The Life of an Afghan Refugee Family in America
September 2022
By a member of SEND’s Diaspora | North America team

August 15 drifted by in most places in America without much fanfare or notice. It was the first year anniversary of the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan to the Taliban. A date that changed the lives of a whole nation. We have seen firsthand the arrival of thousands of Afghan refugees. It has been overwhelming to them and sometimes to us too. There are unnumbered stories of pain and sorrow, but also countless stories of relief and thankfulness.

Fatima* and her family are recent arrivals from Afghanistan. They arrived in the US just 3 months ago. Her husband is working. She, though well educated in her own language and having held a high position in Afghanistan, hasn’t found work yet, as her English language skills need work. As a previously outspoken woman, she and her family had to hide for months in a safe house in Kabul before being able to escape. Friends and co-workers secretly brought them food and necessities, as they never left the safe house. They were afraid to be out on the streets lest she be recognized and detained. Now they are safe and free to walk the neighborhood streets of their town. Her children will attend school for the first time in a year. It will be a challenge for them as they adjust to a new culture and a very different school setting.

But they are free. They are not looking over their shoulders or worrying about who might be listening to hear and report their conversations. The family is very excited to be here and the children are eagerly (and nervously) anticipating going to an American school. Near the end of our visit, we prayed for them and asked God to give them his peace. We prayed for the children starting a new school, that they would find friends and settle in. I told them, "I remember our children, moving to a new school and it was hard for them, so we will be praying for a good transition for you all." They were very grateful for the prayer and quoted an Afghan proverb: “the jungle has both dry trees and wet trees”. It means where ever you go, there are good things and bad things or good people and bad people, so one needs to be careful.

We, as the Church, have a golden opportunity to reach out to this unreached people group who have come to our cities and towns. The definition of an unreached people group is that they are less than 2% reached with the gospel. These Afghans who have landed here are certainly in that category, as I would guess that 99% of them didn’t know or never met a Christian in Afghanistan.

Yes, they need help with basic necessities and English lessons. Yes, they will need more help navigating life here as government assistance stops. Many have found jobs at $14 and $15 an hour but that is not enough to pay the rent and household bills for a family of six. To make it here, they will need to develop new skills and become proficient in English. We can be part of their success story as we serve them in different ways representing Jesus Christ. As we take opportunities to pray with them and tell Bible stories, they will understand that we are people of faith. And when they have spiritual questions they will know that they can come to us with those types of questions.

Undeniably, working with refugees is challenging, and sometimes exhausting. That is why we encourage people whenever possible to work with a team. On a team, the challenges of helping a new family do not fall on the shoulders of just one person. Working with refugees can reap many blessings as well, as many times relationships go deep and last for a long time.

*Name changed for privacy.

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