for their daughters.

    “We don't know when the visas will be issued, but we hope it will be soon because we are tired of living without our children,” says Lazare. “And they are tired of living without their parents.”

    Keeping the Faith
    Lazare and Georgette talk to their children every day on the telephone. And when the telephone bill comes at the end of the month, it's in the hundreds of dollars.

    “Our daughters need spiritual and emotional support, and that's the only way we can give it,” Lazare says. “They don't understand what's going on. Sometimes they have doubts about whether they're ever going to see us again.”

    Though the daughters live with their grandmother, their situation is far from secure.

    “Sometimes you don't know what's going on over there and you wonder, are they safe?” says Georgette, fighting back tears. “We try to have courage for them, but it's very difficult.”

    Reflecting on what has been a challenging time for the family, Lazare says that they are very thankful for the spiritual and material support they have received from The Salvation Army. He and Georgette are active members of the corps—Georgette has joined the songsters and they both play in the band.

    “That helps us forget about the pain and it helps increase our faith,” says Lazare.

    “We pray every day that God will bring our children here,” he adds, “and we have faith that one day we will be together again.”

    Photo: Georgette and Lazare Lefu with their daughters, Lazarette, Lucette and Lazarelle

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