Impacting the Lives of an Afghan Refugee Family
by: Colt Johnson
Imagine being a young married couple with a baby on the way, and news quickly spreads that enemy forces are closing in, and you have just days to get your family out of danger. You must leave behind friends, family, and everything you know with just the clothes on your back in hopes of finding refuge from the evil on your doorstep.
Unfortunately, we are becoming too familiar with unprovoked war, terrorism, and families being forced from their homes to seek safety in neighboring countries and around the world. In August 2021, the United States evacuated refugee families from Afghanistan after the Taliban gained control. In September, Oklahoma would accept about 1,800 Afghan refugees and would need churches and charities to help them adjust to their new homes. First Baptist Choctaw was eager to adopt one of the refugee families.
Then, in October, our church found out it would be a young family of three with a newborn baby girl just a couple of months old. (For the sake of privacy in this story, we will refer to the husband as “H,” the wife as “R,” and the baby as “N.”) The church started working on a plan to gather things to furnish the family’s apartment. Dozens of people brought furniture, bedding, dishes, and all the little things the family would need to set up a household with a newborn baby. The items were delivered to the apartment to be ready for the family when they arrived and show them love.
While housing was such a big blessing to this family, this was just one of the significant hurdles this family had in front of them. This young family with a newborn was just placed in a foreign country without knowing the language, without transportation, without a livable income, and without friends and family nearby or a way to communicate with them.
Early on, Brandon and Julie Adams started to build a unique relationship with this young refugee family. They have been great advocates for the family in adjusting to this new culture. After talking with Brandon and Julie for just a short time, one will pick up very soon that this is not a normal refugee-volunteer relationship but has grown into something much more. As recent empty-nesters, Brandon and Julie wondered what life might look like when their son, Caleb, finished college this spring.
“I don’t think we knew from the outset that it would turn into what it is now,” Julie said. “We just knew that this was something that God had placed on our hearts, and we wanted to be involved. Not just from arms-length, but we wanted to be life-changers in a way that represented the Gospel.”
In the beginning, Brandon and Julie would spend four to five hours in H and R’s one-bedroom apartment. Because of the language barrier, they would spend a lot of time going back and forth on Google Translate getting to know one another. The Adams went out of their way to learn about the family’s home in Afghanistan to learn more about where this family had come from and what all they had been through. This interest in their lives has gone a long way in gaining trust and friendship over the last few months.
H and R are a young married couple about the same age as Julie and Brandon’s only son. Less than two weeks before boarding the cargo plane at the Kabul airport, they gave birth to a baby girl. With so much change in their lives in such a short amount of time, the Adams knew that safety, security, and consistency would be essential. At this stage of life, many Americans have a family to help them get established, but in the absence of family being close by, Brandon and Julie have helped fill that role. From grocery shopping to budgeting to using the appliances in their apartment, the Adams worked with H and R on adjusting to their new home here in Oklahoma. Through working with H and R, Julie and Brandon have almost taken on a surrogate parent role in this young family’s life. When things go wrong, Brandon and Julie are who they call. From cooking incidents to Baby N’s medical scares, H and R lean on Brandon and Julie to be a calming and assuring presence in their lives.
In the last couple of months, the Adams have walked with this family through Baby N’s COVID diagnosis, as well as finding out that she has a cleft pallet, a condition in Afghanistan that would leave her at a tremendous social disadvantage due to the lack of medical expertise in the country. Understandably, these are things that would scare any new parents. Not knowing what to do, Brandon and Julie were there to help them get proper medical care and attention for Baby N, and she will have her pallet operation this coming May.
After 90 days of being here in Oklahoma, the program with Catholic Charities, the organization in charge of the Afghan refugee care, came to an end. H and R were worried that their time with Brandon and Julie would end there as well, but the Adams assured the young couple that they weren’t going anywhere and they would be with them as long as they needed.
As you might have thought, H and R are faithful Muslims as that is the primary religion of Afghanistan. While it is Brandon and Julie’s desire that one day H and R would come to know Jesus, they believe that it is their job to show them the love of Christ so that one day they would earn the right to share the gospel with them.
“We believe that every human deserves to be treated as an image-bearer of Christ and treated with the dignity that an image-bearer deserves,” Brandon said. “First and foremost was that. Yeah, the gospel is the center of everything we do, but if we really believe the gospel, then we believe that every life is valuable, and we want to instill a lot of value in them here in our country, just like we would hope someone would do for our son in a Muslim country. We don’t love them because of their potential to say “yes” to the gospel; we love them because they are created in the image of God.”
It's evident that Brandon and Julie care deeply for H and R as they are walking with them through some of the most significant moments of their lives. Though H and R still have a long way to go in getting established here in Oklahoma, they can find comfort and security in knowing that the Adams will be there every step of the way.
For the sake of space, we have left out many others who have had a significant impact on this young family’s life and look forward to sharing more of this story in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you are interested in how you could be involved with this family, please get in touch with Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know of other great stories of people in our church or are interested in working with our story team, please contact Angie Allread at email@example.com.