Southeast Church Among First to Welcome an Afghan Family

March 25, 2022 • United States
Sharing meals together is a great way for church sponsors and Afghan families to get to know one another and to begin forming friendships.
Sharing meals is a great way for church sponsors and Afghan families to get to know one another and to begin forming friendships.

The Samaritan’s Purse Afghan Resettlement Program is connecting churches with families from Afghanistan waiting to be resettled in the United States.

The children run to greet them with a slew of hugs and smiles before they even get the door open all the way. They’re so excited to welcome the team and to see what surprises the day will bring.

They might share a meal together, go to the grocery store, visit the park, or shop for fabric and sew traditional Afghan clothing. Sometimes they practice English by playing card games that use colors and numbers. And, other days, the hours are filled with laughter as attempts to communicate without a shared language turn into an impromptu game of charades.

It’s an unlikely pairing brought together by war and crisis. A family from Afghanistan who doesn’t speak English and had never been to America. A group of Americans who don’t speak Dari or Pashto and have never traveled to Afghanistan. Strangers from different cultures who were once worlds apart are now neighbors.

Only a few weeks have passed, yet it seems like so much longer. “They tell us that we are treasured friends,” said Ronda, a member of the church that is sponsoring the Amini* family through the Samaritan’s Purse Afghan Resettlement Program. “Our hearts are connected. We have developed a beautiful, divinely inspired sense of trust.”

Strangers from different cultures—once worlds apart—are now neighbors.

A Step of Faith

The pastor’s sermon was all about taking the next step in obedience to God. “Raise your hand if you have something impossible on your heart,” he told the congregation.

Cathy’s hand immediately shot up in the air. Just that morning, she had received a message from Samaritan’s Purse about a special opportunity for local churches to help resettle Afghan families in their community. Cathy was already praying about how to be more involved in her church, and she was also burdened by the plight of Afghan families forced to flee their homeland after the country fell to the Taliban’s brutal regime.

Cathy, right, and Ronda are the best of friends and they're thankful they can serve together on this special outreach.

Cathy, right, and Ronda are the best of friends and they’re thankful they can serve together on this special outreach.

“We study and study in our life groups and Bible studies, but if we don’t get out into our community and put that study into practice, then we’re not living the way Christ wants us to live,” she said.

Yet, Cathy realized sponsoring a family would require a significant commitment, from securing housing and transportation to enrolling children in school to helping with language skills and navigating a new culture.

But after the pastor’s sermon that morning, Cathy knew exactly what God wanted her to do. She shared about the project with church leadership, and now, after connecting with Samaritan’s Purse, the church has welcomed the Amini family into their community. Cathy, Ronda, and several others members of their life group/small group—mostly retirees—have taken the lead in responsibilities related to resettling the family. Carl, one of the church’s pastoral staff, has also taken a leading role in the resettlement process.

“This project is drawing our life group closer together and helping us to develop even more meaningful relationships,” Cathy said.

Cathy watches in awe and gratitude as God provides for every single one of the family’s needs, whether a vehicle, furniture, or a house within walking distance to stores.

“There are so many little blessings. I can’t wait to see what God does each day,” she said. “This has touched my heart so much. To work on a project of this magnitude is special.”

Starting Over

The Amini family includes father Rahim*, mother Nadia*, and children ages 15 to 2. Although Rahim is thankful that his wife and children are safe with him, they did, sadly, have to leave other family members in Afghanistan.

An important aspect of church sponsorship is helping the family learn English.

An important aspect of church sponsorship is helping the family learn English.

“I was not able to continue work in Afghanistan. The situation was very bad,” he said. “We couldn’t bring anything with us.”

The family has looked to Cathy and the team for help with routine tasks that are suddenly unfamiliar, such as using an electric stove and a washing machine. They’re especially grateful for the team’s help in learning English.

“They are our teachers,” Rahim said. “We learn so much from them. It would have been impossible for us to live here without this team.”

Nadia is already learning the alphabet and is eager to continue learning English with the team so that she can encourage her children. “I want to help my kids with their school work. And they may need their mother to go with them to school sometimes.”

“It would have been impossible for us without this team.”

Nadia said she also appreciates how the church team values and loves their children. “Time flies when they are with us. The kids are always thinking about the team coming because they play and have fun with them.”

Nadia and Rahim are excited about learning how to drive, gaining employment, and taking the next steps toward rebuilding a new life for their family. “It was a dream to be in the U.S.,” Rahim said. “You can make your own life.”

‘Vessels of God’s Love

Cathy and Ronda both said that getting to know Nadia, Rahim, and their children is teaching them the importance of learning about—and from—other cultures. Cathy was initially worried that she wouldn’t be able to connect with a family from a culture so very different than hers. Or, that the family wouldn’t be interested in becoming friends with people so unlike them.

Carl prays with Laurie, a Samaritan's Purse staff member working with the resettlement program.

Carl prays with Laurie, a Samaritan’s Purse staff member working with the resettlement program.

“Let go of any preconceived ideas. There was no wall between us,” Cathy said. “People are people. They want to be loved.”

Cathy, Ronda, and their team members continue to be intentional about seeking to understand the Amini family’s culture and what is important to them.

“Don’t assume you know what they want—ask them. We need to offer them dignity,” Ronda said. “They don’t want us to take care of them, but to teach them and to help them to be independent.”

Ronda is also growing closer to God through this unique effort. “There are a lot of spiritual lessons along the way, like trusting and surrendering,” she said. “We’re good at planning, but it’s not our planning—this is showing the Lord’s power.”

Ronda encouraged other sponsoring churches to focus on caring for the Afghan family while trusting that God will work out every detail for their provision.

“We’re just vessels of God’s love.”

*Name changed.