Russia (MNN) — Easter is the most significant religious holiday in Russia. Because everybody knows the holiday is founded in religion, it creates a great ministry opportunity for churches in Russia. But it’s also a great opportunity for churches around the world to unite for the Great Commission.
Joanna Mangione of SOAR International says the way Easter is celebrated in Russia isn’t all that different from the United States.
“Not everybody celebrates Easter because of Jesus’ resurrection. You know, there’s the Easter Bunny, there’s the candy surrounding it, there’s the finding of the eggs. There’s a two-fold meaning in it and you have the people who celebrate it for the basis, foundation, the religious perspective of Jesus rising from the dead, and the others that do it simply for the fun of it.”
But, she explains, because people know that it’s truly a religious holiday, they’re often more open to hearing about Jesus.
Churches helping churches
This month, partner churches of SOAR are focusing on getting the word out about SOAR’s ‘Baskets of Hope’ project. This simple project directed towards orphaned and needy children puts a twist on the traditional Easter basket. Instead of candy and frivolous gifts, the children receive much needed hygiene items, age-appropriate gifts and toys, and a Bible. Additionally, sponsors of these baskets can write a letter to a child — to encourage them and let them know they are being prayed for.
We will talk more about the impact of these baskets next week. Briefly, they let these children know they’re loved by Jesus and His followers.
So, what does this church partnership look like?
“We have quite a few partner churches that partner with us in ‘Stuff-a-Stocking’ as well as ‘Baskets of Hope.’ The way they can participate is first and foremost by promoting the project within their church.”
By letting congregations know about the project, it increases the number of people SOAR can introduce the ‘Baskets of Hope’ project to.
Another way churches have participated in the past is to take up an offering for the project. Many churches have a coin drive to collect money for the Bibles to go into the baskets.
“What’s beautiful in that is, well, the partnership that grows from it — that these are our brothers and sister in Christ, that these are other churches lifting up the churches in Russia who are doing this ministry,” Mangione says.
The partnership provides a simple and effective way for people to get involved in the Great Commission. So, churches within the United States can grow their heart for Russia and the children in need.
Mangione says one church in particular gets very involved in the coin drive they do each year: “They just get excited every time they’re getting ready to participate with a project. And the people within the congregation get excited.”
But it’s not just about getting people to sponsor the baskets, but also to encourage them to pray.
“Having prayer going in Russia and in the US does wonders for the project itself, whether that’s how many kids we’re able to reach, [or] whether it’s the ability we have found to not run into any issues.”
As we shared recently, God answered many of your prayers that SOAR’s ‘Stuff-a-Stocking’ project would not be hindered by Russia’s anti-terrorism law. The trip went well (read here). Please continue to pray for this ministry as they come alongside the Church in Russia.
The other side of the partnership is the churches who are distributing the gifts. They are encouraged by this event each year. It gives them a tangible way to bless the children and families they are ministering to throughout the year.
“As far as the churches in Russia, knowing how many Churches and individuals get involved with giving of the gifts and participating in ‘Baskets of Hope,’ they are encouraged that there are other people, right alongside them.”
This Easter, what about your church?
If you think your church might be interested in this project, get a hold of your pastor or mission team. They can contact SOAR for an informational packet. If it’s something they’re interested in, SOAR will send them the promotional packet which includes a DVD, PowerPoint slides, bulletin inserts, and more. You can also find these resources here.
But hurry! This year, Easter on the Russian Orthodox calendar falls on April 16th, so there isn’t much time left. To contact SOAR, click here.
Next week we’ll share about how you as an individual can help, and the impact these gifts make.