RABUN GAP, Ga. (BP) – The group includes a high school chemistry teacher, trauma surgeon, baker and numerous policemen. They’re ready to work and support their families. They just need a hand getting started.
Southern Baptists’ response to the influx of Afghanis fleeing their home country began only days after calls for prayer for the unfolding violence. Soon thereafter, churches and groups prepared for refugees, leading to efforts such as sponsoring Afghan families to helping them build job skills in order to enter the labor force.
Another recent example came through rural churches in northeastern Georgia working with Project: Afghan Response, sponsored through Mission Georgia of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.
“Our churches have really responded to this,” said a Mission Georgia representative. “They have a lot of compassion for the Afghan people and what they’ve been through.”
A lot of that connection exists due to how many refugees assisted American military personnel in Afghanistan. Of course, such a connection isn’t necessary for Southern Baptists to engage alongside others in refugee work.
In Rabun County, members of Wolffork Baptist Church joined about 50 other congregations in the state to collect items and funds for welcome kits.
“We are excited to be able to fulfill this request to assist an Afghan family,” said Judy McCracken, who attends Wolffork Baptist. “The items were loaded and delivered by some of the men from our churches. It takes a lot of people working together to do this kind of project, and we want to do more.”
Fellow church member Tammy Whitmire agreed.
“Most of us could not imagine being uprooted from our homes and relocated to a whole new world, but these folks are in the middle of doing just that,” she said. “We just want to express our love and concern for these new friends coming to our state.”
Items in the welcome kits include blankets, towels, toothbrushes, hygiene items and even vacuum cleaners and microwaves. Afghan rugs – or something similar – are another request many Americans wouldn’t immediately recognize as the coveted items they are.
“This kind of effort takes dedicated volunteers and contributors,” said Bill Barker, associational missionary for Rabun County Baptist Association. “This project is driven by our love and concern for all people in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
The welcome kits provide for some needs, but not all. Afghanis join other refugees in wanting to become a part of American society. This includes finding a job to build toward self-sufficiency. But many struggle with that task, which can be hindered by language barriers as well as isolation.
“Many are desperate to get family members out of their home country, but are afraid for those members’ safety if they are linked to those who have made it to America,” explained the Georgia Baptist representative. “This leads to the ones here not talking to each other, and so many are lonely.”