‘Labor pains at midnight’ bring joy – and a U.S. citizen – to Afghan refugee family

by | Jan 20, 2022 | Refugees & Immigrants

Furniture, toys and other household items await the homecoming of a young Afghan family in Vancouver and their new, fourth member. Volunteers helped furnish their new apartment.

In the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 14, an Afghan refugee family who are new arrivals in Vancouver received the gift of their own new arrival. The birth of a healthy baby girl brought joy to their world – and to the LCS Northwest community, as well.

Life has been a whirlwind since the family landed on American soil a few days before Christmas. But volunteers from Immanuel Lutheran Church, working with LCSNW staff, made sure the newcomers weren’t neglected during a hectic holiday season compounded by a snowstorm.

The church’s Good Neighbor team welcomed the 35-week-pregnant mother, her husband and their two-year-old daughter. Charlanne Sappington, the church’s faith community nurse, assisted with some prenatal care and a postpartum visit for the young mom. She also escorted dad to the grocery store on Christmas Eve. Others provided four-wheel-drive transportation so the family could run errands in the snow.

And they set the family up in a home just in the nick of time.

Hours after the birth, Charlanne was busy preparing the one-bedroom apartment, unpacking household items and arranging the modest furniture they had.

“We have so much abundance in this country, and we take it for granted, but this is more than enough for them,” she said.

The Good Neighbor team illustrates the extraordinary efforts underway as LCSNW resettles more than 100 Afghan nationals in Vancouver – plus more than 140 in Portland and nearly 300 in Tacoma, so far. The pace won’t slow for at least a month; the U.S. military bases where thousands of refugees have waited since the mass evacuation from Afghanistan last summer face a goal to be cleared out in February.

“I am so impressed with our Vancouver community for the incredible ways they are showing up to help and support these families and our work,” said Mindy Johnston, LCSNW’s Vancouver area district manager. She praised agency case managers and volunteers for being “ready for every challenge that has come at us – including labor pains at midnight.”

Now this baby and a handful of others born to LCSNW-supported refugee families have something precious that their parents do not: U.S. citizenship.

For the folks at Immanuel Lutheran, the Good Neighbor team is just the latest example of their call to community service. The church also offers a Safe Haven after-school program for children and a Satellite Overflow Shelter (SOS) for people experiencing homelessness. 

But helping place a young refugee family on a path to stability in Vancouver has delivered inspiration on a whole different level.

“When you think about it, this really is like a Christmas story,” Charlanne said. “It’s hard not to love a baby. There is a renewed sense of hope.”