How one Good Neighbor Team is providing hospitality and hope.
It’s been eight months since the fall of Kabul. World Relief North Texas welcomed many Afghans with the help of volunteer Good Neighbor Teams. Read about their mutual transformation as they recount their shared stories with us.
Susan has been attending Arlington Chinese Church for 6 years now. She is a part of a young professional’s community group there, where she has been able to develop an amazing community and grow in her relationship with Christ. Her parents were immigrants to the U.S. when she was just 3 years old. After moving from China to Texas, Susan worked hard alongside her parents to integrate to life in the U.S. During Susan’s 4 years of medical school in Fort Worth, she lived in nearby apartments where many refugees had been resettled by World Relief.
Her next introduction to the needs of new families was through her clinic, where many of them came in for their very first appointment with a doctor in the U.S. Through a desire to serve the most vulnerable and to understand her patients better, she explored volunteer opportunities with World Relief. She encouraged members of her small group to get involved by volunteering for a one-day event at a soccer game.
From this one event, her small group realized a need and wanted to know how to become more involved. As they prayed, they decided to serve as a Good Neighbor Team, a group of 8-12 people who commit to serve and walk with an arriving refugee family for the first 6 months in the U.S. As they prepared to become a Good Neighbor Team, the Afghan crisis happened and Kabul fell to the Taliban. Susan recalled that “the Lord timed it really well and we were able to take an Afghan family right as they came to the US.”
Asadullah and Sahar
Asadullah and Sahar lived a normal life in Afghanistan. Asadullah worked for the U.S. Government as a translator, and Sahar taught at an elementary school until she had two kids of her own who are now 2 and 4 years old, with a third child on the way. Asadullah mentioned that in the midst of this normal life, there were still hints of violence and danger throughout Afghanistan. Things such as target killings of those who were helping the U.S. or international organizations. Tragically, this included the assassination of Sahar’s father.
The Taliban’s invasion of their home displaced Asadullah and Sahar, along with over 700,000 other Afghan peoples who were evacuated from Kabul. Asadullah remembers receiving an email from his company that the Taliban had invaded and he needed to leave immediately. He rushed to get his wife and two children where they walked and waited in the Kabul airport all night long.
From here, they went on a long journey to arrive at a camp in El Paso, where they remained for two months. Then they were sent to Fort Worth, Texas where they were resettled by World Relief.
When they arrived in Fort Worth, Asadullah says that they were excited because “we had a home and a kitchen, and World Relief continually helped us.” Susan recalled that they first met them in their AirBnB because their apartment was not ready yet. One of the first things that was said by Asadullah was “we are so happy to meet people that look like us.” (They are ethnically Hazara which descends from Mongolians and they will look more East Asian and less Arab or Persian.) Asadullah and Sahar shared with their Good Neighbor Team, “it is not just a coincidence that we were paired with you.” Susan shares that they are so sweet, the family was eager to get involved, settle down, and get their kids enrolled in school. It was a thrilling experience for the Good Neighbor Team to help them enroll their children in school and help them become integrated into society.
What impacted Asadullah and Sahar most upon their arrival in Fort Worth, was their Good Neighbor Team. Their Good Neighbor Team were the first people to meet them, help them move into their apartment, and take them grocery shopping. Asadullah and Sahar did not have any form of transportation or any knowledge of the metroplex, and are thankful that they had a Good Neighbor Team to show them these things. Their new friends took them grocery shopping, bought clothes for their children, and took them to picnics at the park.
After several months of spending time with his Good Neighbor Team, Asadullah reflected: “One time I invited the Good Neighbor Team over. We were all sitting around the kitchen table and I thought, ‘this is my family.’”
The impact surpassed any barrier of culture. Asadullah mentioned, “any time I faced a problem or didn’t know what to do, they were who I called. Without them, I’m sure I would have faced many problems.”
Family Amidst Tragedy
Sahar tragically had a miscarriage shortly after arriving to North Texas. Sahar mentioned how scary it was losing a child in a new place with no family. When she miscarried, they immediately turned to their Good Neighbor Team for help to navigate such a tragic situation. Susan was able to get Sahar to the hospital, and helped them navigate surgery, recovery, and medical bills. She still experiences deep sorrow over this loss, but the Lord used this circumstance to show Asadullah and Sahar that they are never alone, even during the most tragic times.
“Our Good Neighbor Team behaved like a family and encouraged us to not be disappointed about uprooting our lives.”
As a huge impact was being made on the lives of Asadullah and Sahar, another impact was being made in the hearts of their Good Neighbor Team.
Susan mentions being impacted by the hospitality that Asadullah and Sahar showed them. She recalls being at their apartment with the whole team when they hardly had any furniture, and Sahar served them all tea and food, and gave whatever she did have to host them. Susan was deeply marked by being served by someone who hardly had anything.
We asked Susan what made the biggest impact on her in getting to serve Asadullah and Sahar, and she shared with us through tears, “seeing them has helped me to understand my parents’ journey to the U.S. as immigrants with nothing but a few hundred dollars.” Watching Asadullah and Sahar learning how to adjust their entire lives, and wanting to provide in the best way for their children has helped her understand what her own parents went through. “I never understood the sacrifices my parents had to make for certain things until I saw Asadullah and Sahar’s journey.”
Another amazing part of Susan’s parents’ story she shared was “my parents had an older couple who welcomed them from the airport and cared for them for the first 1-2 years of them being in the U.S. They helped my parents adjust and adapt because my parents spoke no English at first.” Susan, as well as the rest of the Good Neighbor Team, was able to love this family even more because they found unique ways they related to Asadullah and Sahar. “It’s been very rewarding to see how God uses each person on our Team because we all have different backgrounds and skill sets. God has allowed each of us to come alongside the family in different ways which is so sweet to see that this is how the body of Christ is.” Ultimately, she shared, “the impact on me has been the kindness shown in hospitality, the ability to relate from my own journey, and to see how the body of Christ can function using their different gifts.”
“They are very open about what they believe in, but also are very open to hearing about our faith, and I don’t believe any of those conversations could happen if it was not for the amount of time spent building a relationship.”
A New Home
Asadullah and Sahar say that they are happy they are here and that they are safe. They are thrilled that their daughters will have a great education and have an opportunity for a good life. Sahar said that she will never forget the first time she saw her good neighbor team because “I was so happy” she said as she beamed with joy even telling me about it. “It was very special. We felt like a family because our faces are the same as their faces. They are my family.” Right now, they are excited to attend Susan’s wedding. It will be their first American Wedding.
“The goal from the beginning was for them to see Jesus by becoming their friend.”
They have now been in the U.S. for 8 months, and in those 8 months, the Lord has provided them and their Good Neighbor Team with family, community, and the love of Christ.
If you have been inspired to serve with World Relief as part of a Good Neighbor Team, there are next steps for you!