By Rick Sample
The events unfolding in recent days in war-torn Afghanistan have shocked and horrified Americans, none more so than Afghan-American immigrants.
Since 2002, for almost twenty years, Lita and I have served as missionaries among internationals in the San Francisco Bay Area, living in the multi-ethnic suburb of Fremont, Calif., home to the largest Afghan community in North America with approximately 60,000 Afghans, a largely refugee population. Many of our ministry initiatives during the last two decades have focused on engagement with our Afghan neighbors. We have cultivated beloved community by building relationships with local Afghan leaders and business owners, developed friendships with individual Afghan families, and organized events designed to bring Muslims and Christians together. These activities addressed physical and social needs while bearing witness to Jesus Christ all along the way. It is a joy to serve God in this manner in this location among these people.
Since the United States evacuation began just a few days ago, we have phoned or visited a number of our Afghan friends and neighbors in our community. They are all frantic!
Without exception, each person we talk with is desperately worried about their loved ones in Afghanistan. Many of the people we know have served the United States as military translators who happened to have completed their service and arrived with a special visa over the last several years. These translators are closely connected with relatives and friends, also translators, currently trying to escape an ominous future in Afghanistan. I have seen men weep out of fear for their mothers and sisters who are at the mercy of the Taliban. Women here are petrified for their relatives left behind in Afghanistan. Everyone is hoping their loved ones get out even though there are no guarantees that they will. We are getting requests and inquiries for “help” although we are powerless to provide any help on the ground in Afghanistan.
One of my Afghan Christian friends here in northern California informed me that he just found out that his cousin, a translator, was pulled out of his house by the Taliban and shot just a few days ago. What’s happening over there is greatly impacting our Afghan community here, and it’s probably going to get worse. We have been praying with them and hoping to bring a slight measure of comfort in this moment of great fear.
This is why presence matters.
What can any of us do? We can pray, specifically for peace to come to a war-torn country, and for the Prince of Peace to reveal Himself to Afghans who are hurting and tortured, whether physically or emotionally. Christ can provide hope. We can pray for the protection of the hidden Christian minority in Afghanistan who face certain death if they are found out. We can pray for as many innocent and vulnerable Afghans as possible to get out of the country—and for other countries, including the U.S. to welcome them, so they can live their lives in safety. We can pray for the families torn apart by decades of war. And we can pray for the U.S. military to bring about the conclusion of this nightmare in the best way possible.
What else can we do? We can always welcome the immigrants and refugees coming into our own communities. There might even be Afghans living nearby. If so, enjoy a delicious meal at an Afghan restaurant or try to find an Afghan mosque or cultural center to make a visit to show support for the Afghan people or connect with a refugee resettlement agency to see how you and your congregation can help.
Try to find ways to befriend and welcome any Afghans coming to your city. Make sure your church is aware of ways to pray and ways to bless any Afghans in your community such as offering ESL classes. A common trait among Afghans is hospitality. What a blessing it would be for Christians in America to show Christian hospitality to Afghans, a people in crisis. Y’all, join with us.
Rick Sample is a CBF field personnel serving alongside his wife, Lita, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about and support their ministries at www.cbf.net/sample.