- Describe a little about yourself and the friend you made through volunteering at VOR.
My name is Anna, I am one of the ESL teachers with VOR. I grew up in the LA area, and was led to pursue cross-cultural missions and ministry while studying at Biola University. Lalah (pseudonym, meaning tulip in Dari) is a young girl from Kabul, Afghanistan. Before her family fled early 2021, Lalah was studying to work in the medical field. She is sweet, hardworking, and has a contagious smile.
- How did you meet? First impressions?
We first met when I had the privilege to substitute for a beginner class during the summer of 2021. Her parents were also in the class, as well as other recent Afghan arrivals. Lalah was the youngest student in the class, and I was led to connect with her through WhatsApp. From the beginning, she struck me as very gracious and tender.
- What was a key moment that furthered your friendship?
The weekend that Kabul fell to the Taliban, I went to visit Lalah and her family for the first time with another friend. Lalah has two older brothers that were not able to get out of Kabul in time. It was a time of sadness and grief for their country and their family. My friend had also brought her young child, and we had a blessed time eating and talking. I was touched by the hospitality of the family, and prayed that God would continue to work in their hearts.
- Something fun or surprising that you learned about Afghan culture through your friendship?
I think Afghan culture surprises me all the time! A big thing is hospitality. At the end of my first visit, Lalah asked that I would stay overnight. I was very surprised by this, and politely declined a couple of times. The time I visited during Christmas, I stayed for ten hours! Afghan families enjoy hosting, and I think it serves as a great opportunity and bridge to build friendships.
- An insight about refugees/asylees/SIV families you gained via volunteering?
Through my volunteering experience at VOR, I have been consistently struck by the resilience of the community we serve. They have a strength about them, and are not a people to be pitied or seen primarily as victims.
- How has God showed up in your journey/times together? Over the course of our friendship, God has been so gracious to allow trust to form and strengthen. The last time I went to visit the family home, it was a great blessing to be able to spend time with the whole family, not just Lalah and her parents. Her younger brothers also joined us as we played card games and talked. Her mother felt comfortable enough to ask me to take them to a Halal market, and I was blessed to see both women without hijabs.
- Looking back on your own story, how has God prepared you to serve among refugee families? Anything you’d like to share with those who want to take the next step to volunteer but have different hesitations?
It can be intimidating at first to engage with a new culture that is so different from your own. I was nervous that I would say or do the wrong thing, or that the language barrier would prove to be too big. What God has been teaching me throughout this process is to depend more on his grace. His Spirit fill us where we are lacking. I lack so much, and require so much of his grace. If God is leading you to serve Him through serving refugees, may his grace quiet any insecurity or hesitancy you have. Don’t miss out on the blessing!
If I could add a prayer request: I invite you to pray for Lalah and her family. They are working to get her brothers out of Afghanistan, that they may be reunited with them. Above all, that Jesus Christ would reveal himself to them, and that they would call on his name to be their Lord and Savior.