After fleeing Pakistan from persecution, spending seven years in Thailand as refugees, the Gill family are glad to call Winnipeg their home.
The family was persecuted because of their Christian faith, as Javed Gill, the father was also volunteering as a pastor. In 2020, they finally arrived in Winnipeg, Man. with sponsorship from churches in the city.
Gill worked as a sports teacher in Pakistan and volunteered as a Pastor in his spare time.
"I worked with our home ministry called EPT (Evangelical Prayer Testimony) Fellowship Ministry. I was the lead pastor."
What this ministry focused on was spreading the good news, evangelism, and children's ministry. Because of this, Gill and his family faced persecution and in 2013 left their home country.
"I wanted to share the word of God to our community in Pakistan. But it was a critical condition when we left Pakistan as many were against us and that's why we left," says Gill.
Staying in their home country preaching the word of God put not only Gill at risk but his wife and children. That's when his parents asked them to leave, for their safety.
The family lived as refugees for seven years in Thailand.
"It was a difficult situation in Thailand. We had many problems there and many people were arrested. Thank God He gave me an opportunity in the country. We started the ministry of Pakistan asylum seekers and refugees in my Urdu language."
Along with a church pastor in Thailand, the two shared a building space to run these ministries that also preached the word of God.
"Many people and children got baptized and accepted Jesus Christ. That was God's use for me and my family in Thailand. It was a precious seven years of our lives," he says.
Gill mentions that even though he wasn't able to work for those seven years, God provided for his family every day. He's grateful for the help from the two churches here in Winnipeg that worked to bring the Gill family to Canada.
Greeta Sonnichsen is the drop-in Youth Coordinator at Youth for Christ (YFC) in Winnipeg. While attending church in 2020, Sonnichsen noticed the Gill family and ended up connecting with them.
Sonnichsen has dropped off pizzas for the family, has gone on walks with the girls, and does online Bible studies with them.
"God put it in my heart and I just do what God calls me to do. I was a refugee myself between Burma and Thailand for roughly 10 years until I came to Canada as a government sponsor," says Sonnichsen.
This allows her to relate to the Gill family quite well, having gone through some similar situations. Sonnichsen was born as a minority of the Karen nationality in Burma.
"We were persecuted because of... I think they just wanted to kill us and take the land that we live on, which is usually very peaceful in the jungle. When I was two-years-old I had to run for my life. We made it to Canada with one mom and five kids."
The sponsor churches also bring the Gill's where they need to go and show them around, for which they are grateful.