Two Ohio families move to Ontario

February 22, 2023 | News | Volume 27 Issue 4
Barry Bergen | Special to Canadian Mennonite
Kauffman family members (left to right): Roger and Rachel, Neil and Simon, Ryan and Valerie (parents of Neil and Simon).

Two Ohio families with 300 years of history in the U.S. began to consider leaving America when the two brothers and their wives faced workplace transitions in 2021.

Ryan and Valerie Kauffman of Bellefontaine have three children, two in highschool and one at Eastern Mennonite University, while Ryan’s brother Rudi and Rudi’s wife Ravonn of Bluffton have two daughters in highschool. Both families ended up buying homes in Leamington, Ontario. Their parents Roger and Rachel Kauffman are presently in the process of moving to Canada. 

There were many reasons that weighed into this decision. Political polarization in the U.S. was among the factors contributing to the families’ decision to move. “With a two-party political system,” Ryan said, “you can get polarized quickly.”

Another factor was the increasing gun violence. There was a local school shooting, and the brothers have lost two cousins to gun violence.

The couples looked at the situation around them and asked the question: “Where do we want our children to grow up?”

Seeing the amount of energy poured into politics in the States was also a factor.

Ryan, who is a family doctor,  has seen many of his patients make agonizing, life-altering decisions because they did not have medial coverage. The difficulty of witnessing this contributed to his desire to move.”

Leamington’s size and proximity to Ohio (just across Lake Erie) made it a good place to look for a new home. Church life is important to the Kauffman families and, as they began searching for a new place to live in Canada, they also began searching for a new church home.

They began exploring Leamington United Mennonite Church via online services, eventually joining an online Bible study. They enjoyed the services and, when pandemic restrictions eased up and the border opened in December 2021, they came up for a visit.

Then they began looking for jobs. By the beginning of 2022, the families had decided to move. The couples had job interviews in April 2022, and both couples purchased homes in Leamington over the summer. They could not make the actual move until they received work permits. Rudi and Ravonn received theirs last November, while Ryan and Valerie had to wait until mid-December.

They have settled into life north of the border. Their highschool-aged children are adjusting to studies in Canada, and one son even found himself on the local highschool curling team.

“Within three weeks I had over 400 patients,” Ryan said. Health care is one of the many differences between the two countries and, as a physician, he sees these differences up close. “In every country, health care is rationed differently,” he said. “In the U.S., if you have money, you can get any amount of care. Here in Canada, care is rationed by waiting. Everyone is in the same line and receives the same care, but everyone waits for it.”

In their experience, Canada is also much more welcoming to foreigners. Valerie said, “Diversity is much more accepted here. Different cultural holidays are on the school calendar.”

Differences across the border also emerge in the churches. Mennonite Church U.S.A. congregations struggle with the political polarization happening all around them.

“The way you choose to read the Bible comes from the way you are politically focused,” Ryan said. “Those who focus on Jesus’ radical call for inclusion are in conflict with those who focus on purity, to the point where seeing the other’s point of view becomes very near impossible.”

The Kauffmans are happy to be in Canada, although moving has pushed them to view things in new ways. They are no longer members of a nation that throws its weight around in the world arena. In Canada, that is not part of the equation.

“As Christians, we say our allegiance is to Christ,” Ryan said. “This is challenged wherever we live, but Canada seemed like a better fit in which to live out our faith.” 

Kauffman family members (left to right): Roger and Rachel, Neil and Simon, Ryan and Valerie (parents of Neil and Simon).

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