An Afghan refugee was about to burn a bag of Bibles and other free Christian literature she had taken from a stand outside a church in the Middle East to keep herself and her small daughter warm.
Like most refugees from Afghanistan, Gayana* lived in a broken, drafty apartment with no means to keep out the winter cold, and it was not uncommon for refugees to elevate their mattresses on wooden planks to keep them off the water puddled on floors.
The Bibles and literature were in her own language, but Gayana thought they would best be used to help burn the wood and coals in her cast-iron, potbellied stove.
“My house was cold, and my little girl was cold,” she said. “In the evening, I took the wood and tore off the Bible pages and threw them into the stove, and they started to burn.”
As she sat down and took her little girl into her arms, among the burning pages she saw a passage from the Gospel of Matthew; she read Christ’s teaching not to be anxious about what to eat, drink or wear, but to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:25-34).
“When I read those words, I started thinking that these were real words – everything was under God’s control, and only He could give me everything,” she said.
She took one of the unburned Bibles and began reading.
“The words of God warmed both my body and my soul,” she said.
When she next returned to the church for the aid distributed by local missionaries, her conscience was singed, especially as she knew the Bibles she’d taken had been the last ones on the stand that day. When the ministry leader learned that she was from Afghanistan, he told her she could have as much food and other aid as she needed.
“My eyes filled with tears,” Gayana said. “God told me, ‘I’ll feed you,’ and He really sustained me through the church.”
Within months, Gayana put her faith in Christ and was baptized, and since then she has made a habit of inviting other Afghan refugees to her home, cooking for them, helping to heal their emotional wounds and proclaiming the gospel to them, the ministry leader said.
“That’s how I like to serve the God who loves me so much,” Gayana said. “I have lived with spiritual hunger and thirst for many years, but now God has fed me. I can’t keep this joy inside me, and I want to tell others about it.”
About 90 percent of the refugees from Afghanistan are women, most of them either single or parted from their husbands by the country’s social and economic instability, the leader said.
Workers in the Middle Eastern country, unidentified for security reasons, help the refugees with food packages, gift cards, or assistance with heating bills, rent payments and medical expenses. Those who are young and ill-prepared for adversity can fall into the traps of the unscrupulous, the leader said.
One such refugee began working for a native of the Middle Eastern country who made sleeping with him a requisite for remaining employed; she chose not to be unemployed.
“Unfortunately, there are dozens of such cases, such as, ‘If you want to stay in my house, you will be my Islamic-marriage wife,’ and, ‘If you want to get help, you will do what I want,’” the ministry leader wrote to Christian Aid Mission. “You are the only ones who have graciously helped them, and I thank you so much for this help.”
Refugees from Afghanistan live not in camps but in dilapidated apartments or warehouses in cities where the ministry’s churches are located. About 30 percent of them have put their faith in Christ after fleeing, 10 percent were already Christians escaping persecution from the Taliban that came to power in August 2021, 50 percent are Muslims, and the remaining 10 percent are attending worship services but have yet to profess faith, the leader said.
“We pray that soon they will accept the Lord,” he said.
Still fearful that Taliban members or their sympathizers could be present even in their host country, Afghan refugees continue to wear head coverings, he said.
“Even if they are Christians and live far from Afghanistan, they cannot get rid of the fear of the Taliban,” the leader said. “They sing worship songs with all their hearts, they even praise the Lord by raising their hands, but they still keep their heads covered because of their fear and culture. I ask you to pray for their hearts to change and for their fears to go away.”
Refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and other countries are coming to faith and being baptized every year, the leader wrote to Christian Aid.
“The Lord has truly changed their lives,” he wrote. “They have very little, but they have treasure in heaven, thanks to the Lord they met through you. And they know that their Lord will never leave them alone. All these miracles happened with your help.”
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*Name changed for security reasons