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Aug6FriCouple turn the corner on their refugee lives. August 6, 2021 by Darryl Whitecross and Colleen Flanagan
John and Corina Ardelean know what it is like to depend on others for help. Both are from refugee families of the 1989 Romanian Revolution.
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Struggle to Eat
Corina’s parents were forced to leave her and two of her sisters behind with their grandparents when they fled to Canada, after having spent time in a refugee camp in the thenneighbouring country of Yugoslavia, with the aim of making a better life for the family.
Corina’s father was in the Romanian Army and was found to be a Christian, which was illegal. It was another two years before Corina and her siblings saw their parents again, having followed them to Vancouver in 1991 when she was eight years old.
John’s older sister escaped from Romania in 1988 with her husband and sponsored the rest of the family—including John, his parents and siblings—in 1992.
Corina says that when they arrived in Canada, their families depended on the local food bank. They could barely wait for the next hamper delivery, not knowing what they were going to eat.
Samson and Delilah
It was their past that shaped the people they have become. They are now feeding and helping people who are struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet.
Corina, who still dreams of one day being a trauma nurse, is employed by The Salvation Army’s Ridge Meadows Ministries in British Columbia, about 50 kilometres west of Vancouver.
She began her role in October last year as a Salvation Army community and family services advocate assistant. She works five days a week as part of the team that runs Sonia’s Cradle, a ministry that provides clothing, food and other assistance to the needy in the community. She’s also a listening ear in the “tender moments” when “raw emotions” are shared by the clients.
“It’s so much more than just the food,” she says.
Corina says it’s a blessing to be part of Sonia’s Cradle as she can relate to the people assisted through the initiative. She enjoys getting out into the community for donation pickups, driving her “buddy,” Samson, the centre’s “huge” delivery truck. (They have a smaller one named Delilah!)
“Launch a Ministry”
Ridge Meadows Ministries executive director Mark Stewart says the ministry assists about 60 families a month and runs a bag lunch program serving schools in the area.
For Corina, it’s a balance of work, ministry and family. Her role with the Army coincided with a ministry she and John, a self-employed timber flooring specialist, launched a few months before called City Serve, which is run through a church in Maple Ridge. City Serve delivers a range of goods and community services each week—not only food—to those in need.
Corina says they knew they wanted to help people in whatever community they called home. Seven years ago, they sold their home in Coquitlam, B.C., and moved to nearby Maple Ridge because they felt a calling to do missionary work.
About five years ago, they began working as local missionaries in Surrey, B.C., where they attended a Romanian church. Just over two years ago, they started a bread night at a church in Maple Ridge. On Tuesdays, they would pick up end-of-the-day bread from a local bakery and take it to the church, where they would divide it up for distribution.
After completing a leadership course, they decided to turn their bread night into something more. Corina says a component of the sixweek course was that, at the end, the challenge was to “launch a ministry.” That’s how their latest venture began.
Over the past several months, the Ardeleans have done weekly deliveries of groceries to about 30 needy families, including to Sudanese refugees.
That mission is run from a renovated room at the church in Maple Ridge, which she and John do after knock-off time at Sonia’s Cradle. On Wednesday mornings, they help Syrian refugees attached to a Middle Eastern Friendship Centre, also delivering food hampers, then, in the afternoon, turn the room at their church into a grocery store and allow clients, one at a time, to enter, to choose their goods.
In addition to groceries, Corina and John hand out gift certificates for other stores and services— whatever they can get their hands on.
Because of their past, the Ardeleans are able to help in a non-judgmental way while preserving the dignity of those they assist.
“People that we help are extraordinary people,” Corina says. “They just find themselves in a situation they don’t want to be in.”
Reprinted from Others, February 2021
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