When the crisis in Afghanistan broke out in August 2021, there was an outpouring of concern and support from the Christian community. “How can we help?” – this question echoed daily in phone calls, email inboxes, and certainly, our hearts and minds, as a local nonprofit called to mobilize the church body to serve refugees in the name and love of Jesus Christ. Many more calls and emails later – as well as care worker visits, ESL classes, furniture and home good deliveries, job coaching and tutoring connections – we’ve been in awe of how God works to prepare and connect His children to journey with each new family navigating the arduous path of resettling in California.
Volunteer Amanda shares how God opened doors for her to become friends with Soraya* and her family and get to share the story of Jesus during Christmas.
1. How did you meet Soraya? When I reached out to VOR, I was matched with Soraya to be her English tutor. Back in Afghanistan, Soraya led a highly successful and meaningful career as a judge. She is eager to engage and contribute to the society here, but it will take a long time to rebuild her life one step at a time. With her husband at work and children at school during the day, she finds herself isolated at their apartment. She hasn’t met many friends in her neighborhood yet and lives too far away from VOR to attend in-person events. It’s been a difficult transition.
2. What has been a way to connect Soraya to a supportive community? Our friendship turned into a natural platform to connect Soraya to other friends of mine. On one of my visits, I invited my friend from church to join and she brought her kids, too. Soraya was eager and honored to cook lunch for everyone. There were these beautiful moments of cross-cultural learning. I was so proud of my friend’s 8-year-old daughter who tried an Afghan dessert that didn’t look or taste like anything she had before. The kids had fun playing Uno – the first time ever for Soraya’s children! Later, when my church was putting together Christmas baskets for foster children, my friend remembered Soraya and made her a basket with cookies and a ton of items related to Christmas – that was very sweet!
3. What is your favorite moment so far with Soraya’s family? Last December, I took Soraya and her kids to see the Christmas lights, something fun that they’ve never done before. Soraya’s kids don’t get to get out much because they can go only as far as they can walk. They also never heard the story of Christmas so I got to share about the birth of Jesus. We sat in the car for hours to see the lights and they were all so patient and sweet about it. Then, when the kids saw the Nativity scene, they recognized and exclaimed, “Isn’t this what she was talking about?” It is great joy to see an Afghan family hear about Jesus as they experience their first Christmas in America.
4. Any helpful observations about Afghan refugees that you’d like to share? Though people tend to see all Afghan families as sharing a common background and story, and many families do lean on each other for tips and resources as they resettle here in America, each family also has a unique situation. For Soraya, it’s actually been hard for her to find friends among other Afghan women who live in her neighborhood, due to differences in socioeconomic background, interests, and other pressures. Another aspect that has been hard for Soraya is how her children has quickly adjusted to America and loving their lives here, while she is still very much grieving her loss and missing Afghanistan.
5. Share a joy, a struggle, and a hope that emerged through your walk with Soraya.
A joy is learning about Afghan culture by asking questions and looking up information online. When I lived in India, families would have different rules about food, what you can touch, whether friends can show love by doing dishes for each other. Once you have a real friendship, it’s easy to ask questions directly and Soraya’s definitely been very open to share in response to all of my questions!
A struggle I have is to be able to check in and spend more time with Soraya and her family. It’s sad how busy our lives get in America and, living 45 minutes away from her city, it’s not easy for me to work full time while staying as closely connected as I hoped.
My hope is see Soraya (and new refugee women like her) become connected with more believers in her community and be loved on by more local families. I am praying that God will raise up His people across different cities, neighborhoods, apartment complexes to come alongside the many Afghan families who have moved in and are feeling lonely.
6. How can we pray for Soraya and her family? Pray for God to sprinkle Christians in Soraya’s life. For more believers to become aware and to show love to her. She’s so incredibly friendly and kind, and her English is really good. Yet she is isolated all day, alone, and I know she wants more than just staying at home by herself, day after day.
*pseudonym used in protection of the family