by Rita Johnson, Associate Director
The Afghan Refugee Academy (ARA), a relatively new Frontier Fellowship partner, provides support for Afghan refugees who have fled their home nation and settled in South Asia. Its main service is secondary education for students who may not be able to enroll in local schools due to refugee status, lack of financial resources or poor knowledge of local languages. The 12 staff members of ARA serve nearly 80 students and their families in the region. Motivated by Christ’s love for all peoples, the ARA staff and leaders look for opportunities to share that love as they teach and interact with the frontier peoples of Afghanistan who are now their near-neighbors.
One way that ARA staff share their faith is through cooperation with local Christian fellowships for special events. In November 2021, students from ARA had a friendly sports match with members of a local South Asian church. Other students and staff attended and had lots of interactions with church members. A different local fellowship hosted ARA’s 2021 year-end program that included games, singing, dancing and a multicultural fashion display. Students eagerly explored the decorations of the church, taking lots of pictures of Advent and Christmas decor. The church also gave out holiday boxes to those in attendance.
While most Afghans are Muslim, a few of the students connected to ARA follow Jesus. ARA welcomes all Afghans regardless of their religion. In the fall of 2021, about seven or eight students met twice a month with mature local followers of Jesus via Zoom for prayer, worship and Bible study. To encourage in-depth study, the students received questions about the theme—Christian living—ahead of time. During these studies, the students take turns reading scripture passages and answering questions. Each session ends by sharing prayer requests and how they plan to apply what they learn from the Bible study. When the new term began in early 2022, the group decided to meet every week because the students are eager to grow in their faith. One student, Sarah*, sets apart every Saturday to connect with God through studying His Word—both on her own and with the group. She shared how, by applying the Bible study material in her life, she is relishing God’s goodness and peace in new ways.
The Christian witness and holistic impact that ARA has on the Afghan community in South Asia goes far beyond those who participate in the weekly studies. Another student, Fred*, is a Muslim who is very curious to know more about Jesus. One of ARA’s Christian students guided him to a local church, where he is now learning more about Isa al Masih—Jesus the Messiah—and what it means to be a disciple. The Academy also offers Muslim students personal counseling and moral support. Through one of these conversations, staff members were able to share the Good News of Jesus with Lotya*, a middle school student. They are praying that God will open her heart in His timing.
The Afghan Refugee Academy leaders have a goal to raise more funds locally. They have seen great fruit from these efforts: a parachurch organization in South Asia sponsored groceries for 25 Afghan refugee families; a local architect is sponsoring the tuition of a female student who is good at both art and math; and a local charity provided funds so that a student’s family could pay the rent on their housing; helping the student stay in school. The ARA leaders are eager to increase community participation in the school in the next several years.
We are thankful for our partnership with ARA and celebrate the good work they do to serve Afghan refugee communities in South Asia. Join us in praying that their ministry would bear much fruit in the years to come as they seek to make the Good News of Jesus known, while holistically caring for students and families in their region!
*Names changed for security
Learn more about Afghan Refugee Academy and get involved at frontierfellowship.com/ARA