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Published on 02 October, 2008

Backpacks open hearts of Muslims in Russia

Russia (MNN) — While violence between Russia and Georgia has eased, the tensions have not. Russia's military says European Union peacekeepers will not have immediate access to the buffer zone surrounding South Ossetia. Russia had already said it will refuse to give peacekeepers access into South Ossetia itself, or into Abkhazia. Moscow has recognized both regions as independent states, rather than Georgian territory.

However, that hasn't stopped Russian Ministries from reaching out to needy and troubled children in the region. Speaking from Russia, Russian Ministries' Paul Tokarchouk says they did it this time through their Backpacks of Blessing.

Tokarchouk says they started their trip in Ingushetia, just north of Georgia. They were invited by the ministry of social affairs to visit a juvenile rehabilitation center in this predominately-Muslim region of Russia.

Included in the Backpacks of Blessing are school supplies, personal hygiene items and a Bible. Tokarchouk says the principal wasn't sure about this. "When he heard about the Bible, he said, 'No, the Bible would not be appropriate.' And, then we started to explain again about why we were here. And then he turned totally different, and he said, 'Well, I think these guys will not read the Koran. We need to at least provide the opportunity to read the Bible.'"

Russian Ministries was able to distribute 100 Backpacks of Blessing at the rehabilitation center alone.

Tokarchouk says this has provided an open door to do more. "Next time, we will come and probably do something like Puppet Theater or some other opportunity to minister to those youth and kids."

His travels then took the team to South Ossetia where Russian and Georgian troops clashed a month ago. There's widespread damage, and many families are struggling day-to-day. Tokarchouk says they were able to distribute over 1,000 Backpacks of Blessing in public schools and along the street.

Because of the positive response, Tokarchouk says, "We will have a good opportunity later on to come to the schools and minister to the kids with prevention seminars or Christian puppet teams, and the local church will also be involved with that."

Backpacks of Blessing have successfully allowed Russian Ministries to reach into areas previously inaccessible Your gift of $25 can put God's Word into the hands of a student in Russia.

With the damage in the region, many people have lost everything and need help. For $25, Russian Ministries is providing a family food package. Your gift of support will allow many in the region to hear or read the Gospel for the first time.

If you'd like to help, click here.

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