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Welcoming Afghans in San Diego

Since August, World Relief has welcomed and resettled over 1,000 Afghans who had been evacuated out of Kabul. Today, over 34,000 Afghans remain on eight U.S. military bases awaiting their chance at a new life in the U.S. World Relief is diligently preparing to resettle up to 7,000 of these brave individuals between now and March 2022. 

The need is great, and we couldn’t do this work without the help of partners like Hope for San Diego.Today, Susie Fikse, Executive Director at Hope for San Diego, talks about why partnering with World Relief is critical to Hope for San Diego’s mission. Read more to find out how you and your community can move with us, just like Susie and Hope for San Diego have done. Together, we can create communities of love and welcome that we all feel proud to be a part of.

First, can you tell us a little about Hope for San Diego?

Hope for San Diego is an independent non-profit with a mission to engage our community to care for and invest in our under-served neighbors. Our focus areas include refugees/ immigrants, sex trafficking, foster care and homelessness—all pressing issues in San Diego. 

How did you first get connected with World Relief? 

Twenty-five years ago, I was living in Atlanta. The church my family attended was involved with World Relief, and I signed up to bring Thanksgiving dinner to a refugee family. I remember standing at the door of this family’s small apartment. There were eight people living there. They had no furniture in the living room, but they welcomed me and my family and offered us drinks and fruit. We couldn’t really communicate because of the language barrier, but it was a really meaningful and eye-opening experience.

How did you help bring World Relief to San Diego?

Shortly after I took the job as Executive Director of Hope for San Diego, we began working with refugees in the area. Soon we realized that there were many organizations doing many different things for refugees — all of them great, but very uncoordinated. 

For a long time, I felt the need for some kind of umbrella organization to help bring all our efforts together and to make sure the work we were doing was helping instead of hurting. I knew World Relief would be a great partner to bring us all together and help facilitate healthy ministry. 

We connected with the World Relief SoCal office, and they did a few trainings with us and our church partners.  But when the border crisis came to a head a couple of years ago, it became clear that we needed the expertise of World Relief in closer proximity to all these needs! It took some time to figure out how to make it work, but in March, we were able to fund the first full-time World Relief staff in San Diego, and a group of churches assembled to collaborate in building a more effective ministry to refugees. 

Aside from funding, how else does Hope for San Diego partner with World Relief?

Our partner churches volunteer in different ways through the connections World Relief provides, whether that is building friendships with refugees, providing tangible support like furniture or shoes, or participating in tutoring programs. 

We have also hosted World Relief speakers at educational events, which is a powerful way to help our community build a Biblical worldview of immigration. Likewise, we sent a select group of leaders on a Border Vision Trip, which opened eyes to the complexity of immigration issues facing people just 30 minutes from our homes. 

How is Hope for San Diego specifically working to welcome and resettle Afghans in your community?

Thanks to the support of people within our eight partner churches and other community members, we were very quickly able to form two Good Neighbor Teams, mobilize volunteers to set up apartments and deliver groceries, secure 40 mattress donations and pre-paid phone cards, among so many other things. The immediate and continued response from the community has been encouraging. 

We believe that relationships designed to support self-sufficiency are the key to long term transformation—both of the refugees and the volunteers that engage with them. Our goal is to create a minimum of 10 Good Neighbor Teams (4-5 people each) through our partnership with World Relief that will commit to building genuine, long-term friendships, helping refugee families orient to American life and create a future here.

We also believe another key element of welcoming refugees is educating our community about their plight and celebrating the diversity that they help create so in January, we’re hosting and event called “From Strangers to Neighbors.” Matt Soerens from World Relief will be there to speak and we’re eager for the ways this will engage and equip others in our community to respond.  

Why is partnering with World Relief one of the things you’ve continued to hold onto?

The work of World Relief is more essential than ever before. The gaps between the affluent and the poor continue to widen and World Relief is helping to bridge those gaps. When I see a refugee family of nine living in a two-bedroom apartment and six kids trying to do online school while their parents are working two jobs, I know that we need to come alongside these families to provide support. Without organizations like World Relief, these kids are going to fall further behind, which has long-term consequences for all of us.

What is your vision for the Church in San Diego, and how do you see World Relief playing a role in that vision?

Our vision is to see God renew San Diego so that even people in the most vulnerable situations can thrive. Our city is not experiencing shalom in the way God intended unless all people are thriving, not just those within our churches. The Church is the vehicle God wants to use to bring renewal and hope to our city. But that means we have to step outside the church and outside our comfort zone to build relationships. In order to do that, we need the right opportunities and the right training. World Relief provides that for us.

We are so grateful for partners like Susie and Hope for San Diego who remind us that when we move together, we can be an irresistible force for good and an agent of lasting change. Help create communities of love and welcome this season by moving with us and giving today. 

Rachel Clair serves as a Content Writer at World Relief. With a background in creative writing and children’s ministry, she is passionate about helping people of all ages think creatively and love God with their hearts, souls and minds.

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