The work of Shelter For Life International (SFL) was initially sparked when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and millions of Afghans began to pour into Pakistan as refugees. Already at work in Asia, Thor and Debi Armstrong recognized that God was calling them to respond to the tremendous human needs of the Afghan people. They moved to Pakistan with a dedicated team of people in 1982. Their first pilot project began with funding from the UNHCR to build geodesic domes for Afghan refugees.
In 1984 Shelter Now International (SNI) was officially registered with the Government of Pakistan and also in Perth, Australia as a non-profit organization. God’s blessing was on the ministry and many new people joined the work. The SNI team worked together with united hearts and souls as they ministered to the needs of the Afghan people and developed the organization as a reputable relief and development ministry. Over the years, SNI was able to build 1,800 multi-purpose geodesic domes for thousands of refugees, widows, and the disabled.
Later, SNI established factories in Pakistan and Afghanistan to produce concrete roof beams and other housing components to be used by families to help rebuild their homes and communities. By 1990, the work prospered and eventually reached a million dollars in annual project expenditures.
In 1991, SNI was registered as a 501(c) 3 organization with its international headquarters based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Soon after, the Gulf War sent millions of Kurds fleeing from their homes, granting SNI the opportunity to respond to the needs of the Iraqi people and launching the organization as an international NGO. Over the years, SFL has served in many countries, including Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Western Sahara, primarily in the areas of shelter, construction, and community development.
In 2002, SNI changed its name to Shelter For Life International in part to reflect its commitment to community development and holistic programs. The purpose of the work, however, remains the same: to go wherever God calls us “…to provide the poor wanderer with shelter” (Isaiah 58:7 NIV), loving our neighbors as ourselves.
In 2006, SFL moved its headquarters to Minneapolis, MN to reflect and facilitate the international focus of the organization.