April 28, 2023

Three months after I moved to Namibia, the US war in Afghanistan began. It was 2001 and I, like every other American, was reeling from 9/11 and experiencing plenty of raw emotions. I watched the news with great interest, but I did so safely about 5,000 miles away from the conflict. The truth is, this war was not a part of my personal story. I was able to turn the news off and turn my attention to the day-to-day work in front of me.

Three months before I would move away from Namibia, the war officially ended as suddenly as it began. It had been twenty years and, once more, I watched everything unfold from the safety of my Namibian living room. Afghan families crowded the airport in Kabul, desperately trying to flee their home and escape the Taliban. This time, I will admit, I watched with more empathy than I did two decades earlier. I prayed for those families and for their country, but it was still not my story. Again, I went about my business and my family wrapped up our time in Namibia and prepared for life in the US.

Today, a little over a year later, we are working with close to 50 Afghan families. That’s over 200 individuals and we are being introduced to more nearly every week. Those same families we watched on the news now give us firsthand accounts of what they experienced at that airport. We hear stories of how they managed to evacuate and about the family members who were not as fortunate. What were once simply headlines to me, now have names and faces.

My family now shares delicious Afghan meals on the floors of our new friends’ homes (Afghans do not sit at tables). We grieve together, laugh together, share unfamiliar holidays, and spend lots of time fumbling through cultural and linguistic differences… usually while drinking tea.

I have never known war; most of them are too young to remember peace. We have different languages, calendars, religious backgrounds and vastly different cultures. Up to this point, our stories could not have looked much different, yet somehow God has brought us together. Their stories have become a part of ours.

As a city, we are fortunate to be joined by people from all over the world with a wide range of experiences. We never know where our lives will lead us or who will join us along the way, but I do know that if we are open to it, we have a lot to add to each other’s stories. 

David Echols
Refugee Care Coordinator

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