I had arranged to meet Ahmad and his wife, Mina, in a coffee shop in Ashford. When they arrived, late and a little flustered, they seemed hesitant to speak with me. I already knew that they were asylum seekers housed in the Holiday Inn, Ashford, but I didn’t know much more about them. Ahmad spoke some English, Mina spoke a little too, but she was shy and lacked confidence. Through their English and Google Translate we started to talk about how I might help them. Ahmad and Mina, along with Ahmad’s mother and younger brother, Sami, fled their home country of Afghanistan two years ago. Ahmad and his older brother had served in the military, fighting against the Taliban. Sadly, Ahmad’s brother died doing so, and now that the Taliban have returned to power, the lives of the whole family are under threat. So, they left their home, their possessions and their extended family and set off by land. Part way through their gruelling journey, in Serbia, they lost Sami. After weeks of trying to find him, they were forced to move on and eventually arrived in the UK just over twelve months ago. They were housed in the Holiday Inn, Ashford. Ahmad and Mina were now very worried about Ahmad’s mother as she had become depressed and hardly left her room. We talked about their practical needs for clothes, shoes and other fairly basic items and I assured them that, through Acts 435, some of those needs would be met, but I was drawn back to the subject of Sami. Was he still alive and, if so, where was he? I took out my phone and started to look for him on social media sites. I tried variations of his name and after about twenty minutes I found a Facebook profile. I checked with Ahmad if the picture on the profile was of Sami, and it was. There was no guarantee that this was a live account, but I sent a message just in case. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t an immediate response. We concluded our meeting, but later that evening I received a message from Sami. He was alive and well and in the Midlands. The family have been reconnected on the phone and are now hoping that Sami can travel to Ashford to see his family for the first time in almost two years. This reminds me of the three parables found in Luke 15 – the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep and the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. In each parable something of value is missing, there is a search for the lost item and finally there is a party when the lost is found. It is our privilege and our calling to seek the lost and our joy to join in the celebration when the lost is found. Sometimes that which is lost is not a physical object or a person, sometimes we are given the opportunity to help people find their independence, their place in society or their dignity. In particular, I am thinking about the parish’s work with Ignite guests and asylum seekers. If you would like to help with either of these ministries I would love to hear from you. At the moment Ignite is short of toiletries and there are requests from asylum seekers for bicycles, sewing machines, hairdryers, winter boots and a bass guitar (for a 17-year-old music student). Also, I would love it if we could facilitate Sami being reunited with his family – for that I need a train ticket and some overnight accommodation in Ashford.
Sophie Carnaby-Denyer MTh