Fridley Volunteer Rides Waves of Current Events with Afghan Friends

 

Setara’s husband and daughter pose during an English class with Liz.

Through a Good Neighbor Team at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Fridley, Liz, Monica and Melissa began teaching English to an Afghan woman named Setara. Little did they know a pandemic would follow shortly after. Their connection with Setara was suddenly cut short, and they had no way to contact her. 


Undeterred, Liz followed the new address and reconnected with Setara. Both women were delighted and relieved to see each other again.


For months they waited and wondered. Monica and Melissa quickly realized they were needed by their own families during distance learning at home. 

In November, Liz knocked on Setara’s door. A neighbor informed Liz that Setara’s family had moved. Undeterred, Liz followed the new address and reconnected with Setara. Both women were delighted and relieved to see each other again. Liz and Setara resumed their English classes and even included Setara’s upstairs neighbor, Zeenat. For months, Liz committed to showing up consistently. The Afghan women welcomed her into their homes with tea, treats, and gratitude.

 

An Invitation

An Afghan Eid Celebration in 2021

“Want to come to a picnic in the park?” In May, Setara invited Liz to attend their Eid celebration. 

“We want you to come!” Zeenat confirmed.


“Want to come to a picnic in the park?” “We want you to come!” Zeenat confirmed.


The festival of Eid is one of the most important days on the Muslim calendar. It was no small sign of trust and acceptance for the women to invite Liz.

Liz was careful to dress modestly and not arrive too early. The park was expansive, and what was expected to be 15 families quickly doubled. Men and women gathered in separate areas, sitting on mats on the ground with children playing around them. Everyone was dressed to the hilt, women in the most exquisite dresses Liz had seen, each one in bright, beautiful colors. Mouth-watering aromas filled the air as they passed dish after dish of home-cooked foods. 

Liz connected with Arrive Ministries through Grace Evangelical Free Church in Fridley, where there is a robust immigrant and refugee ministry effort.

At that party, Liz watched and listened, unable to speak with most attendees. When the other Afghan women discovered she taught English, many crowded around her.

“You’re a teacher? Can you come teach us too?!” Liz’s circle of Afghan friends grew exponentially in a matter of minutes.

 

Mourn with Those who Mourn

In August, Liz was brought into a deeper level of trust with the Afghan community.


We cried together many weeks in a row.


The situation in Afghanistan began to intensify. While many Americans cried for the Afghan people, Liz is one of few who had the opportunity to cry with them. Every visit with Setara and Zeenat was heartbreaking. “We cried together many weeks in a row,” Liz recounts. 

During that time Zeenat lost a brother-in-law to enemy forces. Now Zeenat and Setara are doing everything they can to bring the rest of their families here.

 

“What Keeps You Coming Back?”


The longer I spend with them, the more I get involved with their family. I consider them my friends.


“Commitments are important, and I’ve committed myself to the ministry. I’ve developed relationships over time, and I enjoy that time spent with them. I pray that my relationship would show them the love of Jesus. The longer I spend with them, the more I get involved with their family. I consider them my friends.” Liz explains, smiling. In her commitment to bless the Afghan people, it’s clear that Liz has been equally blessed. 

 

Liz’s advice for anyone interested in joining a Good Neighbor Team or teaching English to refugees

“Don’t be afraid. It doesn’t take a professional to teach English. Just take it slow, one step at a time, and of course keep showing up. Doing life together is what Good Neighbor Teams are all about.” Read more of Liz’s advice for volunteer tutors.