Dear Friend of Eurasia,
*The name of the school has been omitted for security reasons.*
“I can’t come to school anymore,” Leyla tells the directors of an English school in Azerbaijan between sobs. Her words hit them like a knife. She has been part of their lives for the past four years.
Leyla explains that her parents can no longer afford to pay tuition for their daughter to attend one of the only Christian schools in the country. At the end of class, her mother escorts her home, not to return the next day.
With tears in their eyes, the school directors shared this heartbreaking scenario with me. It is not uncommon. It is one in a long line of recent departure stories.
Azerbaijan’s current financial crisis has left the students’ parents with the choice of buying food or sending their children to private school.
Currently, 130 children—most Muslim, some Christian—attend. It is the only Christian witness for the Muslim families whose children attend.
The cost to send a child to the school is just $8 per week, $32 per month or $416 per year. Still many families cannot afford it.
Private elementary education in the United States costs, on average, over $7,700 per year. This is over twenty times the cost of sending a child to school for one year at private school in Azerbaijan!
Azerbaijan, between Russia and Iran, is a country of contrasts: desert plains and forested mountain ranges, obscure villages and bustling cities. It is home to over 9.5 million people, most of whom are Muslim. Strict rules prohibit proselytizing for any religion other than Islam.
But with children it is another story. Children can speak about their faith freely, and this school teaches them Christian principles which they discuss with their families and friends.
Sevinj is a Muslim third-grader at the school who comes from a broken home. She was befriended by one of her Christian classmates who began sharing the message of Jesus with her. Initially, Sevinj had difficulty interacting with peers and teachers, arguing angrily in defense of Islam. But in the past year, the teachers and students have witnessed dramatic change in Sevinj, and peace has replaced anger as she now listens to Christian principles.
“The parents say it’s an enchanting place,” the school director says with a smile. “Once you are here, you don’t want to leave.”
Learning English is highly valued by Azerbaijanis. Even devout Muslim parents enroll their children because they consider it, in one sense, the family’s social security. When students learn English, they secure higher-paying jobs and can in turn support their families.
While Muslim families value the school for its economic impact, far more valuable is its spiritual impact on this Muslim nation!
Parents wait in the school’s lobby for their children to finish class each day. While they wait, they interact with believing staff members. Muslim parents are attracted to the Christian values that the staff live out.
This school is the only connection that these Azerbaijani families have with Christ—yet this link is weakening at an alarming rate due to financial difficulties.
With heavy hearts, Muslim parents are withdrawing their children from school simply because the struggling economy has reduced the income of many families.
“When a child has to drop out, the family no longer has a Christian witness,” the director of tearfully explained.
The goal of the Eurasia region of Assemblies of God World Missions is to establish a church-planting movement in every people group of Eurasia. In Azerbaijan, this goal starts here. For $416 per year—just $8 per week—you can help us reach Muslim families in Azerbaijan.
Thank you for your continued generosity to the unreached through Faces of Eurasia.