“The world is now watching Afghanistan.” I heard these words from a 23-year-old Afghan refugee seeking asylum in Germany with her husband and young daughter. The images and news of the Taliban taking over city after city were not only heartbreaking for her, they reminded her of the life she and her family were escaping. She shared devastating stories of her family hiding in terror and her fear of her young sisters being forced to marry Taliban assassins.
Yes, the world is watching the Afghanistan crisis unfold. But how do we, as the church, respond?
My family of eight moved from the United States to Bitburg, Germany in 2018 to start a church with a mission to reach the many refugees and internationals seeking residence here. Our church has evolved because of the people God has brought to us, and our gatherings have been led in English, German, Spanish, and Persian. We’ve had people attend from the United States, Germany, India, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Ghana, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Peru.
Listing all these countries testifies to God’s favor on our church; however, we’ve had many seasons of discouragement. But being coached by Acts 29 and part of an Acts 29 cohort in Europe reminds me of our calling and helps me continue in obedience. Every time I get discouraged God has his way of reminding me of the call.
God’s Providence in Serving Refugees
A few months ago, our primary interpreter for Persian was unable to continue translating for us. Our Iranian and Afghan families continued to faithfully attend, but I knew they didn’t understand anything I said. I did my best to help by providing sermon notes and the service outline in Persian. Still, this was a season of discouragement.
Then I received an email from a stranger who claimed, in broken English, that their family was coming from Greece and looking for a church here. When I replied and welcomed them to the area, I learned they spoke Persian and English. After many emails back and forth, my wife and I agreed to meet with their family. However, the address they gave didn’t show up on the GPS.We believe this is only the beginning of many more opportunities to serve the least of these and share with them our hope of an eternal home through Christ. Click To Tweet
The next day I did a quick online search for refugee camps in surrounding cities and stumbled across an article about how our city was helping address the current refugee crisis. The article included the location where refugees were being housed, and it matched the mystery address I received in the email. I contacted the family again and discovered they were indeed staying at a new German refugee camp. We couldn’t go into the camp, but they were able to sign out and meet with us.
This family had traveled from Afghanistan to Germany by way of Iran, Turkey, and Greece, and wanted desperately to meet other Christians. The first time they gathered with our church, we had as many attendees who spoke Persian as German or English. Our core group understands the importance of helping visitors feel they belong and putting their needs before our own. So we transitioned our service that week into Persian and worshiped with a song in Persian that one of the families recommended. The service was not at all what we planned, but the Spirit led us to switch things up.
Serving Refugees and Refugees Serving the Church
The discussion and relationships that followed are a testament to God’s goodness. The Afghan families opened up with others in the group about their spiritual journeys. For one of our families, this was the first time in five years when they could fellowship with a Christian brother and sister with the same native tongue. The young family from Afghanistan ended up staying with another family from Iran for the night. These families were complete strangers, yet after one service they opened their lives—even their homes—and enjoyed sweet fellowship with one another.
In the Lord’s providence, our gatherings were beginning to shift toward a Persian focus just when the crisis in Afghanistan was unfolding. We wanted to prioritize the spiritual need and opportunity right in front of us. This new Afghan family had access to everyone in the refugee camp. They were being used by camp leaders as interpreters, and had a lot of influence with the other refugees. We needed to focus on the families in our midst who lived in the camp, and began sharing many meals, car rides, and spiritual discussions. The world is watching Afghanistan, but also, Afghanistan is watching the church. Let’s show them the beauty of Christ and invite them into kingdom living for his glory on earth. Click To Tweet
Who knows what seeds are being planted by that one believing Afghan family in a camp full of displaced, homeless, and heartbroken souls? We believe this is only the beginning of many more opportunities to serve the least of these and share with them our hope of an eternal home through Christ.
I encourage believers who interact with refugees to open up their homes, listen to their stories, and learn from them. After you hear their stories, serve them however the Lord leads. The world is watching Afghanistan, but also, Afghanistan is watching the church. Let’s show them the beauty of Christ and invite them into kingdom living for his glory on earth.