(Source: Diocese of St. Catharines website, www.saintcd.com )
When Ed Wethli expanded his Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based coffee business into Saudi Arabia in 2014, he had no idea that it would lead to his role in bringing Syrians from violence and bloodshed to a safe home in Canada. Through his business contacts in the Middle East, he learned of a Syrian family that urgently needed to get out of the region. Shortly before Christmas of 2014, he brought the family of four to stay in his home, and he helped them to establish a new life in the United States.
Wethli had been hearing about the terrible conditions that their extended families were facing in Syria, but he didn’t think there was anything that he could do to help. All of this changed in September when he saw the picture that horrified people around the world of a drowned Syrian boy on a Greek beach. He felt compelled to do something, but he still didn’t know how to help. Then his Syrian friends asked, “Could you just get our families out”?
So began an effort by Wethli and his friends, among them an attorney named Jennifer Allison, to find safe haven for twenty three Syrians. They quickly realized that it was not a workable option to bring them to the States. When they learned about private sponsorship in Canada, they began to look into it to see if the Syrians they were helping could find a sponsor. They also began raising funds to help potential sponsors support the refugees.
In January, Wethli and Allison attended a meeting at St. Catharines with parishes that were interested in sponsoring Syrian refugees. They were overwhelmed by the response and they ultimately supplied the funding for four parishes (St. Michael’s in Fort Erie, St. Thomas More and Our Lady of the Scapular in Niagara Falls, and St. Andrew’s in Welland) to sponsor five family units. The funds have been raised from individuals across the United States, and churches in the Pittsburgh area. The Pittsburgh diocese is partnering with St. Catharines to sponsor refugee families, but this has become a truly ecumenical effort. Christians are coming together across national and denominational lines to save some of the most vulnerable people in the world who are facing unimaginable atrocities.
There are many American churches and individuals who would like to make a difference in the Syrian crisis, but struggle to do so directly in their own country. Wethli and Allison decided to take advantage of the momentum that was building and continue to help refugees find safe homes. They have founded a nonprofit, Ananias Mission, and they are continuing to build partnerships between Canadian and American churches to give refugees hope and a home. The name was inspired by Saint Ananias, who helped Saint Paul after he was blinded on the road to Damascus. Ananias Mission aspires to do God’s work in the Middle East and to help those affected by the Syrian crisis.
For more information about Ananias Mission, please contact Jennifer Allison at email@example.com. For more information about sponsorship initiatives in the Diocese of St. Catharines, please visit www.saintcd.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.