A Story of Hope: From Afghanistan to San Diego

Ghaffar was furiously digging a hole through a prison wall in Pakistan. His life depended on it. Over three years ago the Taliban captured him, an Afghani refugee, on his way to the United Nations refugee camps (UNHCR) in Turkey. He was separated from his wife, Shabana, and their four kids. He remembers how much they cried for him. That was the last he saw or heard from his family. The hope that his family made it to Turkey made the torture and imprisonment bearable. Yet fellow prisoners were now being executed. Ghaffar had to escape soon or he would never see his family again. He had removed a wall toilet and was now digging for his life.

Around the same time Shabana was sitting in her apartment in inner-city East San Diego making tea. Over three years ago she had made it to Turkey with her kids and was sponsored to the US through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She had no way of knowing the fate of her husband taken by the Taliban. Shabana and her children made the journey to America without a husband, without a father…but they kept hope alive.

Back in Pakistan, Ghaffar crawled through the hole he had dug. Together with fellow escapees they made the perilous journey back to Kabul, Afghanistan, where every household owns an AK 47. He arrived at his hometown only to discover that his family had left for America years ago. With renewed resolve he made a second trip to Turkey and was accepted by the UNHCR for resettlement.

Meanwhile, Shabana was asked by her case worker to come to the local IRC office in San Diego for some good news, “Your husband is alive and in Turkey! He will arrive here in December.” She could not contain her tears. Her wailing attracted the concern of everyone in the office but all she could say was, “No problem! No problem!”

Ghaffar and Shabana have been reunited for less than four months. They are devout Muslims and grateful to Allah to have their family back. Their kids are now all teenagers and attend the local high school. After school Ghaffar and his sons can be seen at the newly built YMCA working out. Ghaffar usually watches his sons since he is still recovering from years of beatings. He will undergo surgery soon. This family was broken, saved and restored. Maybe one day they will know about the One who was broken, buried and restored for their peace.

Quick Facts: I had the privileged of listening to their story in a cramped apartment through Shabana’s broken English. With wide eyes and smiles they showed me the passionate nature and generous hospitality of Afghanis. Yet there are less than 3,000 believers out of 32 million people in the  Afghanistan. It is one of the least reach and most heavily persecuted countries in the world (93% have never heard the Gospel). The few who have resettled in America have come at great personal risk. There are more than 1,000 Afghani’s in San Diego and many speak a local language called Pashtun along with the official language of Farsi. Community, honor and tradition are of utmost importance in the Afghani culture and those who convert to Christianity face intense societal and familial pressure.

-Pray for families like Ghaffar and Shabana to respond to the Gospel as they experience the love of Christians and read the stories of Jesus in freedom.

-Pray for a new generation of Afghani Christians to be raised up, discipled and sent back to live out the Gospel among the millions of lost people in their homeland.

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