Russia (MNN) – Christmas is 87 days away in the United States, which means Slavic Gospel Association is in its final preparation stages for Immanuel’s Child. Immanuel’s Child is SGA’s Christmas ministry that focuses on reaching children with the Gospel during the holiday season. Christmas takes place on January 7 in Russia.
Immanuel’s Child works by financially enabling local SGA supported churches to minister in their communities. These churches take Christmas gifts to children in need, whether they’re in families or orphanages. Churches are also provided with the necessary resources to hold Christmas programs and do door-to-door ministry.
“Twenty-five dollars helps you to provide one child with a children’s Bible and Christian literature, a special Christmas present, and the resources that help the churches to follow up with the families in the communities and the children in the communities, to invite them back to church,” shares SGA’s President Michael Johnson, who was also a part of the original team who developed the Immanuel’s Child program.
Kids receiving these gifts also receive a star that says, ‘Jesus loves you,’ in the Russian language. The stars also have the signature of the person who helped provide it. And while a paper star might not seem like a big deal, it is to these kids. To them, these stars are a symbol that someone across the world cares about them, even if the people in their immediate lives might not seem to.
Growth Through Giving
Immanuel’s Child is currently operating in 11 countries, including Russia. Most of the communities that SGA works in for Immanuel’s Child are impoverished. So, even if a family member or church wants to provide a gift for an orphan or their own child, it’s financially very difficult.
“When [the parents] hear about opportunities in the local…churches…to celebrate Christmas and for their kids to receive gifts, it’s a real attraction for them,” Johnson explains.
“And when they come in, it’s just a great celebration. The Gospel is preached and the Christmas story is told to their families…and many of them respond in a positive way. A significant percentage of them will, in fact, come back to the church during the year. So, it’s a great evangelistic and engagement strategy.”
Since Johnson took over SGA’s presidential position May 1st, 2017, he has noticed that in the last 14 years, the age groups who are most sensitive to the Gospel in the countries where SGA works has shifted. Now, children and young people into their 30s seem to be most sensitive.
And because SGA works in many different countries, it’s not just an Orthodox culture hearing the Gospel, but Muslims in Central Asia, too.
“I’ve [recently] attended youth conferences in both Belarus and Russia and thousands of young people are coming to faith, who are being trained, who are reaching out through their local churches to people in their communities. [The number] has increased dramatically,” Johnson shares.
“So, this is a program that really connects with and fits into the way God is working in those countries, in the hearts of children and young people to come to a saving faith in Him.”
How to Help
As Johnson says, the Immanuel’s Child ministry is a perfect program for families and churches in the West who want to help share the Gospel and see God’s Word impact lives. But, while Russia has been open for this ministry for years, things seem to be changing.
“This door’s starting to close a little bit right now and we’ve got to be concerned about that. So, we need to pray that God would protect the believers in those countries. But also, pray for Christmas, that the churches and the church planters and the evangelists over there would have more and more opportunities to share the Gospel with the people in their communities.
“And [pray] that hearts might continue to be open and people might come to a saving faith in Christ. And that we can, through this program, reach as many people as possible.”
You can also help SGA supported churches reach as many kids and families as possible this year by signing your church up to be a part of Immanuel’s Child, or by giving a donation.
To give to Immanuel’s Child, click here!
For more information on Immanuel’s Child and how to sign up, click here!
*Immanuel’s Child is open to both individuals and churches who want to help.