Very soon, it will be the 1-year anniversary of Kabul’s fall to the Taliban. If you’re like us, you remember feeling helpless as thousands of Afghan families fled for their lives, separating from their families at the airport and cramming into military aircrafts to be evacuated. And yet, so many of you did not allow that feeling of helplessness to immobilize you. Rather, so many families, churches, and groups jumped at the opportunity to help our Afghan neighbors. Northwood Church in Keller Texas is one such church.
Northwood heard about a training on how to serve Afghans after the crisis and knew they had to join in creating a sense of belonging for Afghan families. They encouraged as many church members who were interested to attend and nearly 80 people showed up! The evening was a catalyst that started the beautiful relationship between Northwood Church and Afghan families who arrived in North Texas.
“This was the catalyst that caused us to get involved. It was just the right moment.” – Niki Roberts
As Uyen Holdman, Missions Pastor at NorthWood, was looking for ways to serve the community, World Relief’s training provided the tools they needed to get involved in refugee ministry. Volunteers came together and formed teams based on specific needs of families arriving from Afghanistan. Uyen mentioned that her job “is to mobilize, serve, and engage, and World Relief provided us with a platform to do that as a church.” World Relief helped supply what they needed to serve refugees and they now work together to learn how to mobilize volunteers, gather resources, and fundraise.
Niki Roberts, a member who helps lead the refugee ministry, shared with us that the first Afghan family they met was a young single mother. Niki watched young mothers from their church surround this Afghan woman with love, empathy, and encouragement. She couldn’t help but see this as a picture of how the church should love everyone. These women jumped at the opportunity to love her in the midst of her pain. “That was one of the biggest factors to mobilization, our body recognizing that they have commonalities with these people.”
In being young mothers as well, they understood an aspect of this Afghan woman’s life that not many could. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to loving others is the chasm we feel when someone is different from us. While there are differences in culture and religion, there was a deep bond in the commonality the women shared in life experience. The members of Northwood gave resources as well as time to that family.
When the second Afghan family arrived, they saw volunteers come forward to help enroll the children in school, help them receive their immunizations, and adjust to life in the U.S. Those serving with Northwood have been blown away by the kindness and hospitality they have received from Afghan families. Uyen beautifully put it, “one family says they always want to cook for us and serve us. I always say “no, no, we are supposed to be serving you.” Inevitably we believe we will be changing others by how we serve them, but it is in fact us who are changed by the process of serving.
“When you serve them you want to bless them, but you can’t deny that the blessing you receive from them is so much more abundant.” – Niki Roberts
Uyen, as well as the members of Northwood serving these families, love helping their Afghan neighbors. They believe it is not always easy, but it is worth it. “This is a learning process for our church. We learn from them as they learn from us.” As the church has learned more about how to love people, they are deeply impacted by how they in return are so loving and grateful.
Uyen and Niki desire to see their church mobilized to serve. “Our goal is to empower as many people as possible to share the blessing of serving others. We want to pull in our people to serve.” Niki mentioned they have a saying at their church “to live and love like Jesus.” She truly believes that serving the most vulnerable is one of the best ways to learn how to live and love like Jesus. It is not always convenient, as it requires putting other people above your own desires. This service requires dying to yourself to love like Jesus.
They shared that it is rewarding to see when they have become independent. The end goal for refugees is self-sufficiency, and it is edifying to see them stand on their own feet. It is amazing to see how the church can assist in this process when they are mobilized.
Both Uyen and Niki reflected that it is a rewarding and humbling experience to serve refugees alongside their church body. It also challenges them to be good stewards of the blessings they have received. They know where their next meal is coming from. They have not been forced to flee their homes. They instead desire to serve those who do not have these same luxuries.
It is truly transforming to work with people who are different from you. It changes one’s understanding of how the world works around them. It has been amazing to see how their church body has worked together and given so many resources.
They both agreed that they want their people to not simply come to church, but to be the church. That is when people transform. Niki shared that it was a special blessing to see the families at Northwood with small children invest in Afghan families. “We are training the next generation to live and love like Jesus while serving these families. Exposing them to serving others is more impactful than having a lesson about it”.
The most important aspect of serving refugees is to remember God is in control and to not be afraid to allow Christ to transform your faith through serving others.
If you would like to learn how your church can be involved in serving the most vulnerable, like Northwood Church, click below to head to our website!