Citywide effort to help Afghan refugees

Citywide effort to help Afghan refugees

Rev. James Estes

Afghan refugees are coming to Tulsa.” When these words first were being spoken in August, I was home recovering from COVID-19, and watching the news from Afghanistan with all the mixed and conflicted emotions that so many of us experienced. As I started playing catch up the following week, I found these strangers rearranging my priorities and calendar. I scrambled to establish the right contacts with Catholic Charities and help get the right people in contact with one another.

I was encouraged that so many Christians from throughout our city were eager to get involved in serving across lines of denomination or tradition. First Church hosted a gathering of more than 50 leaders throughout the Tulsa area. People rearranged their schedules to hear from our friends at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, who is leading this resettlement effort in the city (they have been doing this work in Tulsa for decades).

We helped to spread the message that the whole Church in the whole city will be needed to support these families, and the first step was furnishing apartments to welcome these new neighbors.

While furnishing these homes is pressing at the time I write this, I pray for the coming season when we will begin building strong relationships with these new neighbors to support them in this significant transition. We know that relationships will be critical for the long-term success of everyone on this resettlement journey.

Now we are getting opportunities to begin some of these relationships, to be on a journey with these new neighbors into an unknown future. It means learning about their culture and homeland, being curious about what is familiar and what is strange.

“It means loving people generously, maybe recklessly; loving them until they ask ‘why?’”
– Rev. James Estes

One my favorite things about working in mission is to see the joy and life that come to others as they join Christ by giving their lives in love for a hurting and broken world. The joy and life are reliable because God will not be outgiven. Does God call us to serve these new Afghan neighbors because God intends, through us, to bring His love and salvation to them? Yes, this is the case without a doubt. Yet, there is another parallel truth. God calls us to service as a way of awakening hidden aspects of his salvation in us as a congregation and in our individual lives. In service God graciously reorders and rearranges according to his higher purpose.

The scriptures tell us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome Christ, and when we welcome Christ he will doubtlessly rearrange our lives for the good. So as the opportunities to serve become available in the coming days and months, I urge you to race to the front of the line to have your calendar rearranged, too. Give of yourself as you are able (maybe more) because this is a step toward the longed-for salvation of our city, our world, and even our Church.