As Afghan refugees fled to the United States following the Taliban takeover of their homeland last August, Southern Baptists from at least four state conventions initiated ministries, such as a truckload of household supplies, English classes, baby showers and welcome kits, specifically aimed to help their new neighbors rebuild their lives.
Georgia: ‘Driven by our love and concern’
Sometimes the most generous gifts come in the back of a pickup truck. Churches in Rabun County Baptist Association in Georgia delivered a truckload of household supplies for Afghan refugees seeking to resettle in Georgia, The Christian Index reported.
Supplies included blankets, towels, toothbrushes, vacuum cleaners, microwaves and other basic household goods.
The truckload of gifts is one aspect of Project: Afghan Response, an initiative of Mission Georgia and Georgia Baptist WMU, inviting Georgia Baptist churches to help Afghan refugees by providing items they need to establish their households.
“This kind of effort takes dedicated volunteers and contributors,” said Bill Barker, associational missions strategist in the Rabun County Association. “This project is driven by our love and concern for all people in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Minnesota-Wisconsin: ‘Walk with our new neighbors’
The first stop for Afghan refugees in Wisconsin is Fort McCoy. From there, refugees are being resettled throughout the U.S., including resettlement communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention WMU was awarded a HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund grant from the WMU Foundation. WMU leaders are using the HEART Fund to partner with the Hanan Refugee Relief Group’s Milwaukee chapter, the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist reported.
“Partnering is our first step towards our goal to have an ongoing relationship with the Afghan families,” said Gwendolyn Sutton, Minnesota-Wisconsin WMU president.
Already, community volunteers have come alongside WMU and Hanan volunteers to pack welcome kits for refugees.
“We prayed … that God would use our hands to be a blessing to those who would receive the welcome kits,” Sutton said.
Money from the grant will be used to provide warm meals and groceries when Afghan refugees from Fort McCoy settle into their new apartments.
As the resettlement process continues through spring 2022, Sutton said, the WMU’s relationship with refugees “will go far beyond the life of the grant as we walk with our new neighbors, helping them feel at home. …We will have many opportunities for the refugees to experience the love of Jesus.”
Missouri: ‘Rare and amazing opportunity’
As Missouri has become home for hundreds of Afghan refugee families, Missouri Baptists have taken a multi-faceted approach to welcoming their new neighbors, The Pathway reported.
St. Louis Metro Baptist Association is a part of the Good Neighbor Initiative, a ministry that matches active members of area churches with families arriving from across the globe.
Missouri WMU has provided a $5,000 grant to help with grocery gift cards to be added to other financial and practical gifts coming from Missouri Baptist churches for Afghan refugees.
Missouri Baptist churches also support the ministry of Oasis International, which has resettled 450 to 500 Afghan refugees in St. Louis. The ministry has provided cars and taught English classes for refugees and held baby showers for expectant Afghan mothers, among other activities.
“It is a rare and amazing opportunity that God is creating for us to embrace people from a nation that was ‘very closed’ to the gospel and Jesus,” said Denise Rhodes, a member of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis, and the good neighbor/media coordinator for Oasis International.
“Now they are our neighbors — that is only something God can do! The question, as always, is, ‘Will we embrace it? Will we see what God is doing and join Him?’ It starts, most often, by supplying a daily need, like grocery gift cards or toilet paper, and leads to an opportunity to pray in Jesus’ name for their families back in Afghanistan who are suffering greatly with famine and no jobs. [This] leads to more opportunities to pray and let them see Jesus is alive and answering their prayers and more opportunities to share of God’s great plan of redemption for them as well.”
Virginia: ‘Our mission field’
An American military base in Virginia recently became temporary housing for an estimated 5,000 Afghan refugees, Send Relief reported. Soon, the pastor of Pillar Church of Dumfries, Virginia, began searching for ways to help the refugees adjust to life in their new home country.
In partnership with Send Relief, Southern Baptists there are hosting daily activities for children, including sports, games, songs, English classes and crafts.
“The goal is to go in and love on these kids who have been through so much trauma and transition in a short period of time. We want to set them up for success in the American education system, while reminding them that they are children who can still play and have fun despite what they’ve already been through,” said Sarah Parker*, Send Relief’s relief worker on the military base.
“This is our mission field,” she said.
For more information on how you or your church can minister to Afghan refugees, visit Southern Baptists’ Send Relief website.
*Name has been changed for security reasons.
EDITOR’S NOTE — With reporting from The Christian Index, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, The Pathway and Send Relief.