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Local churches, organizations turn office space into home for Afghan refugees

Posted at 10:51 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 00:10:41-05

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — From 2001 to 2021, federal government statistics show more than 1,500 Afghan refugees have settled in Missouri. Thanks to local churches and organizations, one more family will call the state home.

“Hope is the last thing to die, and to think about that, that, is their reality and then all of a sudden they are safe and their needs are being met, and you can start to plan for your future and it’s not some hope of some unknown but it’s like right here right now that’s a lot of joy to me,” Reverend Meg Rhodes from St. Anne’s Episcopal said.

The joy that Rhodes described comes from looking at an office space, she along with parishioners, contractors and others transformed into a house for a family seeking refuge from nearly 7,000 miles away, in Afghanistan.

“I think of all the times that God does that, God literally comes in when we say that’s not possible that can’t be done and God says yes it can,” Rhodes said.

However, this house was not a project done solely by St. Anne’s Episcopal. It all came to be thanks to help from many local organizations, including KC for Refugees, the Islamic Center in Johnson County, Jewish Vocational Services and churches such as St. Paul’s Episcopal and St. Andrew’s Episcopal.

“Christians, Jews, Muslims coming together to help a family. It’s America at its best,” Susan Paynter from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church said.

“So even if it’s just a transitional space for them that they can rest and find peace that all of us long for on our journeys, every now and then, to just be able to breath,” Heidi Carter, an associate for ministry from St. Paul’s Episcopal, said.

The family moving in is coming to a foreign environment, so KC for Refugees and the Islamic Center of Johnson County is working to make sure the space was not just a house, but a home.

“They have a chicken sauce, which traditional families like to eat, and they have traditional pilaf which is made out of rice and to finish it off they have a salad,” Zhamilya Koshmambetova, lead organizer for volunteers from the Islamic Center of Johnson County, said. “A beautiful precious Koran which is a must have for any Muslim family which will bring the joy happiness but also calmness and recovery from what happened to them in the past.”

A past that is dark — but a future that is bright.

“This particular group, because they had just seen everything be lost a few months ago, their trauma of loss is going to be totally different,” Dr. Sophia Khan, the founder of KC for Refugees, said. “This person was thinking of me when I was coming to this house, this is not just a generic house but they were thinking of an Afghan family coming to this house.”