This past month marks one year since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
While we continue to mourn the ongoing tragedy of this nation’s collapse, we also want to honor the powerful ways that we have seen God show up through caring believers like you. Because of the overwhelming generosity of Southern Baptists, Send Relief was able to provide emergency food rations to 1,500 Afghans overseas, as well as temporary housing to nearly 1,000 Afghan refugees. Even more exciting, over 600 people got to hear the gospel message for the first time, with over 50 of these accepting Christ as their Savior.
Send Relief Vice President Josh Benton commented, “People aren’t hearing about it as much in the news lately, but the situation hasn’t gone away. There are millions of Afghans fleeing violence and persecution, and this is an amazing opportunity for churches in the United States to respond and follow Christ’s call to welcome the stranger. This is also an issue that’s bigger than Afghanistan. With over 27 million refugees worldwide, it’s clear to see that God is allowing the nations to be stirred. With compassion, hospitality and gospel intention, Send Relief will continue partnering with churches who are reaching the nations in their own communities.”
Over the past year, one of the primary ways that Send Relief has partnered with local churches in responding to this refugee crisis is by providing free coaching sessions with our Afghan Refugee Response Specialist, Dana Bomar.*
She told our staff, “Unfortunately, the news that many Americans have seen about Afghanistan over the last two decades has been mostly negative. This is to be expected, as Afghanistan has experienced conflict and suffering for many years now. But there is another story out there that is told considerably less often. It’s a story of the riches of Afghanistan, found in her people who endure despite their many challenges. They are the story worth telling, they are the part most worthy of our embrace.”
“As Afghans coming to the U.S. face some of their most uncertain moments in life, the Church is called to welcome them, serve them and be salt and light to them,” Bomar shared. “It’s true that they come from a different culture than our own and some Christians may wonder, ‘Will I have anything in common with them?’ But in our hearts, we know we are much more alike than different. We know that they too have been made in the image of God and that He longs for them to know Him.”
Bomar continued, “If I could speak to local pastors and church leaders, I would encourage them to ask themselves, ‘Are we embracing the stranger in need around us? Are we going to the nations that God has placed in our own backyard, just as Christ has called us to? Are we offering hope to those who have truly never heard the good news?’ I would deeply encourage them to step out in faith among their Afghan neighbors and lead others to do the same. And if they need any advice or reassurance on how to start, Send Relief will gladly come alongside them and help them begin. Afghans have a proverb that says, ‘Drop by drop a river is made.’ The same is true here. All we must do is take those first steps, and the rest will follow in faith.”
The leaders at our Atlanta, Boston and Denver ministry centers are committed to recognizing this imago Dei in others by running refugee ministries that have specifically focused on the Afghanistan crisis over the last year.
In Atlanta, our mission housing became a temporary shelter for 50 Afghan refugees when they first arrived in America and connected local church families with individuals, so that they could build meaningful relationships that would last far beyond their permanent resettlement. Some families were then gifted with bicycles and bike safety trainings so that they could get around the city on their own without having to wait for the convenience of a car or navigate the stressful public transportation routes right away. Others were shown how to obtain driver’s licenses, apply for home ownership and start job hunting—in fact, over 150 newly arrived Afghans now have full-time employment in Atlanta because of this ministry!
Additionally, a Send Relief partner started a mentoring program in their apartment to provide educational and language assistance for Afghan families. So far, he has had over 60 families choose to move into their apartment complex as a result.
Meanwhile in Boston, our team hosted a spring event to bring refugee awareness to the community and organized the Refugee Council of Send Network pastors who committed to welcoming 50 refugees over the next year. As recently as Monday, August 22, a new family of six arrived from Afghanistan at 1 A.M. after 30 hours of flying. They were weary but incredibly grateful to have arrived safely. Ministry center director John Ames shared, “To be around them even at that hour of exhaustion, you would never have guessed that they had lost everything and had been displaced by conflict, living in a refugee camp for a year and a half. They were so warm and joyful!”
The father had been stripped of all he had in his former life but, upon landing, immediately began asking how he could improve his language skills and start working to provide his family with new opportunities. Ames shared that the team would be helping him navigate employment applications and health insurance, as well as school registration, clothing shopping, grocery assistance and public transportation.
Thanks to the Send Relief Boston Refugee Care Circle (RCC), he and his family arrived at their apartment to find their furniture already assembled, their fridge fully stocked and their cellphones paid through the end of the year. As the leader of the RCC group responsible, Pastor Brian Owen of Grace City Boston commented, “The family is being embraced in a beautiful way! We all want to follow in the way of Jesus, and this—what we are doing right here, caring for a group of people who have lost it all and been displaced—is at the heart of what it means to love like Christ. As we engage in this, we know that Christ is delighted in what we are doing.” After helping to organize this initial RCC, Director Ames is now working to multiply this caring model within another Bostonian neighborhood to welcome even more families.
In Denver, we are continuing Colorado’s generous history of taking in refugees from around the world by partnering with non-profits who donate groceries, diapers and clothing to the Afghan families we are working with. We are also partnering with a unique school that exists specifically for refugee children to access free counseling services, language courses and medical consultations in addition to their normal classes.
In response to many refugee families’ lack of transportation and need for clothing, we created a portable boutique trailer filled with clothes that Afghan women are used to wearing and that fill a need for business casual attire for upcoming job interviews.
In addition to helping organize these services, Send Relief’s Denver Development Manager, Amy Hulst, also joined a co-sponsorship team to support an Afghan couple with six children. She shared about this experience, “The sheer shock and trauma of what they’ve seen in their lifetime is so jarring. It’s such an honor to come alongside them and help them figure out weird Western things like junk mail while also having those deep conversations about cultural identity. They truly are some of my greatest friends here in the city, and it’s such a gift to serve as a bridge and voice of advocacy on their behalf. I’m confident there’s no better group of people to step into the lives of refugees than the local church.”
As Hulst continued assisting this family while mobilizing churches around Denver to do the same, her role in their lives began to expand. From their conversations drinking tea on the floor, she gained their trust and eventually was asked to help the parents fill out immigration paperwork and register their children for school. Their gratitude was evident when they told Hulst, “This is one of the most horrible things we have ever lived through. We’re trying to rebuild our lives, and we’re so grateful that there are people here who have committed to helping us. We don’t know how we would’ve figured out life here without the help from Send Relief.”
At Send Relief, we echo that gratitude back to you. And though a year has passed and many immediate needs have been met by this point, we encourage you not to forget about the Afghan refugees resettling around you. For many, this is has been the most difficult year of their lives, and they still need your friendship and support.
To learn more about how to support refugees, please visit our Afghan Refugee Crisis page or email Send Relief’s ambassador for refugees and displaced people, John Barnett, at [email protected]. We can provide practical advice on how to get started!
*Name changed for security.
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Published September 1, 2022