GRAPEVINE “Crisis equals opportunity for the gospel every time,” SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice told the TEXAN, quoting Abraham Shepherd of Send Relief.
The current Afghan evacuation crisis may be just such an occasion.
As Afghan refugees arrive in the U.S., they are going to settle in the U.S. This will create an opportunity for Southern Baptist churches to minister, Stice said.
Stice recalled a similar time of turmoil which occurred following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam conflict.
“Southeast Asians were airlifted by the U.S. military through the Philippines to be resettled in the states. Churches and Christian organizations helped in that resettlement, and today there are Vietnamese and Asian congregations throughout Texas and the U.S.,” Stice said.
“The Afghan resettlement may present a comparable opportunity,” he added.
Stice said he envisioned churches adopting Afghan families to help them resettle, providing many gospel opportunities. There may be chances to assist schools and teachers assimilate the refugees to life in a new country.
“Housing, school, language, American life…there are all kinds of things we can help with,” Stice said of the prospects of meeting the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of the newcomers.
The following Send Relief links show churches know how to assist, Stice noted.
“The Church’s Guide to Ministering to Refugees” is a multi-page download from Send Relief that offers a sound introduction to refugee resettlement from a biblical perspective. The booklet discusses needs of refugees in the long and short term and suggests how pastors and churches can help. The download is available at sendrelief.org.
Stice said that churches had already contacted SBTC DR about how to help. While plans are in progress, he has directed those needing more information or wishing to donate to visit the following Send Relief page.
Stice confirmed that Josh Benton, vice president of North American Ministry, Send Relief, indicated that NAMB is working with World Relief, an evangelical resettlement agency that they frequently partner with. The biggest current need is for churches to assist the resettled families.
NAMB will be adding to the resources available to churches, Stice added.
Benton also noted that World Relief does not have offices in every city, and churches may wish to contact other local relief agencies. A list of these may be obtained from the Refugee Council U.S.A. at https://rcusa.org/for-refugees/.
How might SBTC churches help? Tony Mathews, SBTC senior strategist for Missional Ministries, offered a few possibilities.
Congregations have teachers, counselors and other professionals who serve in school districts where Afghan students might be placed, Mathews told the TEXAN, adding, “This presents an opportunity to establish relationships with these kids and their parents who may have never been exposed to the love of Christ.”
Mathews admitted that “cultural distinctives” will be among the “major challenges,” but that churches can educate members on Afghani culture and begin providing help.
Mathews also suggested that churches can connect with Afghan Christians who have been in the U.S. for some time and “begin praying about planting Afghan churches.”
Prayer will be essential, whatever happens.
The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, in partnership with Send Relief, has released a prayer guide for Southern Baptists to follow regarding the Afghani crisis.
“This crisis will result in another opportunity for the U.S. church to minister to the nations that are arriving on our shores,” Stice said.