More than six months after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan forced millions from their homes, many Afghans continue to resettle in North Carolina.
North Carolina Baptist churches around the state, particularly in the Raleigh area, quickly worked with resettlement agencies to welcome Afghan refugees. Some set up apartments and built beds. One member who owned an apartment complex offered units at a discounted rate. A group of ladies from Mt. Moriah Baptist Church established relationships with some Afghan women and helped provide educational tools for their children.
Providence Baptist Church hosts a weekly dinner and Farsi worship service for refugee families. The church provides transportation and an interpreter and has seen about 70 people attend in recent weeks.
But N.C. Baptist leaders say the needs remain great and will soon increase in smaller towns too.
Housing, jobs and transportation are still the most urgent needs. Finding permanent housing is a challenge for refugees because landlords require a credit history. It takes six months to a year for refugees to obtain a driver’s license.
“If there are families that have rental properties that they would be willing to rent to these individuals, there are refugee agencies that will work with them and have housing coordinators,” said Patrick Fuller, executive director of the Raleigh Baptist Association.
Churches or small groups can collect and donate Uber gift cards, as well as supplies like new clothes and toiletries. They can “adopt” families, offer rides to stores and to the DMV, help enroll children into schools and guide them through other unfamiliar systems.
“Through that is an opportunity to show the love of Jesus in a practical way, for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Fuller said.
He has learned of 17 refugees who have put their faith in Christ since the fall.
There is a unique gospel opportunity through these interactions, added Great Commission catalyst Mike Sowers.
“They are so open to relationships — for people to love them, to care for them, to know that they’re safe.
“What may have taken years to break down those barriers to be able to share the gospel has evaporated overnight because they’re seeing churches and people that know nothing about them loving them, providing what they need.”
Fuller stressed that it is essential for more churches outside larger cities to be willing to join in reaching Afghan refugees in their communities.
As rent prices continue to climb in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro, many will move into smaller towns to find affordable housing.
In the Salisbury area, the Rowan Association started ESL classes in early February. Volunteers tutor refugees three nights a week at the association’s offices, where local pastors had been praying for such opportunities over the last two years.
“What we’ve seen happen is an amazing demonstration of God’s providence, of putting people in the right place at the right time to make these connections that are opening the doors for the gospel,” said Great Commission Catalyst Russ Reaves.
“God brought a person to us who is uniquely qualified and passionate for the task of using ESL to share the gospel.”
Because some refugees are only in the area temporarily, Reaves said the window of opportunity N.C. Baptists have to reach them is small.
“The task is urgent,” he said.