In August 2021, thousands of vulnerable Afghan evacuees crammed onto airplanes as the Taliban seized control of their homeland. One of those refugee families who escaped on the last military plane out of Afghanistan has found its way to Camden, where the churches of Kershaw Baptist Association are partnering to sponsor the family.
“As an Air Force chaplain who had been deployed to Afghanistan when I was on active duty, my heart broke, like many Americans, for the people there as the story was unfolding in real time on the news,” said associational missionary Ron Underwood. “I knew many coming here would need a new home in America, and I was moved to send an email to the associational pastors to gauge interest.”
Andrew Tate, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Lugoff, was one of those who responded, and his church has become the lead sponsor. Kershaw Association and Friendship have given $10,000 each for the sponsorship, and KBA churches were challenged to give another $10,000. “We felt this would be enough to support the family, at least for the first six months,” Underwood said.
The particular refugee family was appointed to Kershaw Association through Lutheran Services in Columbia. KBA’s first priority was to find a home for the family of four, with two infant children, and then furnish it.
Friendship and KBA leaders also knew there would be many demands in sponsoring a refugee family — financial, medical, government documentation, driving, job searching and schooling for the children.
The family, who have been in Camden for a little over a month, had no English skills. The wife did not know how to read or write in her language, while the husband could only read.
“We thank God for one of the smallest churches in our association, Southside, which has been doing an English as a Second Language ministry for years,” Underwood said.
Another “God thing,” he noted, is that a missionary couple lives on the other side of the duplex where the Afghan family relocated. They had served for decades in an Islamic nation.
The family is appreciative of the welcoming spirit shown by KBA churches. “They’re very grateful and thankful, very humble, gentle people,” Underwood said.
“Of course, we are hoping and praying one of these days that they’ll come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior,” Underwood said. “Our job is to love them really well in the name of Jesus, and then we let the Holy Spirit do the work from there … but we’re going to share the gospel as we can.”