Bear Valley Community Church had been serving among refugee families in Fort Worth for several years when Kabul fell in August 2021. Seeing the devastation in Afghanistan on the news, members of the congregation became overwhelmed and desperate for ways to help, so they reached out to World Relief North Texas, where they gave practical ways to begin helping Afghans even before they arrived in the U.S.
The first step Bear Valley took was to gather and train a Good Neighbor Team. They wanted to be ready to welcome arriving Afghans when the time came. In addition to their Good Neighbor Team, they took part in a Walmart gift card drive. The church collected Walmart gift cards, and World Relief used them to provide food, furniture, clothes, and other necessities for Afghan clients as they arrived.
After weeks of waiting, Bear Valley got the call that two Afghan families would be arriving. The families were related, multi-generational and close knit with 9 people total. They already had ties in Keller and therefore were settled there so they could be close with more family. The Bear Valley Community Church Good Neighbor Team got to work!
The first thing Robert, a member of the Good Neighbor Team, remembers is taking them grocery shopping. Eric, another church member, donated furniture and showed up with a truck to help move the family in. People all over the metroplex had donated furniture to be ready for this family’s arrival. They had so much furniture donated that they had to keep some in the church and in their own homes.
“The most wonderful thing that we have seen is the people who have given for this family. They haven’t always given out of their abundance, but they’ve given because they wanted to help” Julia, another member of the Good Neighbor Team, shared with us.
A Thanksgiving To Remember
When the holidays approached, these families had not been in the U.S. for very long. Julia and the Good Neighbor Team invited them to the Thanksgiving banquet at their church. They were not sure how they would feel about this invitation, but quickly realized the family was ecstatic. The family shared, “we used to have beautiful weddings, banquets, and feasts back in Afghanistan and we have not experienced anything like that here yet.”
They enjoyed being treated as guests of honor and it became a way for Bear Valley church members to tangibly see who they had been helping and praying for.
A part of integrating into the U.S. is beginning to take English as a Second Language. The men started to attend ESL offered at Bear Valley Community Church, but the women in the family felt uncomfortable. With permission, some women from the church offered to do ESL with the women in the family in their apartment, this way they can learn English in an environment that is comfortable for them. Now, these women who do not know how to read and write in their own language, love learning English! It is amazing to see that these women have begun to learn English and are adapting so well.
The family’s 19-year-old son, Wahab, has been studying to take his GED. He was a senior in high school while in Afghanistan, and was taking his final exams to graduate high school when they fled to the U.S. His current options are to learn English and take the GED or redo high school classes. This is a reality that many young refugees face when entering a new country.
“Shopping” for Jewelry
The families have been able to explain to their Good Neighbor Team that the biggest struggle for them is remembering the lives they enjoyed in Afghanistan. They adored their lives in their home country and had no intentions of leaving until the Taliban invasion that forced them to flee. Bibi, the grandmother, was sad when she remembered special things she left behind, such as her nice jewelry.
Julia’s grandmother had been a missionary and owned jewelry from different countries all over the world. This jewelry had been passed down through the generations, to Julia now. Julia had the idea to nicely place this jewelry in a jewelry box and take it to Bibi’s house with all the girls. She wanted to make it seem as if they were jewelry shopping in a fancy store.
This ended up meaning even more to Bibi and Zakia, Bibi’s oldest daughter, than Julia could have ever imagined. The two women cried as they “shopped” for their fancy jewelry. They said to Julia, “may your jewels in heaven be multiplied for the kindness you have shown on earth.” Julia shared, “It was humanizing for them. It made them feel at home again and like they had nice things and could dress up. I know it would have meant the world to my grandmother to have these things given to people starting a new life.”
The Good Neighbor Team shared with us that the family is equally as caring of their families. The families always remember what is going on in their lives and they check up on them. “They don’t want to just be helped; they want to be part of a friendship. They don’t want to just take; but they want to give back” Julia shared. Robert shared how “one time the mom made a whole meal for me while I hooked up a new washer. It made me feel special.”
Even though it has not always been the easiest road, now that they are working and establishing themselves, they have started to become self-sufficient and their Good Neighbor Team is so proud of them. Robert shared that his desire is that they “can have a nice life here. I can’t wait to see the kids grow up, graduate, and go on to college one day.”
Julia shared that through this experience God has taught her to go outside of her comfort zone and be willing to be used in any way. “God’s plans are much richer than anything I could’ve come up with.”
She has also come to appreciate the way the body of Christ works together, for if she had decided to help this family on her own, she never could have fully helped them in the way that they needed.