BAY AREA – “Afghans in North America are just as unreached as Afghans in Afghanistan,” Jason Williams* declares. “I speak in churches on Sundays, building awareness that will break down the barrier of fear separating God’s people from Afghans. The church needs to get used to the Afghan people, reach out to them, and get to know them.”
Jason Williams, Church Planting Catalyst with the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) church starting group, is taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Afghan people. Serving as a statewide catalyst, the experiences that Jason has had working with Afghans in the Bay Area, have helped him to mobilize California Southern Baptist Churches throughout the state that also have large populations of unreached communities in their area to engage those communities with the gospel. In addition to getting existing churches involved, Jason also works with church planters throughout the state from predominately unreached backgrounds as they arise and encourages them to reach out to their own people. The Bay Area Afghan community is estimated by some to be the largest concentration of Afghans outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Born in South Carolina, where his family still lives, Jason’s grandmother influenced his life for Christ.
“When I was about seven years old, on my own initiative, I started walking to a church at the end of my street,” Jason recalled. “Now I see that as the leading of the Holy Spirit. When I was 12, I started going to church with my grandmother. I accepted Christ when I was 16 in the youth group at that Southern Baptist church there in South Carolina.”
Jason attended North Greenville University (NGU) in Tigerville, SC, a Southern Baptist college in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and broadcasting.
While a student at NGU, Jason pursued his love for different cultures and people by applying to be a summer missionary with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). His first trip out of South Carolina was as a NAMB summer missionary assigned to California. He fell in love with the state and its diverse cultures and people. After that, he served with the International Mission Board in Taiwan and Kyrgyzstan.
God’s call on Jason’s life began as a child when God led him to walk to that church at the end of his street. As he continued on his spiritual journey, he fell more in love with Jesus and with the people who crossed his path. Ultimately, he returned to California to attend Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a master of divinity degree in 2005.
“Lots of times,” Jason said, “people ask me, ‘Why are you working with Afghans?’ Ten years ago, I did not know anything about Afghanistan or the Afghan people; however, as I was finishing at Golden Gate, another church planting catalyst made me aware of the 40,000 to 60,000 Afghans living in the Bay Area. I just started getting to know that community, and it was obvious that no one was taking Jesus to them.”
God affirmed Jason’s decision to minister to the Afghans by giving him a deep love for the people whose culture and beliefs are so different from his own. Through perseverance and adaptability, he has found that once Afghanis consider you a friend, they are a hospitable and loyal people.
“I have learned that when we spend more time with fewer people we can make a greater impact,” Jason said. “That is what Jesus did with His 12 disciples. I have eight Afghan friends that I have been pouring my life into and discipling each week for the past eight years. There is also an Afghan church planter and a small core group of a church that has formed. Being uncomfortable is becoming comfortable for me.
“Even though Afghans may choose not to accept Jesus, I am still going to love them because I think that is what Jesus would do. I am still going to support them, be their friend, and bring Jesus to them.”
Jason has been to Afghanistan three times and has lived in villages where some of his Afghan-American friends have lived. He has been able to leave the “Jesus” film and Christian literature with the families of loved ones who live in California.
“My greatest challenge is being the only person in this area ministering to the Afghan people,” Jason shared. “The loneliness is a challenge.”
*Pseudonym used for security
Jason’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18, HCSB).
“It is easy to serve God when things are going our way and we are able to measure our successes by numbers of conversions and baptisms. However, when that is not happening are we still going to have enough faith in God to serve Him even when we are uncomfortable or when He is asking us to do something that doesn’t make sense to us? We need to practice Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s ‘even if He doesn’t’ kind of faith.”
Pray for the core of Afghan believers who have begun to gather in the Bay Area
Pray for churches to be started in other Muslim unreached and least reached communities.
Pray that God will give wisdom and courage to new Afghan believers to enable them to make their faith in Christ known within their communities. Afghan Christians face death in Afghanistan; they face shunning by family and friends in the United States.
Pray that Jason will have continued dependence on the Holy Spirit and upon His leadership, letting God be God.
Pray that Jason will feel God’s presence as he ministers alone to the Afghan people.
I praise the Lord for the changes taking place in the Afghanis’ understanding of who a true follower of Jesus is. In Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, the people do not separate tradition and culture. If you are Afghan, you are Muslim. Consequently, they believe that if you are American you are Christian and therefore lacking discipline. As Christians reach out to them in love, the Afghan people are beginning to see the difference between being an American and being an American who is a Christian.
I praise God for the churches that have hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter events for the Afghan community where godly relationships were built and the gospel heard.
I praise the Lord for the Afghan friends I have made here in California and in Afghanistan.
Jason recommends reading Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The authors took the book’s title from a Balti (people of Tibetan descent in northern Pakistan) proverb: “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.”
Did you know?
The Afghanistan embassy in Washington, DC estimates the Afghan population in the United States totals more than 300,000 and is diverse in background, ethnicity and religious affiliation.
“While 20,000 or more Afghans reside in northern Virginia, approximately 40,000 Afghans comprise the diaspora community based in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are also sporadic communities totaling 10,000 Afghans throughout Southern California.”
Church Planting Catalyst
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