January 10, 2022

It Started with Mattresses

South Park sounded like an unusual place for a refugee family to find an apartment. But, after helping numerous families move into apartments in El Cajon, a move-in just around the corner from Hope for San Diego’s North Park office was a welcome change. A quick delivery of mattresses and kitchen utensils led to something much bigger: a blossoming relationship between newly arrived Afghan refugees and a newly arrived pastor and his family.

Omar and Kate Ortiz moved to South Park from Boston last summer to join Harbor City Church, a Hope for San Diego partner. And just a couple of months later, when we let them know that Afghan refugees lived just half a mile from their house, they eagerly planned a visit.

Fatima and Rahima with her seven-year-old son, Darush, met at a military base in Virginia after fleeing Afghanistan. Separated from their own families, the two women decided to pool their resources and start their lives in San Diego together. Their resettlement agency found an affordable apartment in South Park, and Hope for San Diego assisted with furniture and household items.

An initial neighborly “welcome” visit from Kate was the spark for a special connection between this unique “family,” and Harbor City. Initially helping find a sewing machine and bus passes, volunteers from Harbor are now serving this family by enrolling Darush in school, working on English with Rahima, and advocating for the women’s families still in Afghanistan. They delivered a Christmas scooter as a special treat for Darush.

It’s easy to get stuck thinking that building relationships with refugees requires overcoming intimidating obstacles. But the Ortiz family and others from Harbor City Church are enjoying their new neighbors, even when it’s a little uncomfortable. What started with mattresses evolved into relationships that are transforming all of them. Loving these friends in the name of Christ feels less like a project and more like family.


Interested in building a relationship with a refugee? Want to find out more about Afghans coming to San Diego? Please join us at From Stranger to Neighbor on March 9th at 7:00pm. Sign up here.