“Please pray for us,” the young Afghan woman wrote to TWR’s ministry partner in her country.
The woman and her husband follow Christ, a rarity in a country in which only 1 in 10,000 people are evangelical Christians, according to the mission research initiative Joshua Project.
When she was growing up, her family moved to a different province so that she could finish high school, the woman wrote earlier this year. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the American University of Afghanistan and marry a man in her field of work. In a country with no public gathering places to proclaim Jesus, she became a Christian through listening to TWR’s Hope for Today programme. She and her husband, also a believer, would invite people to their home and share the Gospel with them.
But the fall of Kabul in 2012, changed everything. “‘The extremists’ presence has made the situation unsafe for us,” she wrote. “Both our jobs and other activities have been lost.”
Afghanistan is one of the places that TWR will highlight in 2024 as we present a yearlong focus called “Reach the Last”.
“Our whole strategy is to reach the world with the Gospel,” said Jon Fugler, chief content officer for TWR. “And we’re positioned with the facilities that we have outside some of these countries that bring the Gospel into the countries.”
The theme is new, but the idea of reaching the last extends back to 1948, said Tim Klingbeil, TWR’s chief development officer.
That was when Youth for Christ staged its first international conference in the beautiful Alpine village of Beatenberg, Switzerland.
A Canadian evangelist named Oswald J. Smith Jr. chastened the delegates from 46 nations. In spiritual terms, they were only feeding those on the front rows, Smith charged. No one was going to the last rows. Who was feeding them?
Among those in attendance was a 30-year-old Youth for Christ director from North Carolina named Paul Freed. That conference, and his encounter there with two zealous delegates from Spain, would start Freed on the journey that led to what is now TWR.
From its founding in 1952, TWR has joined other mission agencies in seeking to bring the Good News of Jesus to all the world. Yet people are still waiting in the last rows. The Joshua Project finds that 7,385 of 17,442 people groups in the world – more than 42% – are unreached, meaning they don’t include enough Christians to grow the faith without outside help.
As we focus on reaching the last rows during the coming year, we’ll meet the Sudanese people of Indonesia, take you to the jungles of Suriname and learn about unreached people groups in such places as Somalia, Türkiye, Bosnia and Japan.
In Afghanistan, the “Reach the Last” campaign will especially highlight women in the Hazara people group, an ethnic and religious minority that makes up 10% to 20% of the nation’s population.
If the woman quoted at the beginning of this article were growing up today, she wouldn’t have been able to finish high school in any Afghan province. The current regime bans girls from attending school beyond sixth grade.
Yet as we’ll show, the people of Afghanistan – including Hazara women and girls – are able to hear the Gospel via radio thanks to the PANI (Pakistan, Afghanistan, North India) transmitter located in a Central Asian country. Among the programmes aired in Afghanistan is one called Hope for Hazara.
During the coming year, we’ll focus each month on a particular unreached people group or on a country with unreached people. In addition to online and magazine articles, you’ll see a new listener-story video, the release of a book and the launch of a full-length documentary.
We’ll see how God is using TWR and media to overcome barriers and speak the truth to these precious people.
Klingbeil said he hopes the campaign will result in greater awareness of these people groups, greater awareness of how media plays a part in ministering to them, and greater prayer and financial support for TWR.
“It’s kind of pulling back the curtain a little bit into some more of the specific types of things that TWR are doing that may not get a lot of attention,” he said.
Fugler also spoke of awareness. If your interest already is increasing, Fugler would refer you to the Alliance for the Unreached (alliancefortheunreached.org), whose 13 directing member organisations include TWR.
“There are dozens of ministries who are laser-focused on the unreached,” Fugler said. “You can find one there that you can identify with and say, ‘Hey, this is where my heart is. I’m going to partner with this organisation.’ … Let’s do this together [because] the task is huge.”