Week 6: April 6th

Each Wednesday in Lent, we invite you in to join us in hearing the stories of refugees and immigrants who have given up everything to find a better life. Especially the women and girls whose resiliency, strength, and power inspire us every day.

This week, we hear the story of Zarmina. We hear about her call to serve others as she was once served. After hearing Zarmina's story, we invite you to reflect upon scripture and pray - together or alone - the words written or what ever else might be weighing on your heart. 

As you are able, we invite you to gather each Wednesday for this time of retreat around a meal. Sample soup recipes can be found at the bottom of this page.

Zarmina Hamidi was just about to start work on the second season on United States of Al, a CBS sitcom that shares the story of an Afghan interpreter living in the U.S. and the Marine combat veteran he worked with, when she watched her home country of Afghanistan fall under Taliban control. 

Al was her first-ever acting gig, a role that she auditioned for on a lark and landed thanks to her knowledge of Pashto and sparkling on-screen presence. And now, just one season later, the dark premise of the lighthearted comedy was more present and painful than ever.

“Filming the first episode of the second season was a really difficult one,” she remembers, “because the whole environment had changed. United States of Al is a sitcom, but for the first episode of the second season, they took off the laugh track. When we did the table read, everybody was in tears because it was so powerful—and especially powerful for those of us who had experienced it, who had to evacuate our families out of Afghanistan.” 

Zarmina had come to the United States as a refugee when she was just 9 years old and was closely involved with the Afghan community in Virginia. Within hours of the fall of Kabul, she was working with her local mosque to begin collecting donations for Afghans coming to the United States—and within weeks, she was working full-time as a case manager for LIRS’s newly established Northern Virginia office.

“Initially, I started as a volunteer,” she said. “Everything from collecting donations to running them to either Dulles Airport or the Expo Center, one of the first locations that Afghans were placed before they were placed in the air bases. We were running all over the place.” 

Though she had never worked in case management, Zarmina remembered what it was like when she and her family were welcomed into the United States as refugees. 

“I was helped when we came 34 years ago, and I knew I would love to do the same for the incoming Afghan refugees. And that’s how it started.” 


Zarmina admits that the hours are long and the work is complicated, but she never regrets her snap decision to help. 

“Every day is different,” she says. “Every day there's a different challenge. Every day there's a different need. We shed tears, we laugh...every single minute, every single second, I’m grateful for the opportunity.” 

Her proudest moment, she says, has been watching the Afghan arrivals she has worked with become more comfortable and confident as they start their new lives. 

“One of my clients is a widow with two children. When she initially arrived, she was so scared. I remember when I called her and said, ‘I need you [at the office]. I’m going to send you an Uber.’ and she said ‘I’m not coming because I’m so scared. I don’t want to ride the Uber by myself.’” 

Zarmina smiles at the memory. 

“Now, she just goes and comes back all by herself. She opened a bank account. She’s applying for jobs now. It’s such a success story, and I’m so proud of her—as a woman and as an Afghan—and I’m happy that I was able to participate in her success. It makes me so happy to see my people thriving.”

At LIRS’s Northern Virginia office, all team members are Afghan. While some, like Zarmina, have been in the U.S. for years, the majority are new arrivals that were evacuated after the fall of Kabul. 

“When I first started, I didn't know what to expect,” she admits. “But here I am, over three months later, and I love every single one of [my colleagues]. They’re such hardworking people—so respectful—and they really care about their jobs because they’ve gone through it themselves. I can see the passion in their work.”

“I was never disconnected from Afghanistan and my community and being Afghan,” she adds, “but I’ve learned so much more from them.” 

As newly arrived families continue to acclimate to their new homes, Zarmina is confident that she’ll continue to work with affected populations. 

“I think this is my calling,” she says with a smile. “I mean, I love acting, but I think I could manage both.” 

“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. ”

(Ephesians 4:1-6)

REFLECT:

  • Through the many changes in Zarmina's life, she now feels called to serve clients at LIRS and feels immense amount of joy in the work she does. What is your calling and how do you/can you live it out?
  • The book of Ephesians answers the question humans have asked throughout all time: Why am I here? What is my purpose? In the midst of pondering our callings, this chapter reminds us to live with love, humility, and patience remembering that we are part of one Holy community. How do you ground your life and calling in your faith and baptism?

________________________

PRAY:

Gracious God, 

We give thanks for your guidance and the strength You give us to live out our callings in Your Holy name.

You inspire. You lead. You comfort. You strengthen.

You remind us of our holy baptism and the one body of Christ.

We give thanks for Zarmina, her gifts, her joy, and her passion. We ask that You continue to protect her as she lives out her calling. 

For those who are still looking to follow their calling, guide their path and bless their days so that they can live into the joy that You provide.

Hear us when we call to You. We ask all this in Your holy name,

Amen.

________________________

Recipes to Try:

Given the traditional Lenten focus on sacrifice, abstinence and plainness, Lenten suppers are simple, having foods like soup that are shared with a community, inviting others to share in the stories of Jesus Christ.


Viewed 311 times