Even before Ali* and his family escaped Afghanistan in August 2021, Brad and Leslie Lovin were planning a reunion with their friends. Ali had served as Brad’s translator for a year when he was deployed with the U.S. Army in 2011. Eventually the Muslim translator immigrated to the U.S. Last year, as Ali and his family visited Afghan relatives for several months, Brad kept in close contact. When the government fell, Brad spent days making calls on their behalf, trying to help the family get out—again.
“We sat on the floor around a tablecloth,” Brad said, describing their reunion dinner of spicy goat served with tomatoes, peppers, and flat bread. “Our kids love it—sitting on the floor, eating with their fingers, and playing with Ali’s kids all day.”
The Lovins have four children, Ali and his wife Hasinah* have five. “None of them spoke English except Ali,” Brad says of their families’ first meeting in 2014, “but within an hour, the kids were having a great time and begging to stay longer.”
Brad and Leslie helped Ali’s family get settled in the U.S. The Lovins were in Louisville when Brad was in seminary, and that’s where Ali had relocated.
“I remember taking them to the dentist, and it was a messy time,” Leslie said. “I was holding a kid, Hasinah was holding a kid, there were cavities and drilling.” But it was opportunity to build our relationship.
“Allow people to see you be vulnerable, to see you with your family,” Leslie said. “If they see you have flaws, that your house is messy more times than it’s clean, then they can see we’re all broken people who need to be redeemed.”
The families shared Thanksgiving, and the Lovins answered lots of questions about Christmas. A real breakthrough came after Leslie repeatedly asked to help in the kitchen, and Hasinah finally accepted. “She stopped treating me as a guest,” Leslie said. Today the women talk about children, culture, and values, sometimes with a translator.
“If you’re going to just give them things, you may hurt the real opportunity to share the gospel,” Brad said. “They’re going to be convinced by relationship.”
Brad Lovin served three years as IBSA Mission Director. Today he is director of Washington Street Mission in Springfield. (*Names changed.)