While we’ve been roasting turkeys, welcoming family and mashing potatoes in preparation for tomorrow, many from Afghanistan have been granted refuge here in the United States–in total 95,000.
Remember when all eyes were glued to the news as Kabul fell and we watched in horror as the Taliban took over the last day of August? Remember how we prayed for mercy and miracles for the Afghani people, the believers left behind, the women and girls who might take the brunt of the evil claiming victory? Remember when we wanted to do something?
Remember with me.
It was only 84 days ago.
The 4 young Afghani men my husband picked up from the airport two nights ago remember it too well. They remember leaving their families behind and praying the target they carried on their backs for serving the USA would be enough to protect their wives, mothers and children they left behind –one a child himself, alone, only 15, all hoping leaving was enough to save them. They can’t stop remembering.
It’s been 84 days since cell towers were torn down, so while all they can do is remember, I have to scratch my head because I almost forgot. My worry and sorrow and prayers for Afghanistan faded with the days.
But here we are this week-the one where we stop and give thanks and fill our tables and bellies with our favorite food–and thousands of Afghanistans have arrived to the Houston area.
And all I can do is remember wanting to do something.
Hundreds of families were taken directly from the airports, like the ones my husband picked up on Monday, and dropped off at hotels because their arrival happened before a housing solution did. I could hear the lump in my husband’s voice when he recounted their painful stories and told me they hadn’t eaten in two days. They arrived to Houston without a dollar in their pockets after 84 days at a military base.
Resettlement agencies are completely overwhelmed. Providing groceries every 3-4 days for hundreds of families at hotels until a more permanent situation is available has created a logistical nightmare across the city this Thanksgiving week.
I didn’t know any of this when I almost casually reached out to the YMCA International contact, who was handing off refugees to my husband at the airport, to ask if the Amazon wish list I’d stumbled upon was accurate with the greatest current need. She said, “We are one of several resettlement agencies. We usually receive 4-5 families a month. Last week, we received 270. Nineteen more are arriving today. They need food delivered to them.” I could hear the urgency in her words. I asked if I could try to gather some drivers to pick up food at their warehouse to deliver groceries. “We are almost out of food at the warehouse,” she replied.
I thought of the turkey and ham and the refrigerator full of food and the likely food coma I would enjoy later in the week and I lost my appetite. I wanted to do something and now something is all I can do. It’s so ironic that during this week of gratitude–today–we are all thinking about food. Refugees included.
I texted some people; asked the staff at Mercy House Global who would be in town to help me deliver food; sent some emails, called a couple of churches. I’ve scheduled grocery pickups around town. We are doing what we can–and it is not enough. It feels like two fish and a couple of loaves of bread. But it’s my favorite Bible story and I know what Jesus can do with what we offer.
And let’s not forget –God doesn’t need our lunch. He doesn’t need us to provide food or funds for people. He invites us to be a part of the miracle. Jim Rohn says, “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you have.” Generosity and compassion do something spectacular in our souls.
My 14 year old offered to sort groceries and she stopped with an eggplant in hand and tried to find the words that were hard to form:
Because we have forgotten, honey. But God is helping us remember.
Do you want to do something too? Please consider shopping this YMCA International Amazon List. These items are specifically for newly arrived refugees in hotels and temporary housing across Houston. If you’re local, we could use your help.