Churches Prepare to Meet Afghan Refugee Needs

Ellen Hembree, wife of Impact FXBG pastor Brandon Hembree in Fredericksburg, Va., plays with Afghan children last year. A large number of Afghan refugees are expected to eventually join a sizeable native population in northern Virginia. Photo courtesy of Brandon Hembree
Ellen Hembree, wife of Impact FXBG pastor Brandon Hembree in Fredericksburg, Va., plays with Afghan children last year. A large number of Afghan refugees are expected to eventually join a sizeable native population in northern Virginia. Photo courtesy of Brandon Hembree

NASHVILLE (BP) – Brandon Hembree remembers the moment Afghan refugees became a face instead of a number.

The face belonged to a child, frightened by the sound of planes overhead. The playground wasn’t in Afghanistan. It was in northern Virginia.

Hembree and others from Impact Church in Centerville, where he was pastor at the time, were playing soccer and games with the children. Such activities are vital for families with restless kids who need to burn off energy while adults jump through myriad bureaucratic hoops in a government office. But every time a plane from the nearby airport flew overhead, the games stopped and children ran for cover.

Every time.

“If my kids see a plane in the sky, they get my attention and say, ‘Look daddy, a plane!’” Hembree said. “For those children, it was a sign of war.

“It opened my eyes that we have lived in a completely different world from them. You see a piece of their crisis. When you hear their stories, it’s totally different than watching the news. You’re looking someone in the eye and holding their hands.”

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers. As of Sept. 14, according to the New York Times, about 64,000 Afghanis had fled their home country after the Taliban takeover and arrived in the United States. Nearly 49,000 are currently at eight military bases throughout the country. As many as 18,000 remain at U.S. bases oversees.

Yesterday (Sept. 15), states were notified by the Biden administration as to how many refugees they are expected to receive from the first wave to arrive. Most will be sent to California (5,300) and Texas (4,500).

And as those refugees work through a legal process expected to take months to complete, Southern Baptists are among those groups preparing to assist both with the short-term as well as long-term needs. Those efforts are largely taking shape through state conventions and ministries geared toward disaster relief or missions as well as through Send Relief.

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Source: Baptist Press