The happiest time of the year At long last, it’s the most wonderful time o...
Rev. Laurie “LJ” Jaworkski
Third Church in Richmond, VA
At Third Church we began reaching out to newly placed Afghan refugees housed in our local
army base, many of which left with only the clothes on their backs. We sponsored a collection
drive to assist thousands of refugees. We used a software tool, Sign Up Genius, to describe the
items needed so donors could check off the items they purchased for the collection–the
response was astounding! We set out two boxes for the collected items, thinking they would
sufficiently carry them; however, we gathered so much that it took five SUVs to transport items
to the army base.
After witnessing the overwhelming generosity of our congregation, we rallied a team of folks
together and began to research how our church family can best serve Afghan refugees in
Richmond. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) was the best fit because they allowed us
to sponsor a family through the HOME (Housing Outreach Mentorship Education) Program. The
Team is then responsible for helping the family adjust and settle in their new environment. The
HOME Team must go through training with the IRC and complete a background check.
Today, our Third HOME Team assists our sponsored family by taking them grocery shopping,
setting up and taking them to medical appointments, registering children for school, providing
individual tutoring, and more. We cannot take photos of our family or list their names for their
safety, but we are helping our church family stay connected through personal updates and
opportunities to give.
A larger group often rallies behind the IRC HOME Team; in this case, this is our congregation.
Our charge was to collect all the items needed to set up an apartment (all furniture, kitchen
items (pots, pans, silverware, dishes), etc.–everything a family requires to function. Third
Church lovingly set up the rental home to make it move-in ready.
After a couple of years of COVID we are all weary yet the relationship with this Afghan refugee
family, the reports sent to the congregation, well, it seems to have breathed new life into our
weary souls. Here is an except from a recent report from a HOME team member:
It has been such a joy to serve on the team welcoming an Afghan family to Richmond. I can’t
imagine how difficult it is to suddenly have to adapt to a new country and culture amidst so
much turmoil at home and I feel honored to be trusted with helping welcome this family as they
make a new home here. It has not been easy (as everyone who has dealt with insurance
companies and scheduling appointments and filling out paperwork is well aware!) but this week
especially felt so life-giving.
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of taking the two youngest brothers and their parents to a
dentist who speaks their language. It felt wonderful to help make this much-needed service
happen and so good to listen to these parents as they were able to communicate and feel
understood by their dentist. Afterwards, they invited me to have lunch with them. We ate with
our hands while sitting on the floor of the living room in the home they are renting near Third.
We used the bread that they have been buying from a local Afghan store to scoop up bits of
spinach and macaroni. I even tried the homemade yogurt. It is nice to see how they have
rearranged their living room with large carpets and cushions lining the walls to help them feel
more at home. After lunch, I took the three oldest children to Tuckahoe library to get library
cards and was surprised and blessed to meet a librarian who speaks their language! He was
able to explain all of the library services and answer their questions and will be available to help
them on future visits.
Most of all I appreciate being a part of a team welcoming this family and knowing that our
entire church is helping to support them. I feel like we are living out God’s Word by welcoming
and loving foreigners among us. Quote from Lauren Withrow, Third HOME Team Member