Assisting in the Evacuation of an Afghan Family

 

Good Neighbors from Emmanuel Covenant Church knit together a harrowing tale of survival as they assisted in the evacuation of refugee friends from Afghanistan.

Inspired last year by a sermon series about welcoming the stranger, Mark and Lori Hansen joined a Good Neighbor team that befriended the Nooris, an Afghan family of five.

In the spring of 2021, the Noori family returned to Afghanistan to visit Mohammad Noori’s mom who was in poor health.

In early August, the Hansen family went to the airport to pick up the Noori family, but they never showed.

Their flights were rescheduled to the following month, as the chaos of a Taliban takeover was threatening any chance of escape. Mohammad, his pregnant wife Wahida, and three young kids under the age of six went into hiding. There were no answers of what to do or how Mohammad could get his family out of the country. He Facebook messaged Mark, in essence mobilizing the Hansens for the mission of their lives.

Mark filled out repatriation forms quickly, which were supposed to help the family get on a U.S. military flight out of Kabul. Mark and his wife Lori worked around the clock, texting their Arrive Ministries’ coordinator, calling U.S. Senators’ offices, and making helpful connections.

“Lori had a family friend, Steve, who is a retired Marine. Steve joined forces with a network of Marine veterans to help try to get those who had supported our military out of Afghanistan safely,” said Mark.

“This group of Marines was really focused on getting interpreters out, their motto is leave no Marine behind. They view these interpreters like they are Marines,” said Lori.

 


I don’t think we have ever prayed more in our lives.


For 10 days straight, the Hansens Facebook messaged Mohammad in the middle of the night, as he ducked in and out of unstable internet cafes, with instructions from the team of Marines. All the while the Good Neighbor team from Emmanuel Covenant Church covered the family in prayer.

“I don’t think we have ever prayed more in our lives. That’s all we could do,” said Lori.

This young, scared family bravely attempted to get around Taliban check-points, patiently waited at the Ministry of the Interior for 24 hours without progress, and persistently attempted to enter different airport gates.

Finally, on August 25th, confirmation was sent that the Nooris were inside the airport.

Then, a massive explosion happened at the Kabul airport.

Radio silence.

Mark and Lori had lost all communication with the Nooris for two days. Finally, Mark got a Facebook message from Mohammed with a photo of his kids saying “Mark, we are in Qatar.”

 


…many people and Marines made amazing decisions that led to them getting out.


When Steve saw the photographic proof of their successful mission, his eyes went straight to the daughter.

“She was looking at her older brother like she couldn’t possibly love anyone as much as him ever,” said Steve. “And big brother looked like he was 6, going on 42.”

Momentary relief. Yet their journey was far from over.

The Nooris’ documents were lost in their checked bags. So, although they were able to fly to Dulles Airport in Washington D.C., they were unable to get through TSA, or fly back to Minnesota.

Coincidentally, that was the day someone from Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office returned their call for help. A staffer from Klobuchar’s office went to Dulles Airport and escorted the family through security without documentation, so they could fly to Minnesota.

The Hansens, Steve the Marine, and Arrive Ministries staff met the Nooris at the airport for a midnight arrival.
With no family in Minnesota, the Hansens and the Good Neighbor team stepped up as their friends, advocates, and in essence guardians.

“This is next level volunteering. These two families are dear friends,” said Wendy Meyering, Arrive Ministries Church Mobilization Director.

Mark and Lori believe without the assistance of so many and persistent prayer, the Noori family wouldn’t have made it out of Afghanistan.

“We were so blessed that so many people and Marines made amazing decisions that eventually led to them getting out,” said Mark.