Christian Immigrant Support Services was founded in 2009 by Charles and Darla Balenga as a Christian response to the needs of immigrants. We serve people of all faiths and backgrounds in English and French, based on Christian principles.
Charles, being a first generation immigrant himself, arrived in Canada in 1996. He still remembers personally the challenges of settling in Canada as if it was yesterday.
Landing in Saskatoon in September, I remember feeling like I had just arrived in the cold winter that I had been told about. I remember going to church for the first time at Circle Drive Alliance Church in September 1996 wearing my heavy winter jacket. As I came out from church the Baynton family, George and Sylvia Baynton greeted me. They were surprised that I was wearing a heavy winter jacket in September when it was about 10 degrees outside. They asked me how come I was wearing a winter jacket at the end of summer. I told them that it was very cold. Then they asked me how long I had been in Canada, I said two weeks, then they understood. They offered to take me out for lunch. At lunch we visited for quite some time. Later in the week, they invited me for a meal in their home. They became and still are my family in Canada.
The cold was not the only challenge. I remember going to catch the bus for the first time. in Congo and in Zambia were I had lived before, when catching a public transportation, you go and sit down and wait for the conductor to come ask for the bus fare. So I did that. I went and sat down. Then the bus driver noticed that I did not pay. He called me and said, “Hey man, this bus is not for free.” I asked him where was the conductor because I was waiting for him to collect the money. He asked me how long I had been in Canada and I told him three days. Then he understood and showed me where to put the money.
One day some good Samaritans brought me food, plenty of it. There were some food that I did not know its usage. One day someone came to visit me. He asked if I had some food that he could eat. I told him to look in the fridge and in the pantry and get something. He grabbed a box of cereal. Then I asked him what he was going to do with that box. He told me that he was going to eat cereal. I was surprised to see that the cereal box that had been in my pantry was actually food.
I have many personal stories of challenges in settling in Canada. One of them involves the late Dr. Ernest and Leona Schmidt. I met them at Forest Grove Community Church where my friends Dr. Allan and Barb Barr took me to attend the Intervarsity Student welcoming dinner. Dr. and Mrs Schmidt were former missionaries in my country of origin, the Democratic Republic of Congo. After we had also become family, they took me for a ride to show me the city. I remember seeing posters everywhere of the word PIZZA. I asked them, what is this word Pizza that I am seeing everywhere? Their answer was much more wiser; they said we will show you one day. One day they took me to a restaurant and ordered Pizza. As I ate it for the first time, I said, "Wow, this food is really good. What is it?" Then they said Pizza. We just laughed and I said, "No wonder why there are posters for it everywhere."
While we need to recognize that things are changing all over the world, it still remains true that immigrating to a whole new country and continent is challenging. This is why CISS is here to help immigrants to successfully settle in their new country. Without help, even those immigrants who seem self-sufficient, financially, can still find life in Canada very challenging. Charles is very grateful to
Canadians who took him in and helped him successful settle in Canada. Without those outstanding Canadians, life in Canada would have been very difficult. It is because of what he received from these kind Canadians that he decided that he must also support other immigrants to successfully settle in Canada. He delights also in helping build strong communities where there is equality for all people and
society in which we each contribute to make our world and our community better.
WORD OF THANKS
We want to thank Southridge Community Church from the bottom of our hearts for giving us an office and space to operate our God given ministry in order to support immigrants to successfully settle in Canada and to help contribute to building our Lloydminster community. To God be the glory!