Sam and Kirsten Tindall 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.
Sam and Kirsten and another couple, Betsy and Avery Platter, 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 about 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 their 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 introduced the younger kids to Halloween.
“Everyone dressed up for Halloween and were 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.
When the Platters got married in Milwaukee, the Tindalls road-tripped with a couple of Afghan friends eastbound to the wedding celebration.
“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.
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 them,” 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 sarcastic and funny. Humor transcends language barriers at this point,” said Kirsten.
Sam adds, “It is so encouraging to see how you can build relationships even with a language barrier.”
During this critical moment where Minnesota is welcoming 1,300 Afghans to our community (125 of whom are being resettled by Arrive Ministries), Sam believes this 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.