By Blake Tommey | CBF Communications | November 16, 2017
When Jay first arrived at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship refugee ministry Welcome House from Afghanistan, he was prepared to endure four long, wearisome years getting on his feet and integrating into American society. Little did he know that he would spend less than four months securing an apartment, a new job and a life full of hope thanks to a network of CBF churches and field personnel committed to cultivating beloved community with refugees and immigrants in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.
“Having these volunteers and this community was like having oxygen to breathe,” Jay said. “Welcome House made it possible for me to take a deep breath and start taking those very initial, basic steps toward a life worth living here in America. In Afghanistan, our people call this the ‘thin branch period,’ like the young branch of a tree — the shaping and forming time. These volunteers and organizations understood the importance of this transitional period, and their help will dictate the rest of my life here in America. They helped me keep my dream alive.”
Jay’s dream began nearly a decade before meeting Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Kim and Marc Wyatt and the Welcome House community. In Afghanistan, as he graduated high school and began preparing for a career as a journalist, he had a chance encounter with American soldiers over cookies and a few jokes. These soldiers discovered Jay’s gift for multilingual translation and promptly offered him a job at a local military base. For four years, Jay worked as an interpreter for the U.S. Army, translating everything from local maintenance instructions to combat coordinates on the front lines as he saved money for college tuition.
Jay’s newfound craft was not to last, however, as U.S. troops began pulling out of Afghanistan, leaving him a prime target for the Taliban, who threatened his life and forced him to flee his home. After four years of country-hopping, visa rejections and cold nights sleeping under bridges, Jay finally received a visa to emigrate to the United States, courtesy of his friends in the U.S. Army.
“It would take me days and days to explain how difficult it is to be an asylum seeker, to be a refugee, but I promise you one thing: There is no such thing as an asylum seeker or a refugee by choice,” Jay explained.
“No matter who you are, we’re one nation. As citizens of this world, it doesn’t matter which color of skin you have, which nationality you are, which language you speak. At the end of the day, we’re citizens of this world, and communities help each other out. Families help each other out.”
When Jay landed at Welcome House in Raleigh, the all-too-familiar pattern of rejection suddenly vanished, and he found family. Kim and Marc Wyatt introduced Jay to his new living quarters at Welcome House, complete with a clean bunk, warm hosts, cool air-conditioning and a stocked kitchen where he could cook on his limited budget. With a team of volunteers by his side, Jay spent the next few weeks applying for a Social Security card, acquiring health insurance, studying to get his driver’s license and building his employment resume.
To Jay’s delight, a few of his old teammates stationed at nearby Fort Bragg called one day to offer him a position working with the U.S. Army once again. Through a partnership with Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., the Wyatts connected Jay with temporary housing near Fort Bragg while he awaited his first paycheck and obtained his own apartment. Now on his feet with a job, a car and a community of friends, Jay says the beloved community of Welcome House has inspired him to give radical hospitality back to the world.
“What we can do as individuals and also as communities, families, states, groups, as people, is help the guy out who’s trying to get on his feet,” Jay said. “Look, we can object to many scenarios, but I promise you there is more good in this world than there is bad, and that’s what keeps this world running. We as people, we as communities, we as nations, we as human beings have to remember that we are one. We can’t let those small dots of bad change us so much that we forget how to stay one — how to stay strong and not desert those who are in need today.”
You can provide a network of support for refugees like Jay here in the United States and around the world. Please make a gift to the CBF Offering for Global Missions. When you give, you keep CBF field personnel in the mission field. When you give, you make it possible for refugees to be welcomed to new homes. You help provide food, jobs and new opportunities for individuals and families who find themselves in a new place and in search of a new home.
Please give as generously as you can at www.cbf.net/give. Your gift will change a life.
Read more about the work of CBF field personnel Kim and Marc Wyatt to cultivate beloved community through welcoming refugees in North Carolina at www.cbf.net/welcomehouse.
Watch a video story below about Jay, the Wyatts and Welcome House: