Hand in Hand: Serving Refugees in Winnipeg

Cristina Boersma
August 16 2022


When I first heard what Allan was doing among refugees in Winnipeg, I felt a desire to learn more. After meeting with him and hearing the details, I was convinced that this amazing story, describing what God can do with a willing and servant heart, had to be shared with the world.

“Welcoming strangers has become one of our greatest needs and significant challenges as Christians in Canada,” points out Craig Kraft, the Executive Director of Outreach Canada.

Allan Hiller heard and obeyed God’s call in an authentic and practical way to meet the physical and spiritual needs of refugees. Below, Allan shares about this wonderful initiative that is bearing much fruit for the Kingdom and bringing glory to God.

Welcoming Newcomers to Canada

My wife and I served as missionaries in Croatia for fifteen years. Learning a new language and culture was hard, but our experience as foreigners abroad enabled us to relate to refugees and immigrants when we moved back to Canada eight years ago. After we moved back to Winnipeg, I noticed the increasing number of refugees in our area. I felt God bringing the world to us. We don’t need to go to the world to reach the world.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as of June 8, 2022, a total of 15,475 Afghan refugees have arrived in Canada. They include Afghans who assisted the government, privately sponsored refugees and refugees referred by the United States, the human rights group Front Line Defenders and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

According to federal government data, as of June 2022:

  • 280 of those refugees have made Manitoba their new home.
  • Brandon has so far welcomed 40 government assisted Afghan refugees.
  • Winnipeg has welcomed 205 and an additional 35 privately sponsored refugees.

One night the Lord gave me a dream about how to reach newcomers coming to Canada. I quickly wrote down how to reach out to newcomers through sharing furniture and meeting practical needs.

Loving and Caring for Refugees through our Furniture Supply

At the end of March of this year, when it was still cold outside, about five Afghan refugees (two women and three men) walked for about 2 hours from the hotel where they were staying to our warehouse looking for furniture. When they arrived, I was having a meeting.

K, their leader, is a friendly man, very outspoken and friendly. He and his wife have four children. I welcomed them and gave them tea and cookies. I asked him how they found the warehouse and he said that they had seen an ad on the ‘Hands of Hope’ website. Hands of Hope is a ministry that used to offer free furniture, but it closed just before Covid. After they ate, they spent a couple of hours looking around, and got lots of needed items, like shoes, jackets, bedding, kitchen stuff and furniture.

A few days later we delivered the furniture to them. K introduced me to another family, a family with six children. The family came to our warehouse and they were able to find furniture and other items they needed.

I was happy to have been able to provide furniture to those two dear families in need.

K lives close to our office, and keeps on introducing us to many other families, as there are many families in need waiting at the airport. K, who now calls me his brother, comes to our downtown office, Hope Central, every Friday since, and we provide some spiritual and physical food, as we have weekly discussions about faith and life.

Hope Central

I (Allan) am the founder and Director of ‘Encountering Hope Ministries Canada’. Hope Central, we call it, near Central Park in downtown Winnipeg is our center for reaching out to many newcomers that come to Canada. Hope Central, in central Winnipeg also means that hope is the center of it all, and many newcomers need hope, so we can share God’s hope through furniture, blessings, food, encouragement and many other ways. For newcomers to Canada, it’s important to have a landing place, a landing ministry for them when they come so that they can know that somebody is there to reach out and care for them.

We couldn’t do what we do without the partnership of other organizations and churches. The furniture we give out comes from church and people’s donations. The ‘Freedom International School’ connected us with an organization called ‘Food Rescue’ that provides the bread and food we give out. By God’s grace and provision, we were able to help hundreds of families with food and furniture the past eight years.

We desire this to be a ministry for many disciple makers, so that they can reach out to their communities and make disciples of all nations. Our ministry centre in downtown Winnipeg is an incubator for disciple makers.

As we support and encourage one another, my hope is to see DMM’s being contextualized here in North America in reaching out to newcomers and Muslims in creating movements of disciple makers in Canada.

This is our vision: through the Great Commission and Great Compassion we build relationships and make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission says go into the world and make disciples of all nations. God also says we are to love your neighbor as yourself, the Great Compassion.

Our Team

From left to right: Pastor’s Victor, Javed, Solomon and me, Allan

Solomon Temesgen serves alongside me in loving and caring for newcomers. He is originally from Eritrea and moved to Canada in 2016 with his wife and four children because of persecution for his faith in his home country. Prior to coming to Canada, they fled to Sudan, where Solomon planted a church and managed a refugee centre. The Lord gave him a heart for the people of Eritrea, Ethiopia and of Arabic background as well.

As Solomon and I serve together, and God provides opportunities, we build relationships with the ones who come to our centre. Another brother who helps is Javed, who came a year and half ago from Pakistan. Pastor Ahmed and other disciple makers are also involved in the outreach.”

Encountering Hope Ministries Canada

Join the Story

Allan and his team found a way to meet one of the basic needs of refugees, the need for connection. As you walk around your neighborhood, I want to encourage you to ask the Lord to open your eyes for you to see the ‘strangers’ and use you to welcome them into God’s loving arms through your life.

To make a donation to Encountering Hope Ministries Canada, please visit https://gcfcanada.com/encountering-hope-ministries-canada/ and designate your donation to #770 and Encountering Hope Ministries Canada.

As the National Coordinator for Loving Muslims Together, Cristina serves as the administrative hub for the Canadian Leadership Team and the larger Canada-wide network. She has experience in office administration, newcomers settlement and international students admission. Cristina’s caring and enthusiastic personality, cross-cultural experiences and evangelistic heart for the unreached Muslims are great assets to the Outreach Canada team.  


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