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Afghan Refugee Family Update

Several months have passed since we have updated our fellow parishioners on the Afghan family that our church has been helping. Two years ago we began helping one of the Afghan families that left their home and came to St. Louis through the International Institute. The father had worked for the U.S. military, and could have paid a high price if he stayed. The family moved to Jordan, then Germany, then St. Louis.  We volunteered to help pay their initial expenses and help them adjust to St. Louis and America.


The last 24 months have included both successes and new challenges. The family is still in their first apartment and the father works among friends and some expats at a low wage. The family has grown by one little boy, and the older two kids are in public school and happy.  


English skills are critical for adapting to the American culture. The parents have only slowly made progress, initially using then ignoring the International Institute’s available classes, but later taking advantage of instruction offered by us and lately by a volunteer from another support group.


But to advise them against these imperfect choices seems to interfere with their need to be independent, to thrive or suffer from their own decisions. While trying to strike this balance, we hope to offer some choices that will lead them to a more stable American life.


We supporters have especially worried about medical and dental care and have discovered the ways of Medicaid and food stamps. We see the dedicated support of the Affinia medical staff, who are the contracted medical providers that support disadvantaged people. We are thankful for the doctors and dentists who work within the rules that pay for some procedures, and not others. As an example, dental fillings are covered, but root canals, even when performed by dental students, are not.


Yesterday, the mother received her second procedure, and could pay for the discounted root canal because of generous St. Lucas UCC members. We try especially to help with these expenses, hoping that the parents’ care will result in proper dental care for the kids. Medicaid for their infant is more generous.  


So we continue with gifts of books and toys from our St. Lucas family, we have introduced them to the Isaiah 58 food bank, we check on doctor appointments, and help with updating their residency status.  What will be the outcome of these efforts? Maybe we should not worry about that. The doing is what matters, as we hear in James 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”


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