In February 1989 I met a young Polish refugee, in his late twenties. He was very intelligent and very pleasant. He had just arrived in Canada. I received a telephone call from a pastor friend asking me to visit this young man, who was being detained by the Immigration Authorities in Toronto. Because of my past mission experience inPoland, my friend thought it would be good if I went to see him. He was to await a refugee tribunal hearing.
The officer escorted me to a holding cell where I was introduced to the young man. He was keen to tell me that he was a Christian and had escaped out of Poland because he was threatened with persecution. He said he had managed to get toVienna where a contact had given him an airline ticket to Canada. He indicated he had lost his passport. I asked the Immigration Authorities what it would take to get him released. They told me that by posting a $2000 bond I could take him out while waiting for his hearing. I posted the bond and took him home – much to the surprise of my wife!
Word got out among the Christian community that he was in our home and people wanted to help. One lady spent $300 on shoes and new clothes for him. Another bought a winter coat. Many others made contributions to his cause. Our new-found friend became a very well dressed refugee. Some other friends, who lived in another town, found him a job, but for this, he needed to live with them. He was given permission to move by the Authorities and so moved in with our friends. Our Polish refugee made himself at home with them and began work.
About one month into this new phase, we received a call from our friends indicating that the young man had been making regular telephone calls to the United States. We suggested that it might be wise to investigate further, maybe by calling those numbers. What we discovered was most disturbing.
He had not come from Poland. In fact, he had come from Germany where he had abandoned his wife and child. He had destroyed his identity papers on the plane to Canada. The telephone calls to the United States were being made to a girlfriend. Naturally we became concerned about his willingness to stay around for a refugee hearing. I was obligated to give the Immigration Authorities the information we had discovered and even took him in to their office for his monthly check-in as was required. They did nothing about it and two days later he disappeared.
We had all been deceived. He knew how to work the system. Because of his disappearance I soon received a notification from the Canadian Government threatening legal action if I did not pay the $2000 bond money. Fortunately I had documented everything, including dates of my vists and reports to them etc. After several attempts I was able to get released from the bond liability.
Would we do it again if presented with similar circumstances? I think so, if I thought the person was in real need, but I think the next time we might be a little wiser!
I write about this experience in my book Real faith coming shortly.