Russia (MNN) — Christmas is past; the 25th has come and
gone, right? Not for everyone.
Russia does not celebrate the holiday until
January 7, which means you still have an opportunity to bring joy
to people's lives for Christmas. SOAR
International Ministries, in partnership with Russian Inland Mission, created
the "Stuff a Stocking" project.
SOAR's Greg Mangione says, "Soar
International Ministries has been conducting the Stuff a Stocking Project in
Russia since about 2001. It’s a project that we kind of brainstormed with
our Russian partners to deal with some of the complex issues of importing aid
within Russia. "
Mangione goes on to explain, "We're trying to
serve the people and trying to serve them in a way that's effective; the
increasing complications and challenges made us stop and think, 'Is there a
better way to do this?'"
This project overcomes the increasing expenses and complications
of red tape
involved in importing gifts and aid into Russia. Notes Mangione, "We do the
purchasing and packing of our stockings in Russia, with the help of local Russian
churches. This does several things: one of them is, of course, greatly simplifying
the process of getting these gifts over there because [they are] already there. We simply bring personal letters from
individual donors and the finances to purchase the materials. But it also gets the Russian people involved
and makes this as much a Russian project as it is an American or western
SOAR International needs you to help them raise enough money
to purchase 5,000 stocking. “Right now
we are at 1200 or so, maybe a little over that,” Mangione says. "Each stocking we have is priced at $35. An additional $5 adds a Bible–a
Russian Children's Bible to the stocking. I do want to make it clear that every stocking will have a Bible. A lot of people elect to just give $40
to cover both the cost of the stocking and the Bible; some people specifically
donate just toward the Bibles, and some just toward the stocking. So in the end, it generally evens out."
When the team goes to Russia to deliver the stockings, they
visit more than one spot. Mangione says,
'We'll probably visit upwards of 5 cities or more, and probably between one and
three orphanages a day, or children's shelters." SOAR always has more
requests then they can fill, but they do what they can with the funds they
"When we go into an orphanage, [the staff] is always just a bit cautious, [wondering] who are we, what are we trying to do, and are there any ulterior
motives. When we start to share stories,
just start visiting with the kids, of course the kids just light up. They're so love-starved and looking to have
interaction with other people," says Mangione. "Then we give them the gifts. [It's amazing]
to just see their faces as they pull open the letters from the donors and look at
the pictures that are often included. You never saw a kid get so excited about toothpaste and shampoo! It's
Mangione said the children are not the only ones who
appreciate the stockings. "The
orphanage director and teachers are looking on and seeing all of this, and they
often start to get engaged and start talking. We almost always–whenever
possible–bring in some local church representation, which often is the first
step in opening the door to get that church to have some connection
with the orphanage."
You can sponsor a stocking and submit a letter online. Even though it’s getting late, any money sent
after the trip will be given to the Stuff a Stocking program for next year. Pray that
funding for the stockings will continue to come in. Pray that the hearts in
Russia will be prepared to hear the Gospel.
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