Russia (MNN) – This Easter, SOAR International is looking to reach 2,500 children with the hope of the Gospel through their “Baskets of Hope” project. They’re inviting you to help.
Joanna Mangione of SOAR says, “We’re looking for churches who are willing to promote the project within their church. And then, of course, individuals and churches who would be willing to sponsor the baskets as well.”
These baskets (or gift bags) are filled with gifts for children in Russia and include a Bible. When the baskets are distributed, the Gospel is shared through a short presentation.
In this way, the project is very similar to their “Stuff a Stocking” project. It’s targeted towards children in need who don’t often receive such gifts of kindness. However, this distribution takes place on a much more significant holiday in Russian Culture. Mangione says that Easter, which in the Orthodox calendar takes place on April 8, is the biggest religious holiday.
“Easter is already acknowledged as a religious holiday where Christmas isn’t always acknowledged in that way. It is—but it’s not nearly as big of a deal. Easter is. And so, their mindset is already on Christ. You’ll hear even some non-Christians say the phrases in Russian: ‘He is risen. He is risen, indeed.’
“It’s very religious and because of that, we love the opportunity to distribute gifts during this time because their hearts are kind of already a little prepped.”
There’s just a couple of months left to get everything together. Sponsoring a basket alone is $35. To provide a Bible, it costs $5. These baskets also provide a chance for you to write a letter to a child in need and let them know they are loved.
Bringing a smile to their faces
Mangione says these thoughtful Easter baskets serve a couple of purposes:
“One of our first instincts is to bring a smile to their face because a lot of these kids don’t have a whole lot of joy. They don’t have a whole lot of hope for the future. So, obviously, that is our initial instinct is to bring that joy, and then to direct them to acknowledging– that joy comes from the Lord. And, this love and these gifts, they’re ultimately from the Lord.”
Secondly, she says of the children they serve, “They’re the next generation. They’re the ones who, once they’re graduated and leave the orphanage, they’re going to meet more people. And if we can share the Gospel and give the hope of the Gospel to kids when they’re still young or when they’re in the home and give them a hope for the future, that they can go out then and say, ‘I have hope.’”
Given the dismal situation many orphans have come out of, the mention of hope will no doubt draw more questions from people.
“Our hope is that this project is merely a pebble that will turn into a ripple effect throughout the country,” Mangione says.
Looking ahead into 2018
There are more ways you can walk alongside SOAR in ministry this year. First of all, you can pray for them.
One of the biggest prayer requests they have right now is that God would lead the right people to join their team in Alaska. They are a small team and could use some extra hands for the day-to-day tasks.
You can also pray that God would give them wisdom and guidance as they prepare for projects like “Baskets of Hope.”
You can also help financially. Again, if you’d like to sponsor a basket, click here. The deadline for sponsorship this year is March 31. You can also check out other projects to support here. If you’d like to contribute to the general fund or support a SOAR worker, click here.
Finally, you can serve with SOAR in a couple of ways.
“If you feel called to mission work in Alaska and Russia, please reach out to us. We’d love to talk to us about opportunities. So that’s our biggest request as that does affect our day-to-day with a smaller team.”
And if you enjoy sewing, consider stepping up now to help SOAR prepare for their Christmas ministry. “You can start sewing now. So, one stocking a week or a month, and by the time you hit Christmas, we’ll be set to go with a whole bunch of stockings that we can definitely use once we’re over there.”
“We are incredibly blessed and encouraged by how much God has kind of lifted us up, even as a small team, and allowed us to do so much.”