On Saturday, Aug 20, we found ourselves at Windom Park among many hijab-adorned women and excited children. The men of the families were also present, but be assured, you wouldn’t find them near the women’s hangout spot.
It all started with a random idea thrown out by one of the men volunteers at the Tea House one evening before class. “Hey, we should have a party and invite ALL the students.” The idea caught fire and the planning began. We would have a party celebrating One Year in America for our Afghan students/friends.
We picked out a Saturday and later discovered it was supposed to be a very rainy day. But God cares about such things. So, we prayed, and He decided to turn the rain into beautiful weather. Praise the Lord!
For the most part, our students’ responses were enthusiastic. Some of them had to work, and a few of the husbands did not approve of men and women being together like that, so they left their wives at home.
That Saturday, the party began around 3pm. Most of the staff were gone picking up students that needed rides, but the Afghans who drove began trickling in. Ah, the excitement of seeing the first guests arrive! It was such a thrilling feeling when your own students came walking up the sidewalk. They actually cared enough to show up! Soon children were all over the slides, swings, and in the wading pool. Lori and Kenzie enjoyed playing with the many children for hours. The ladies spread their blankets out on the ground close to the food and jabbered away in Pashto.
Kristi, Paul Chupp and one of the Afghan men set up a piñata. At first it was a failure and proved to be an activity that needed more than one adult. With Paul and Lydia’s help, it became much more organized and the children eagerly bunched together waiting for their turn at the bat. It was almost a full-time job holding them back so they wouldn’t get hit by the bat. A mad rush erupted when the piñata hit the ground. Even a few moms were on the ground scooping up candy in case their children didn’t get enough.
The men played some soccer, but it was almost too warm to be running around, so they spent a lot of time playing some kind of circle volleyball in the shade and talking of course.
The Afghans usually eat around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, but our pizza didn’t arrive until 6. Children were crying and the rest were getting impatient before Anthony finally arrived with 12 extra-large Football pizzas. The ladies and children descended on the food. It was chaos. Plates piled high with pizza, plates of chips, and plates of fruit were soon scattered across the grass. Food was disappearing at a high rate. The men were not comfortable eating with the ladies and children, so some of the staff grabbed food and carried it over to them before it was totally gone. An incredible amount of food was consumed by the time 60 Afghans and the rest of us were fed.
This is the bare bones of what happened at the party. Basically, we just went from one student to the next and from one child to another, talking and playing, connecting and deepening relationships. We left better friends than we came, which made the party a success.
If the commander of the American Army told you to go out and shoot some of your friends, would you do it? What if it was obvious that it was either your life or theirs?
Carlin* is a young Afghan man with a young family. While in Afghanistan, he was a soldier in the United States Army. No doubt when our current administration decided to pull the forces out of Afghanistan, some dreams and ambitions of this man fell flat. But the worst was yet to come. Carlin was listed to be on the last flight out, so he sent his young family on ahead to America with his brother. But when it was time for the last flight to leave, it couldn’t take off because the runway was packed with people. This problem forced Carlin into a desperate situation that he probably had never even dreamed about in his worst nightmares.
Fast forward to this past July right before one of our volunteers was to leave. Carlin invited the three young men volunteers to his home. That day he told them the story of the last flight out. Sensing that this man was at a crossroads in his life, the volunteer that was leaving decided to give Carlin a Bible. So, he bought an easy-to-read English Bible and left it in a bag for the other volunteers to give to him.
About five days after Carlin was given this Bible, he openly picked up and took home one of the “Love Your Enemies” pamphlets in Dari that are on display at the Tea House. Later, when asked if he is reading the Bible, he said, “There is a problem. My English is not good enough.” But he said that he had googled a Pashto Bible and was reading it. More recently, a volunteer sent him a video of beautiful acapella singing highlighting the way of salvation and with it the words to the song translated to Dari.
Pray for Carlin, that God would continue to work in his life to draw him to Himself, and that he would come to understand that Jesus is not a dead prophet of the past, but rather, that He is the Son of God, real and alive today and interested in our lives. Pray that he would surrender his life to Jesus, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace, and become a soldier of the Cross.
I’ll close with some challenging words of Jesus for all of us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
-A former volunteer
*Name changed to protect identity
Greetings to each of you in the worthy name of Jesus. We were blessed as a family to be able to serve in the role of house parents in Minneapolis for six weeks. I had been highly involved as a board member up until this point but what life was really like for the team did not become real until living there and experiencing it first-hand. We thoroughly enjoyed our time!
Some of the highlights for us were: interacting with people from many different cultures and walks of life every day, learning to know each one on the team better, hearing the stories of the teachers interacting with their students, and walking (often daily) to the park with the children and learning to know the parents and children there. We experienced first-hand the local people’s enormous need of Jesus as we drove the streets and felt the hopeless feeling of the many homeless souls wandering aimlessly with no purpose in life. Or saw the neighbors who are caught in the grips of addictions to marijuana, cigarettes, or other vices. One day our family passed out home-baked raspberry rolls and literature to the folks living under an overpass that I saw every day on my morning route to pick up the English class students.
I enjoyed being able to witness the morning English classes in session as I waited for them to finish so I could take the students home again. There were some amusing moments as the students exercised their sense of humor! In one class they were putting actions together with objects of their choice and one student put together the phrase, “I sit on the cat”. The whole class enjoyed a good laugh at the thought of that poor cat being sat upon. Another time, the teacher was teaching kill, butcher, etc. and one student said with all seriousness, “Yes, in Afghanistan we butcher the sheep and butcher the fly.” Laughter is good for the soul!
If you have been interested in serving with ARC in Minneapolis, I would highly encourage it. Especially if you can come for a year or more! It’s become very clear to me how important it is to have long term staff here. The students hate it when a teacher leaves and they need to start all over with a new teacher. And about the time they feel comfortable with the new teacher, the cycle repeats itself. Long term house parents are also very vital to a better experience for the whole team. Contact us with any questions you may have about serving here and we will be glad to visit with you about the possibility.
The opportunity is still available to help Ukraine refugees. We have a program in place to help connect Anabaptist churches to the refugees and we have refugees waiting for places to go. Some Anabaptist churches have asked about helping the Ukraine refugees but, so far only one church has stepped forward to sponsor a family. If you are interested in helping, please contact us: email@example.com 870-530-6308 Tim Miller (574-238-3730) from Indiana would be glad to share with you about their short experience.