Soulful 7 Conversation with Afghan Community
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Gospel of Matthew 25:35-40
Imagine if your only home is taken over by an unmerciful and unjust enemy. Suddenly, your future and that of your family goes up in flames. We all witnessed the chaos and panic as loyal Afghans rushed to the airports to escape the violent Taliban take-over of Afghanistan. Over twenty years, bonds were formed between American soldiers and Afghans. How could we leave behind those who had sacrificed their lives to protect and support us? The Afghan resettlement effort is the largest in American history. Beginning in November, Nashville welcomed 400 Afghan refugees into our community. They have endured unimaginable loss and heartbreak before arriving here. They sacrificed their own safety and put their families and livelihoods at risk to protect our brave military. Now they need us! Our government and outreach services are overwhelmed by their need: housing, food, job placement, transportation, healthcare, school placement for children and English language training. The harsh reality of becoming a refugee is you lose everything: your home, your school, your job, your car, your bank account with savings. The Afghan’s that I’ve met escaped in duress, often in the middle of the night, with only the clothes on their backs. Arriving to America, they do not have the built-in safety nets we take for granted: the sanctuary of our family homes, the security of our professions and regular income, the support of our religious communities, our doctors, dentists, pediatricians, obstetricians, the presence of our clan, the friends and family to celebrate holidays and share sacred milestones. On top of that, they feel immense guilt for those who were left behind.
We have found a remarkable partner at Tennessee Resettlement Aid (www.tennesseeresettlementaid.org) under the brave leadership of Katie Finn. They call her the “angel of the refugee community.” Katie doesn’t sleep making sure the men, women, single mothers and children have food, clothes, and the basic necessities to live.
It was my great honor to spend time with Katie Finn and her Afghan friend Waiss to talk about what it was like to flee Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover and begin a new life here in America. Katie spoke about how the Afghan community in Nashville is really struggling. It broke my heart to hear that one family subsisted on only potatoes for weeks because they had no transportation and their housing was in a food desert. Another young family with an infant had no pots and pans to cook for themselves. We have many single mothers whose husbands were held back or wounded by the Taliban and did not make it out. They are navigating this uphill road alone. What I can tell you from my life-changing personal experiences breaking bread, sharing tea, grocery shopping and listening to their stories is they are incredibly brave, beautiful and hopeful people. Jesus’ words, “love your neighbor” have taken on new and profound meaning in my life. We have created a new outreach, called “Love Your Neighbor” to support refugees arriving to Nashville. With much thought and collaboration with Tennessee Resettlement Agency, we have created a detailed sign-up genie with so many ways that you can participate. You can also make donations here which will go directly to support four Afghan families that we have recently adopted and will “love well” over the next six months as they find their wings and fly.
We will welcome and support Ukraine refugees in the coming months.
“BIG” thank you to Sara Perry and Katie Finn for helping to create Love Your Neighbor! Much gratitude to Matt Diffenderfer, Woodmont’s Communications Director and Videographer/Editor extraordinaire!
Following is a live link which will be updated weekly for ways to show love to our new refugee neighbors in Nashville. The first step is unrolling the welcome mat and helping them set up their new home with sheets, towels, kitchen accessories, etc. Next, we forge relationships and lend support as they begin to plant roots here (find jobs, get stable incomes, drivers licenses and transportation, schools for the kids, doctors, etc.). Most importantly, we offer them friendship and regular words of hope so they know they can do this!