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Updated: Oct 11, 2021

I vividly remember our team and the mission trip to Afghanistan over 15 years ago. It was almost an all girl team. We were going to engage in community and economic development with the NGO that was hosting us. Even before we got on the flight from Dubai to Kabul, as we sat in the departure terminal we sensed that this was going to a very different and memorable trip compared to other global trips we have been on together.

As we got off the flight and piled into our transportation van, we were hit by a dust storm. As the dust swirled around us, the driver had no choice but to stop until it passed over. We could see nothing from the windows of the van, except dust being blown everywhere around us. It could have been a metaphor for us going into the unknown with a swirl around us, but actually our visit turned out to very different from that. Instead of a feeling of the harshness of dust hitting us, the reality we went into was that of an embrace of a beautiful and hospitable people.

As we visited and worked in a medical clinic, toured girls' schools (open air classrooms with broken walls surrounding them), and homes of local people, we were welcomed with hospitality. We were invited into homes where we stayed through a several-course meal, and when the fruit was brought out, we learned it was about time to leave. Tea was served with a sweet hard candy that you let melt into the hot liquid as you drank it.

Among many, one of my most enjoyable memories was that of visiting girls' schools with textbooks that we bought for them. As I remember the smiles and excitement on the faces of the children, I wonder what they are doing now, as grown women facing an oppressive regime.

As I remember the faces of the families, women and children and the hospitality we received, I am so thankful. One of the words we learned on our trip is "tashakor", which means "I thank you" in Dari.

Reflecting on the welcome and the stories that were shared with us, I am so thankful for the opportunity to have had that experience. There are so many more memories from that trip, but I will save those for another day.

Like most people around me, I am gripped by the current situation there, seeing history repeated and the suffering of the people, especially women and children.

I want to offer hospitality and welcome those who seek shelter, trying to build a life in a new country, having been forced to flee the only home they know and love due to horrific circumstances.

So, whether it's drinking a cup of tea, sending a text, helping with ESL, being a part of a baby shower or helping provide economic opportunities, we want to continue to build friendships. We are thankful for the opportunity to continue to hear those stories of lives rewoven anew.

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