As this month’s anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, I am proud to look back on how our community has welcomed many Afghan evacuees over the past year.
I also know there is more our country can do, including offering resettled Afghans certainty about their future here.
I worked overseas for 21 years and knew what it was like to land in another culture. In China, I experienced the love and sacrifice of people who welcomed my family and helped us find friends, purchase an apartment, learn the language, and better understand the culture while we lived there.
We would not have survived without the care of the locals who were so kind to us. It motivated my husband and me to welcome and help international students, refugees, and immigrants here in America after we returned.
That is why I eagerly joined a group at my church and some of our friends to welcome Afghans who have recently arrived. My church is a non-denominational church outside Philadelphia that was built in the 1970s with a focus on missions. In 2018 a small group of us recruited volunteers to sponsor refugees.
Unfortunately, the doors closed to refugees at that time in America. But we found other ways to care for the displaced people around the world. Several of us went on short-term mission trips to Lebanon to serve Syrian refugees and Lesvos, Greece to help at the refugee camp there.
We were able to experience what beautiful people refugees are but also the incredible trauma they go through. We offered humanitarian aid as well as prayer and love. While some even wanted to know more about Jesus because of the love they saw in us, we served everyone, regardless of their faith or interest in Christianity.
Several in our group are Asian immigrants who understand the challenges of settling in a foreign country. One woman, “Z,” came as a Vietnamese refugee decades ago and remembers how an American Christian family took her family in and helped them through the many struggles refugees experience when they come here.
“This family was not well off, but they welcomed us and fed and housed us for months,” Z says. Z and her husband have passionately led our group as we have welcomed and cared for resettled Afghans in the past year.
Our government also can help the tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees our nation is welcoming, including these women, by passing the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would give the evacuees a quicker path to permanent residence — than the current alternative of an asylum application process which takes years to gain residency. Such a measure will help our new Afghan neighbors integrate as quickly as possible and make their communities stronger.
We are so grateful that the doors are once again opening up in America for the body of Christ to bring God’s love to many thousands of refugees who are suffering around the world.
We desire to be the hands and feet of God to welcome people whoever they are and whatever their faith. We now have several people ready to welcome Afghan refugees.
I pray that the Afghan women we are helping experience the same kind of welcome and love that I experienced from the Chinese people I encountered. May America become a home they love and in which they feel welcomed. May they receive God’s blessing through us.
Sue Corl of Philadelphia is Founder and Director of Crown of Beauty International, an international ministry.