EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on Aug. 25, to include further information about ministry opportunities provided through the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association. See http://www.stlbaptist.com/good-neighbor-initiative.)
ST. LOUIS – Missouri Baptists stand ready to help Afghan men, women and children taking refuge in St. Louis in the wake of the United States military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Omar Segovia, ethnic church planting strategist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, met one refugee only two weeks after he and his family arrived in St. Louis. For 12 years, this refugee had “served the U.S. military as a cook and translator,” Segovia said. “He and his family are thankful and blessed to finally be safe in the USA.”
This man and his family aren’t alone in coming to Missouri. St. Louis is one of 19 cities in the United States currently taking in the thousands of Afghans who qualify for U.S. special immigrant visas (SIVs).
Darren Casper, association mission strategist for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, encourages churches in the region to welcome these refugees. Since 2016, Missouri Baptists in the area have ministered to refugees through the Good Neighbor Initiative, a partnership between St. Louis Metro Baptist Association and Oasis International. The ministry matches active members of area churches with families arriving from across the globe.
Through this partnership, the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association is also giving Missouri Baptists practical ways to help – for example, by providing used cars or cell phones that newly arriving refugees can use as they settle down in St. Louis. (To learn how you can help, visit http://www.stlbaptist.com/good-neighbor-initiative.)
“God is sending these people to us,” said Denise Rhoades, a member at Canaan Baptist Church, St. Louis, and Good Neighbor/Media Coordinator for Oasis International. Already, many Afghan refugees have arrived in St. Louis, and they need comfort amid the turmoil in their home country.
“All of them have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends still in Afghanistan,” she said. “They look at Facebook every morning to see who has been killed.
“Pray for refugees to find peace and comfort in Jesus,” she said. Also, pray that the church would “rise up and answer the call” to reach out to them in the name of Jesus.
Scott Brawner, a Missouri Baptist church member and president of Concilium, Inc., also urges Missouri Baptist churches to welcome these refugees to their state.
“As thousands of Afghanis come to the U.S.A as refugees, let me encourage you to get engaged,” he said. “At minimum, personally befriend these people. Minister to their needs. As a local church, seek ways to adopt a family and demonstrate what the love of Jesus really looks like.
“It is good to remember that these people served our nation and lost all in the process,” he added. “They need to see what real Christian charity looks like as we reach out to them and say ‘thank you’ for all they have done and suffered in the process. Most of all, may that love, demonstrated as generosity, provide opportunities to share the gospel and introduce Afghan refugees to the savior of all peoples.”
According to Brawner, Concilium – an organization that specializes in risk assessment for missionaries – is currently providing resources and consultation to Christians from various nationalities amid the crisis in Afghanistan.
To learn more about The Good Neighbor Initiative or to get involved, Missouri Baptists can visit http://goodneighborstl.com or visit http://www.stlbaptist.com/good-neighbor-initiative. To learn more about Concilium, Inc., visit https://concilium.us/.