Many in our St. Mark’s community have been heartbroken by what they are seeing and hearing about the situation in Afghanistan, and we’ve gotten inquiries about how we can help. Here’s what we know:
Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC) is the local (North and South Carolina) agency that the national Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) works through in this area to resettle refugees. Both LSC and LIRS are actively advocating for Afghan refugees, and you can check out the LIRS advocacy and action page to see how you can support those efforts.
In this region, LSC has settled a small number of Afghan allies in Raleigh and Columbia (six as of 8/17, and five more on the way). These are the places that LSC already has refugee resettlement programs and staff active in the area. The vast majority of Afghan refugees being resettled by LIRS nationally are in the DC, Fort Worth, Seattle, and Houston areas, so there really isn’t hands-on work to do in our region right now.
LSC has applied to the federal government through LIRS to open a refugee resettlement program here in Asheville. This process started about 6 months ago and it’s not all finalized yet, but if the federal government approves Asheville as a resettlement site, it’s likely that the staff for the site could be based at St. Mark’s and use a classroom or two as office space. We ought to hear something about that approval in the next 2 months. If and when it’s approved, things will move quickly around staffing and logistics so that the first refugees could arrive by February 2022. In this scenario, there would be many, many ways St. Mark’s and other communities could support new arrivals (language practice, rides to doctor’s appointments, just being a friend in a place where somebody knows nobody, financial support, leveraging connections to help find jobs and housing, etc). If the Asheville site is approved, it likely would accept Afghan refugees, but the actual assignment of refugees to sites happens through the federal government, so we don’t know for sure who would be coming.
Since the local site is still pending, the very best way to help support resettlement of Afghan allies is financial support. To do that nationally, you can give to LIRS. To do that more locally (Raleigh and Columbia), you can give to LSC. In both cases you can designate your gifts to Afghan refugee support. When we hear about the federal government decision on the Asheville site, it will makes sense to get a group of interested folks together to plan. In fact, LSC even has a training they will run for us about how we can work with LSC staff to support arriving refugees. But for now, financial support is the best way to go.
The good news is that LSC and LIRS have been doing this work for decades. They aren’t having to reinvent the wheel- they have time-tested ways of doing this work and working with congregations to support refugees. When they need the hands-on stuff, we will hear about it!