Frustration is mounting amongst the congregation of Pine River United Church, as the wait for the arrival of its newly-hired reverend and his family has been put off once again.
The church has been hosting Sunday services via Zoom since the beginning of the pandemic and have been without a minister for more than a year, relying on retired or lay ministers to fill the void.
Janice Curtis, a member of the search committee and chair of the committee of stewards, said the committee was surprised to receive an application from a Rev. Wonder Chimvinga from Norton, Zimbabwe when they posted their search, but, after meeting him online, said he checked all the boxes of what they were looking for.
“The more we talked to him, the more we liked him,” said Curtis, and when they presented their choice of candidate before the congregation, the decision to hire Rev. Wonder Chimvinga was unanimous.
Rev. Chimvinga was hired and it was expected that he would assume the role of minister by the fall. He, his wife and three children completed the paperwork and anticipated receiving the appropriate visas in six to nine weeks, but the wait, according to Curtis, has now been stretched to 22 weeks and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
The church has been in contact with Ben Lobb MP, Prime Minister Trudeau and Sean Fraser, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. After correspondence back and forth, the committee learned that all immigration agents had been directed to working with people trying to get out of Afghanistan.
In response to the delay and to raise awareness about the situation, the congregation is hosting a virtual “Pray In” on Monday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. The group hopes to use the power of prayer by “going to a higher power” to help Immigration Canada find the means and resources to get the Chimvingas, and other families in similar situations, out of the state of limbo they are in. Curtis said “we don’t know what else to do here.”
“We are missing having the continuity of our own Minister, particularly when it comes to Pastoral Care,” said Curtis. “In the last month we have had four deaths, including my husband. Rev. Wonder has been checking in with me by email since my husband’s passing, for which I am very grateful. He is an exceptional individual, which is why we hired him. We just need to get him here.”
Curtis said the reverend had disposed of many of their belongings with the expectation they would soon be travelling and are now under a lot of strain as the wait continues.
“Indeed this has been one of the difficult times for us as a family since we are kept in a state of uncertainty for so long,” said Rev. Chimvinga, by email. “We have confidence that we are moving to Canada, but not sure when. There is no day that passes without my kids asking, Dad, when are we going to our new congregation and our new school? So you can imagine the suspense we are in, but having said all, we still have faith and we strongly believe that in the fullness of God’s time, He is going to make everything beautiful.”
Everyone is invited to participate in the Pray In and can access the link by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Rev. Chimvinga will attend the event as well.
Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent