Abkhazia (MNN) — Few countries recognize its independence. Many people do not know it even exists. It has been forgotten by much of the world, but one Christian organization has made it the target of its ministry.
Abkhazia broke from the Soviet Union in the 1990s and considers itself an independent state. Georgia’s government, the United Nations, and much of the rest of the world, however, consider it a part of Georgia. Due partly to this lack of world recognition, its needs go unmet, and poverty in Abkhazia is rampant. But SOAR International is working to bring change.
One church SOAR partnered with during the Sochi Olympics is ministering to the churches in Abkhazia, and asked SOAR to help with its outreach. One of the Abkhazia church’s main outreach programs is aimed toward serving handicapped children, specifically those with cerebral palsy. SOAR workers packed a 40-foot long container full of wheelchairs donated from the Joni and Friends foundation, a handicap van, and other supplies to be shipped to Abkhazia for the churches there to access.
“The church is really filling a vital need, and we have been excited to do what we can to help then in that outreach ministry,” says SOAR’s Greg Mangione. But this wasn’t the only way SOAR helped meet needs. The pastor of the church has a building where he gives therapeutic massages to children with cerebral palsy. Not only was he in need of supplies, but he needed space to store them. And since the church sits on a small plot of land, the ministry doesn’t have much room to expand.
But again, SOAR workers stepped in to bring assistance. SOAR held a fundraiser, and earned enough money to purchase a plot of land.
“The Lord opened up an opportunity to buy a perfect piece of property just down the street from the church, across the street from the Black Sea. It was good sized and has a building on it,” Mangione says. “We had a big fundraiser, and they were able to purchase the property. There was even enough money to get electricity and running water going.”
Every year, the church also holds a summer camp for disabled children. Finding an available location for the camp was difficult, let alone expensive. Now, the church can hold an affordable camp on its own property.
Not only does this ministry meet children’s physical needs, it gives them hope and security. With unemployment around 70%, parents spend more time searching for work than caring for their children. Abkhazia has few resources for assisting those with birth defects, so their needs often go unattended to. Like Abkhazia itself, these children are often forgotten. But SOAR is demonstrating God’s love and creating opportunities to share Christ.
“I got to meet a gentleman who came to the Lord through his handicapped situation,” Mangione explains. “He had become handicapped, and the church started reaching out to him as nobody else was, and he saw God’s love and accepted the Lord.
“It definitely is opening doors, showing people that they are loved, that God loves them, and that they aren’t just abandoned. Every day the church is trying to find more and more people that they can reach out to help and really show God’s love through this ministry to the handicapped.”
God has blessed SOAR with resources to serve, but they still need your help. Pray that SOAR would effectively meet physical and spiritual needs in Abkhazia. Pray also for the safety of SOAR workers as they travel to Abkhazia this summer to continue helping the church. Support SOAR’s work in Eastern Europe by donating to its Abkhazia ministry fund.