Sam and Kirsten Tindall, along with their friends Avery and Betsy Platter, started volunteering as Good Neighbors in February 2021. The team was paired with the Shinwaris, an Afghan family of 8, but after Afghanistan collapsed in August, their family has grown to include many extended family members who were able to evacuate to safety.
“They have a loving family dynamic. It is simply a delight to get to know them,” said Kirsten.
The team tries to meet with the Shinwari family once a week, typically on Sunday afternoons.
“We have been helping them with English and introducing them to different aspects of American culture,” said Sam.
In the summer they took them to a Twins game, and after Suni Lee won the Olympic Gold Medal, they took the family to a parade two miles from the Shinwari’s house.
“It was really special for the Shinwaris to see another refugee family who lives in their neighborhood be celebrated in such a big way,” said Kirsten.
When the holidays rolled around, the Tindalls and Platters invited the family over for a Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas party, and also introduced the younger kids to Halloween.
A highlight for everyone at Thanksgiving was going around in a circle and sharing what everyone was grateful for.
“Everyone dressed up for Halloween and was trying to figure out what Trick-or-Treating was. They live in a neighborhood with a lot of immigrants, so we were all hopping from house-to-house meeting neighbors for the first time, with many of their neighbors knowing different languages. It was a lot of fun,” said Kirsten.
“A highlight for everyone at Thanksgiving was going around in a circle and sharing what everyone was grateful for,” said Avery. Answers ranged from family, meeting each other, coming to America safely, and sleep!
“We all cheered after every response and thanked God for these blessings,” added Betsy.
When the Platters got married in Milwaukee, the Tindalls road-tripped eastbound with a couple of Afghan friends to the wedding celebration.
The Shinwaris gifted Kirsten and Betsy with beautiful dresses from Afghanistan, including a wedding dress for Betsy, which she wore at her wedding rehearsal!
“I was so touched and honored to receive that gift. I think it really highlights Afghan hospitality and their kindness to us,” said Betsy.
It’s a privilege to experience Afghan culture… it was so special to have the Shinwaris share an important part of their lives with us
“We all went to the ceremony at the church and had great conversations all weekend long. Through spending time together that weekend, we really got to know each other better as friends,” said Kirsten.
Betsy mentioned, “It’s a privilege to experience Afghan culture as well. We were invited over during Ramadan to break the fast together, and it was so special to have the Shinwaris share an important part of their lives with us.”
Adventures aside, these cross-cultural friendships are being built week-in and week-out through the consistent support, mutual learning, and loving acts of service that take place every Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve had fun doing crafts, reading books, sharing pictures, cooking, and just getting to know each other,” said Sam.
Each member of the Shinwari family is at a different level of learning English, but Kirsten says laughing is key to breaking the ice.
“It’s been fun to see everyone loosen up and be able to be funny. Humor transcends language barriers at this point,” said Kirsten.
This is an opportunity where you have the joy of showing Christ’s love to people who really could use some comfort, and then you also have the joy of learning about the depth of Christ’s love for them as you get to build a relationship with them.
Betsy added that sharing photos of their extended family members has been a key part of their friendship. “All of us have family members living far away, whether it’s our family spread across the U.S. or the Shinwari’s relatives back in Afghanistan, so it’s sweet to share photos with each other and get updates from family members that we don’t get to see in person.”
Sam says, “It is so encouraging to see how you can build relationships even with a language barrier.”
During this critical moment when Minnesota is welcoming 1,300 Afghans to our community (125 of whom are being resettled by Arrive Ministries), Sam believes that now is the time for Christians to share the love of Jesus by offering our new neighbors a warm welcome.
“It makes a difference for families who come fresh to the United States from areas of trauma, to feel welcomed by the community here. As Christians, we are told to welcome the foreigner and refugee residing among us. We are also told to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is an opportunity where you have the joy of showing Christ’s love to people who really could use some comfort, and then you also have the joy of learning about the depth of Christ’s love for them as you get to build a relationship with them,” said Sam.