10 ways to welcome our new Afghan neighbors

More than 50,000 Afghan refugees have just arrived in our country. Very few of them know anything about Jesus. Most have never even met a Christian. So, it matters who welcomes them.

Initially housed temporarily at military bases around the country, these families are now moving into communities in almost every state as housing opens up. They come in need of everything – a place to live and the minimum furnishings to fill it, food, and other basics to help them get on their feet. You can easily support them by making a grant from your Giving Fund to an organization that works with refugees. However, below, we’re providing you with options to go an extra mile.

Many of the newly arrived Afghans are people who have aided the U.S. in Afghanistan, which is real reason to honor them. However, they don’t have to merit our help to receive it. That’s not our primary motivation; Jesus is.

We are Christians, and our call couldn’t be clearer. Jesus was once a refugee in Egypt, and when he returns as King, the Bible tells us he will come in his glory with all the angels, sit on his throne, and remember those who treated the “least of these” as they would have treated him.

The righteous will ask him:

When did we see you a stranger and welcome you …?

And the King will answer:

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me” (Matthew 25:31-46).

Here are 10 ways to help, but there are surely many more. Get creative, and write us to share about your experience.

10 ways you can help Afghan refugees right now:

  1. Use your Giving Fund. Send a gift to an organization that supports refugees, or use your fund to search for organizations that support refugees in your area. If you feel called to help in any of the ways below, you can use this search to find an organization, or you can contact your local NCF team, who may already be aware of charities working with Afghans nearby.
  2. Use your home or property. A shortage in housing is the most critical struggle facing refugees right now. Resettlement agencies work with landlords and apartment complexes to find affordable, safe, and clean units that are within walking distance to grocery stores and bus routes. These leases usually last six months to a year.

    However, convincing landlords to rent to people with no credit history and no job during a housing shortage is not easy. Some resettlement agencies are looking for safe apartments. Others look to individuals and church partners to provide host homes. If you’re interested in hosting refugees or own a property you would like to rent to them, find a refugee-support organization near you or contact your local NCF team to help you get connected. You can pay a month’s rent for about $1,000 (though this can vary quite a bit by location).
  3. Rally your church. The Church is the Body of Christ, his hands and feet. And Christian refugee-resettlement organizations are looking for local churches to partner with them. If yours isn’t already serving a refugee community, now is a great time to start. Encourage your congregation to come alongside refugee families by becoming a community partner, or join with your small group or Sunday School class to support families. The needs will likely be enough that everyone can be involved. You can commit to serving a refugee family for at least three months. Others ask for a longer commitment. One organization allows churches, Christian business owners, and even schools to form “Circles of Welcome,” inviting groups to sign a written commitment to stick with a refugee family for a year.
  4. Volunteer your skills. If you teach, you may be able to provide English classes or volunteer at a local after-school program. You might be able to help a refugee with a resume or with school paperwork for their kids. Some organizations provide listings (like this one) to show what volunteers can do. Whatever your skills, there are ways for you to help, and many organizations have an application you or your group can complete to help match you with the best service opportunities.
  5. Support a whole family for three months. The government support for our newest neighbors is complicated, but in most cases, it won’t be enough to last a family for long. And the benefits received by these refugees are based on the type of Visa they were given. Some will receive less support than others. The group that receives less will also not receive green cards and have no path to citizenship. (Learn more about statuses and benefits in the table here.) According to World Relief, it takes about $10,000 to support a refugee family during their first three months. If you feel called to do so, you may give or join with others to raise this amount to support a family.
  6. Welcome them with food. If you run a food pantry or just like to shop for unique ingredients, find out if there are Afghans in your area and if you can do something special to serve them. Help stock your local food pantry, but keep in mind that this is also a fun opportunity to explore the culture of these new neighbors. Consider gathering up some of the foods that will make them feel at home. Here is a list to get you started, and don’t forget the green tea. Afghans drink it daily.
  7. Offer employment or make an in-kind gift. If your business is able to hire refugees legally authorized to work in the U.S., consider making this known to a local agency. (There are benefits to hiring refugees.) If your business makes or sells something a refugee can use, consider making an in-kind gift. If you don’t own a business, you may still be able to help. Some areas that have welcomed refugees for years may have job-search centers where you can volunteer, like Friends of Refugees’ Career Hub in Atlanta. If you can’t find an organization like this that specializes in helping find jobs for immigrants in your area, you may still be able to help by connecting with a resettlement agency nearby.
  8. Host a refugee shower. When we get married or have a baby, our community rallies around us to provide us with everything we need for our new home or family member. Most refugees will not arrive with a large community awaiting them. You can stand in the gap for them by getting a list from a local refugee ministry, preparing a party, and inviting your friends. Create a wishlist for the refugees, and invite each guest to bring an item or two. Not only will this help to provide for a family’s new home, but it will raise awareness of the need for the Christian community to follow God’s command to love foreigners as much as he does.
  9. Give creatively. After seeing what happened in the Kabul airport, a group of fabric-shop owners in Winston-Salem, North Carolina got together to make a welcome quilt, auctioned it (raising $1300!), and gave the proceeds to Church World Service to welcome a family. Envision Atlanta runs a farm that includes goats and camels to meet the needs of refugees who are accustomed to products not found in stores nearby. Samaritan’s Purse is establishing tea houses around the country, to provide a place refugees can go to socialize and feel welcomed. What can you do to show our new neighbors they are seen and cared about?
  10. Be a friend. A local refugee agency polled its clients and asked them, “What one thing do you want more than anything else?” Their answer was not a car or a home or even a job. The overwhelming majority of refugees said the one thing they wanted most was a friend.

There are so many opportunities to make an impact. We hope you find joy in fulfilling some of them.

Photo and video courtesy of World Relief.

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