Meet Ilyas, the Interstate Evangelist

An Afghan Christian uses his displacement and relocation to carry the gospel to fellow refugees throughout the Middle East and United States.

From Message magazine issue "Transformed: Lives Changed Across the Globe"

Ilyas had the heart of an evangelist—despite the challenges posed by living in a refugee camp in the Middle East. 

Having fled from the Taliban in 2021 following their resurgence to power in Afghanistan, Ilyas was well aware of the dangers associated with publicly following and proclaiming Christ. But, undaunted in his faith, he continued sharing the gospel among fellow displaced Afghans. 

One of those Afghans, a Muslim, heard the gospel from Ilyas and received Christ. Within a year, other members of his family responded to Christ as well, even receiving baptism. 

When ABWE launched the Afghan Initiative to resettle Afghan believers in the US and mobilize them to reach fellow refugees in North America, Ilyas joined—and was paired with Derek, an ABWE Live Global worker, to help him adapt to his new environment in the Pacific Northwest. 

But while Ilyas was growing in Christ, the same could not be said for a community of Afghan refugees in a different state more than 600 miles away. 

“Some of [the other refugees] were already Christians . . . a lot more were interested in Christ, but they didn’t actually know Christ yet,” Derek explained. 

In that state, the language barrier posed a significant challenge for the refugees, who could not understand English. A local ministry leader knew he needed help reaching these Afghan expatriates—so he called Ilyas. 

“He reached out [to Ilyas] and he was like, ‘Hey, would it be possible for you to come down sometime and just maybe help . . . share the gospel with them?’” Derek recounted. 

Since then, Ilyas has made at least three interstate trips to engage in evangelism and disciple making and to baptize new believers. 

“Refugees who continue to share the gospel in America find themselves in a country many times larger than their own, with hundreds of thousands of their native speakers with whom they can share the gospel,” Derek explained. “To cover the same amount of ground in Asia would require traveling through many countries and requiring passports and multiple visas. But these brothers and sisters in Christ can travel hundreds of miles to meet with those hungering for truth without needing a passport or visa.” 

“We’re going to share the gospel with Muslims from all over Central Asia,” Derek declared. 


Editor’s Note: Names have been changed to preserve the security of those involved in the Afghan Initiative.