CCCNMO Featured by the Missouri Conference of United Methodist Church for Afghan Resettlement Efforts

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Churches Prepare to Receive Refugees from Afghanistan

The U.S. military completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 30, concluding its 20-year war there. The country watched the capital city of Kabul fall into chaos during the final stages of the withdrawal. On August 26, 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing as they screened evacuees outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. 

The military withdrawal coincided with Operation Allies Refuge. This United States military operation airlifted certain at-risk Afghan civilians, particularly interpreters, U.S. embassy employees and other prospective Special Immigrant Visa applicants from Afghanistan. U.S. personnel also helped NATO and regional allies in their respective evacuation efforts from Kabul. The operation was concurrent with the larger American military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the multinational evacuation of eligible foreigners and vulnerable Afghans. SIV applicants were airlifted to the United States, where the U.S. military temporarily housed roughly 75,000 while they completed their SIV requirements.

Having that many refugees present in the U.S. in immediate need of resettlement is a very different process than the typical process of admitting refugees from refugee camps, which can take years and usually involves a small number of people at a time. The sudden change has created challenges for resettlement agencies and opportunities for the churches that support them. 

Linda Robb was part of a small group at Missouri UMC in Columbia that was motivated to help with the situation, so they approached the pastor and formed a team.

“Many people in the church are moved by the situation and want to help,” Robb said. “Just imagine if you landed in another country with a different culture and you had nothing.” 

They learned that Catholic Charities is the resettlement organization for central and northern Missouri. 

Melissa Clark volunteered to be the mission contact with Catholic Charities and organized about 30 other volunteers into ten teams. 

“I’ve connected with people in the church who want to help who I didn’t even know before this,” Clark said. 

Three people from the church participated in a six-hour training at Catholic Charities. Then on October 22, Catholic Charities brought the training to the church and 25 people. People are also participating in a mandatory two-hour online training. 

The church will initially be sponsoring one family and is the first church in Columbia to do so. They will be matched with a large family since they have ample volunteer resources. The church can donate the family a maximum of $4,000 to help initially with rent, a security deposit, hooking up utilities and other expenses associated with establishing a residence.

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