By Rick Sample
This spring during Ramadan, I participated with the Afghan American Church in Fremont, California, for a unique prayer experience.
About 25 people—a mix of Afghan Christian immigrants and local American partners—gathered for a prayer service at the church on a Sunday afternoon to share in prayer for Afghans worldwide. The room was set up like a prayer labyrinth with about six stations where participants could read, pray, reflect, journal, draw, etc.
Fremont, California, is home to the United States’ largest Afghan population with about 50,000–60,000 Afghans, the largest community of Afghans anywhere in North America. Some of them began arriving in 1979 following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and now, some 40 years later, have become well -established in the community with second and third generations who are fully “American.”
Other families have come as refugees in the last 20 years, following the terrors of Taliban rule in Afghanistan leading to America’s war in Afghanistan which created millions of Afghan refugees worldwide.
Another sizable group are the many Afghan translators who have served with the U.S. military for the last two decades, along with many more who are expected in the coming months.
The small Afghan American Church began about two years ago with a dynamic young pastor, an ethnic Pashtun who is himself a former Muslim with an incredible testimony of how he came to faith in Christ.
He and his wife work tirelessly to bring the gospel to the Afghans of the San Francisco Bay Area, 99 percent of whom are Muslim, but many of whom are disillusioned with Islam and open to the Gospel. Their ministry extends throughout northern California and beyond via the internet.
We have the joy of partnering with this church in frequent ministry ventures designed to reach the Afghan community with the message of God’s love. Our prayer service was an exciting afternoon of learning, sharing, praying and reflecting. At one station, we were able to pray for Afghan seekers and Afghan believers and the Afghan church. At another station, we wrote prayers on Post-It notes to place all over a map of Afghanistan. Still another station was a map of the world with information about Afghans living in countries around the world and points for prayer about those countries.
Many families have relatives scattered around the globe. At another station, participants were asked to draw a picture on a large poster that represents their heart-felt prayer for Afghanistan and Afghan refugees. The entire experience was done in silence except for soft music playing.
The service began with a few hymns and, at the conclusion of the prayer experience, I was honored to bring the closing benediction.
Prayer is so vital in the work of a missionary. Lita and I have prayed for almost 20 years for a spiritual movement among Afghans in our mission field of San Francisco. We have worked all these years towards the development of a church for Afghans, pastored by an indigenous Afghan Christian. While these goals are finally coming to fruition, there is so much more to be done in order for the tens of thousands of Afghan Muslims to hear and respond to the gospel message. Please join our work by praying for the salvation of Afghan Muslims in San Francisco and all around the world.
Rick and Lita Sample are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving with the international and refugee community in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, being the presence of Christ through relationship building, church starting, evangelism and outreach.