Our work 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.
Shelter Now International (SNI) was officially registered with the Government of Pakistan and Perth, Australia as a non-profit organization. This time saw a great blessing on the ministry, with many new people joining in on the work. As the team ministered to the needs of the Afghan people, SNI developed into a reputable relief and development organization. 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.
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.
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. SFL also boosted its presence in Afghanistan with funding from WFP.
SFL moved its headquarters to Minneapolis, MN to reflect and facilitate the international focus of the organization. Soon afterward, we began work in what is now South Sudan.
In 2012 we re-established an office in Tajikistan and received funding to begin work in Senegal and Liberia.
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. Today, our team continues to work on numerous projects across the world funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), World Food Program (WFP) and the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM).