Divine appointment opens door for Filipino SBTC church to minister to Afghan refugees

‘I noticed that they’re not like me’

While many churches find opportunities to travel to other countries to reach the nations, the staff of Sugar Grove Baptist Church have found the nations just around the corner.

Earl Alcazar, one of the pastors at Sugar Grove, said one of the church’s most interesting and unexpected gospel outreaches was the result of a chance encounter with some Afghan refugees staying in a hotel near the church.

Alcazar said he was driving one day when he noticed children running around a hotel parking lot near a Sam’s Club.

“I noticed that they’re not like me. I’m Southeast Asian, and I said, these are not Southeast Asian people,” Alcazar said. “These are not Hispanic [people]. They’re wearing the Middle Eastern clothing or something. … I felt that maybe I should just give something to them, so I bought something from Sam’s Club and gave it to them. And I learned that they don’t speak English. There was a driver that was helping them, and he said that they were Afghans.”

This was during the pandemic, around the spring of 2021, and Alcazar said he was praying for the Lord to help him overcome his fear of reaching out to people he had never met and did not know how to communicate with.

“And I was just praying, Lord, help me. I have a little heart for missions, but I’m afraid to do something like that,” he said. “There are times that I would try to reach people and my wife would warn me that they might not like it or something like that. I just gave them some stuff, chocolates and toys, and I told my wife that there are kids there and I think they’re in need.”

Late last year, Alcazar noticed that two Afghan men began showing up on Sunday morning to church services at Sugar Grove, which is almost entirely comprised of Filipino believers. 

What are their needs

International people groups face many challenges as they settle in Texas. Though they vary, general needs include:

+ English as a Second Language classes

+ Basic household needs

+ Assistance in adapting and adjusting to life in Texas

+ Community support

+ Friendship

Above all, their greatest need is to hear the message
of hope found in Jesus Christ.

Source: SBTC People Groups Department

“Maybe last quarter of 2021, we were having a worship service and we saw these two guys [visiting] the church. We asked them, and they said they’re Afghans and they were living in the hotel that I’d been going to. And they just saw our church and joined us,” Alcazar said. “They did not know each other back then in Kabul. They just met when they were here in the states, and they were able to connect because they can both speak English. They were helping the people there. And they were walking around the area, and they saw this church, and they joined us, and I said, ‘Well, God was sending them to us. They are Muslims, but they are open minded.’”

Alcazar said that the two men had Filipino friends back in Kabul and those in the church had an instant camaraderie and connection with them. 

“The connection was there already. And the people, we were excited,” he added. “I was desiring for it, praying for it. And as a church, we were not really praying for it. But God brought these two guys. And yeah, we are taking it as God giving us a ministry. I know, we know that. It’s hard. But yeah, this is it. God is guiding us.”

Alcazar said the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention provided some resources that were particularly helpful as they have tried to minister to the Afghan refugees living nearby. Martin Gonzalez, who serves as a SBTC people groups strategist for the Houston area, equipped the church with some digital Bibles so they could read Scripture in their native language.

While the church hasn’t yet seen any professions of faith from their ministry with their Afghan neighbors, they are hopeful that their continued work with them and service will provide more inroads for gospel conversations.

Alcazar said one of the most encouraging things has been seeing the way these people from another part of the world have opened their hearts and homes to the members of his church. One recent example was being invited for tea at the hotel room where one of the refugees was living. One of the two English-speaking Afghans who had been visiting the church explained the nature and importance of hospitality to Alcazar, stating that it is considered an honor to be invited into someone’s home.

“I was thankful that it is an expression that they [would welcome us] as Christians to be near their families. That’s the simple way of saying it, that they’re opening their house for non-Muslims, or Christians if you will … to be in their house.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Rob Collingsworth
Most Read

Jesus film entirely in sign language is historic first for Deaf community

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (BP)—When Joseph Josselyn of “Jesus: A Deaf Missions Film” lost his hearing as a toddler, life became “a little painful at times” as he grew, accepted Jesus and worshipped God in the hearing …

Stay informed on the news that matters most.

Stay connected to quality news affecting the lives of southern baptists in Texas and worldwide. Get Texan news delivered straight to your home and digital device.