21Wilberforce Ambassador for Latin America, André Simão, shared about the Afghan’s resettlement by the Brazilian Baptists in a Baptist Forum on Aid and Development during a Baptist World Alliance meeting in Norway in July 2023.
This story started in the Baptist World Alliance congress held July 2021 through a prayer request at the Religious Freedom pre-conference hosted by 21Wilberforce. By Aug 21st we were connected to the Afghan Evacuation Coordination Task Force Team.
I could talk about numbers, +700 who have been assisted so far, 35 missionaries, hundreds we’re trying to help waiting abroad in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to come to Brazil, how we engaged with authorities, the all-encompassing assistance Brazilian Baptists are providing, Afghans speaking Portuguese, the high costs, what we’re doing, the documentary movie “For Me”… but I choose instead to share about what we’re seeing, some missional perceptions I have observed during the past two years.
How it started. Missionaries, cries for help, would be killed, threats, Hazara Muslims, Christian NGOs, people being searched for in Afghanistan. We could not abandon them. Doors closed, but Brazil issued ordinance humanitarian visas. Still no movement due to hindrances including a lack of facilities. Then a coalition started a project to rescue people which involved unlocking the humanitarian visa process.
We just responded to the need before us no matter how small or big. God brought the resources: the beautiful farm hotel, and the people, missionaries, volunteers, and churches responded.
Beautiful stories of love. Afghan refugees have endured terrible hardships to escape. They were hunted down. They saw people die. They rode in car trunks, slept on caves/mountains, ate snow, and climbed high-wired walls with children. Parents were separated from children, were deported, detained, beaten, tortured, exploited, stabbed, and endured extortion. One told me, “It was the best day of my life” when I got the visa approval. Brazil opened arms their arms and Brazilian Baptists stepped in to help.
The Afghan refugees want to hear what moves us. “Love and humanity was displayed to a degree that I never saw in my life” said one Afghan. “Christians are angels, some of the best people on the earth.”
- We don’t always see the outcome: plant/water/fruits: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (I Co 3.6)
Then, several Afghan refugees saw Jesus in dreams, on walls, through many people. We do it for dignity/imago Dei/for all, and it’s also an opportunity to walk together. They are coming to our table, to study in our schools, to give birth at our side, even attend our churches).
They saw Jesus, and we see conversion, baptisms, preachers among Afghans. They share on WhatsApp to other Afghans in the diaspora, and inside Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Afghans everywhere know about Brazilian Baptists’ Vila Minha Pátria, and hear about the “unlikely” hospitality and love from Christians.
Here are my perspectives:
Afghans: (professionals, HR activists, teachers, doctors, diplomats, a general secret-believer, simple people, many children) – find peace, regain hope, feel love/gratitude, want to contribute with their skills/minds
Local church: churches integrating Afghan families, church visits to VMP, youth transcultural missionary training in our backyard – relationships that enlarge our missionary vision (practicing love neighbor, overcoming prejudice, undergoing the faith test of practical love/compassion); gospel preached to Afghans in the diaspora and through them; and “we are blessed”, giving ourselves to others we find love, find our own humanity, we feel we’re doing what God called us to do.
By showing hospitality to strangers some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Heb 13.2) Jesus: For I was a stranger and you invited me in… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Mt 25.35,40)
Broad society: church being relevant outside its walls, nominal/non-believers see good works and glorify God, journalists want to cover, people want to hear about, testimony to people outside the church.
A vision for the future: I see the next generation, children (these little girls happy attending schools!), youth, authorities, activists; I see preachers among them, converts, an Afghan Church – there’s a movement in the AFG diaspora! Some may go back someday to AFG and will help rebuild the nation – or do it from overseas, fighting for a culture of equal citizenship to Christian minorities. God will use all that for his glory!