It’s a long story to tell, but the end of the drama saw my wife and I calling friends late on New Year’s Eve, asking if we could borrow their 15 passenger van the next day. Now who does that?!! I’d say that is short notice for anyone, anytime. It's a bit ridiculous for New Year’s Day! But something about it had to do with the purpose. After several days of discussions between the US military, a missionary friend and an Afghan family on a military base in VA, we were asked to help transport the Afghan family from southern Virginia to Cleveland… like immediately!
So early on New Year's Day, the two of us dashed off on a journey not soon to be forgotten. We picked up the family in West Virginia on a hand-off from our missionary friend, packed all 11 of them (and 187 bags - don’t ask) in that poor van and drove through horrific rain and wind to Cleveland. God protected us in spite of the conditions, and we did arrive safely. But the piece that left a lasting memory was that this Afghan family knew no English and had nothing but a contact, a distant relative, to start a new life in Cleveland. We left them at the entrance to a Red Roof Inn on a dark rainy night. We thought surely this could be done in a better manner.
Rewind the reel. In October, US national news announced that the Biden Administration had enacted a Vietnam Era program allowing committed groups to “sponsor” Afghan families and assist them in settling in their respective communities. This caught our attention and those of our network of Afghan co-workers from our early years of work in Afghanistan. I will tell you why, if you let me rewind just a tad more...
Since the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban last August, approximately 83,000 Afghan nationals have been evacuated, vetted and admitted to the USA in Operation Allies Welcome. These Afghans were taken to US bases across the country to await security clearance and registration as refugees. Many of these families already had relatives in-country and, as a result, were able to expedite their way to their new homes all over the country. Those that are still left languishing on military bases number north of 30,000. They dream of a new start - a new home. After suffering unspeakable atrocities and familial losses over the last few decades, they need a chance to have a life, secure and free. Unfortunately, the 9 approved US Resettlement Agencies are overwhelmed and backlogged with refugee families. Enter the new program:
If approved, the government will bless that group to carry out all the tasks of a resettlement agency.
Aha, now you have it. I wondered if Gateway Church could pull off such a group? So our Go Department announced the idea at our 2022 Mission Trip meeting in mid November. Several immediately volunteered and we ended up with the Albert Life Group and a few others forming a group. Fast forward 2 months - our Gateway Sponsor Group, via the excellent guidance of Samaritan's Purse, is now approved by the US Government and awaiting assignment of an Afghan family.
I wish I could detail all that has happened in the lightning journey from concept, to a fully leased and furnished house, ready and waiting for an Afghan family. Many of you have joined the effort by word of mouth, and we are so grateful for all that you have done. The support offered from inside and outside of Gateway’s people continues to grow. We have donations from Walmart, from Cranes Mattress, and from so many individuals. Bishop-Kandel Rentals unreservedly jumped on board, taking a risk on renters with no rental or work history. What amazes me is that God provides faster than we can ask. God works abundantly in and through his people.
Are you interested in getting involved? There still remains plenty to do. Don’t hesitate to ask. It will require unceasing patience, love and commitment from you. Are you one who would help arrange another sponsor group? Let us know. Tens of thousands of Afghans await. It would be great for our Afghan family to have a community of Afghans here in Findlay to befriend and encourage in their own heart language and culture. Regardless, God was the One who “pulled this off” and Gateway aims to love these people with all the strength and depth of love that God provides for us. Come join us and make a difference in the lives of a people group in great need… here in our own homeland.
12/27 UPDATE: We have officially been assigned a family! Please be praying for them as they transition to Findlay.
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