Country in identity crisis gets baskets

By June 17, 2013

Abkhazia (MNN) — Do you know where Abkhazia is? It might be hard to find on a map.

Abkhazia is nestled between Russia and Georgia and struggles with an international identity crisis.

Basically, the nation of Georgia wants to claim Abkhazia as one of their regions. Abkhazia wants to be a formally recognized country but isn’t given independent status yet by the UN.

Abkhazia self-declared independence in 1999. They’ve tried to be really friendly with Russia and have a lot of connections between their citizens across the border. It seemed to work since the former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recognized Abkhazia as a sovereign nation in 2008.

But it really doesn’t mean much if the UN doesn’t give Abkhazia formal recognition.

Dick Page, Director of SOAR International Mission, says there’s been a lot of fighting in Abkhazia’s push for independence from Georgia. “[Abkhazia is] just a totally war-torn country. The entire infrastructure was pretty much destroyed, and people are living basically in poverty there.”

There’s a special need for the Gospel. Abkhazia has a population of around 400,000 people, but there are only 300 known Christians, according to Page.

SOAR saw the need for ministry. A team with SOAR recently got back from a mission trip to Abkhazia after stopping first in Sochi, Russia. During the trip, they gave out Baskets of Hope.

Page explains, “We take sponsored gift baskets to needy children in orphanages, street kids, and kids in really poor families, and combine those with a children’s Bible. We use that as an opening for sharing the Gospel.”

They also take Baskets of Hope to widows, retirees, and those living in poverty. The reactions are priceless.

“Most of these people—especially the children—have never had anyone really give them any kind of expression of love. For many of these kids, it’s the first gift they’ve ever received. And each gift is tied to the person who sponsored it and includes a letter from that person. It’s like all of a sudden they have this new friend who cares about them and is going to be praying for them. It’s just amazing to see the look on their face,” says Page.

And the message of the Gospel is at the heart of SOAR’s ministry. “We do a Gospel presentation program, sometimes using Gospel magic or puppets…. We encourage the local church to be part of that Gospel presentation, and then when the gifts are shared with the kids and the letters that come from the sponsors, on the back of that form is a very clear Gospel message and Scripture,” shares Page.

Sometimes, however, if government authorities are wary of the outreach, Page says the teams have to be more subtle in sharing God’s love and lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Please pray for the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of people in Abkhazia.

If you’d like to get involved with SOAR’s ministry, click here.

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