Russia (MNN) – For many in the former Soviet Union, today is Christmas. But the days surrounding January 7 offer a brief window of outreach for those living in Russia.
The Russian Christmas
For most of the Western world, particularly the United States, Christmas falls on December 25. On this day, families often enjoy opening presents together around a Christmas tree. The holiday month usually features traditions—old and new, and time with loved ones. However, in the busyness of the season, Slavic Gospel Association’s Eric Mock says we can get caught up in the celebration and forget to focus on the message of Christ’s birth. However, this is the message churches in the former Soviet Union make sacrifices to share.
“In the lands of Russia on January 7th, which is the traditional Orthodox Christmas, many of the churches we serve realize the incredible opportunity to bring the message of Christ. The message of the newborn King to a people who otherwise would not be interested whatsoever in listening to the ministry of a local church,” Mock says.
In the days leading up to Christmas in the region, people who normally do not interact with churches, are opening their doors to strangers. During outreach, church members can knock on the doors of homes they’ve never visited, and be invited in to share a meal. This season opens an opportunity to share devotionals, sing a song, and present the Gospel.
Season of Openness
During the Christmas season, SGA fuels national churches for outreach through its Immanuel’s Childs program. Immanuel’s Child equips national churches with extra resources to bring the hope of Christ, both in word and action, to children across the former Soviet Union. Mock says the Christmas outreach season is one of the most profound opportunities these churches have to share Christ in the entire year.
“It’s a tremendous situation where the churches there on January 7 are using this [day]… for reaching out with a message that the shepherds heard, that the Christ child was born, the Messiah has come, and point them ultimately to the cross to redemption, to justification, and to the message of hope where the rest of the world doesn’t offer hope,” Mock says.
Mock says many of the kids these churches encounter during Immanuel’s Child will not return. However, the churches do get the children’s contact information to reach out again during Easter. The goal with Immanuel’s Child is to jumpstart discipleship. Most of SGA’s children’s ministries focus on year-round discipleship. Through this model, kids begin to see how people care for them. They experience the Church’s affection and Christ’s love for them. When this clicks, a relationship with Christ often begins.
Giving Up Christmas Day
To ensure January 7 is available for outreach, a lot of SGA-connected churches celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25. It also allows time for last minute preparations.
“You have churches that are doing Christmas outreach in shopping malls on Christmas day. We see them worshipping in the morning and then all afternoon doing outreach in the villages…Last year, I participated in an event where they put on a Christmas production in an old Communist Palace of Arts, where before people—communist officers, who were enforcing atheism, would sit in the back of the room and look at plays and productions in their community,” Mock recalls.
“Now they are having Christmas celebrations and over a thousand children are hearing the Gospel message [there].”
Immanuel’s Child Impact
Will you help bring the message of Christmas to kids living in the former Soviet Union?
Each Immanuel’s Child gift includes a Bible and a locally purchased present. It also includes a paper Star of Bethlehem Ornament. This star says “JESUS LOVES YOU” and has the name of a person/family who has committed to praying for this child. For these kids, it is not the present which captivates their hearts. It is that people like you are committing to pray for them throughout the year.
“In fact, I will go back a year later to orphanages or to visit churches where kids have come to faith as a result of Christmas outreach. The one thing they cling to is that paper star. Because on that star is the name of a family, and this family is committed to praying for this child. They hold the idea of the power of prayer as being more critical than any gift they could get,” Mock explains.
Will you help change a child’s life with the Gospel?
The simplest way to get involved is by praying. Commit to pray for the children who experience the 2019 Immanuel’s Child outreach. Pray for their hearts to be softened and healed by the power of Christ and the Gospel. Ask God to show these kids how loved they are by Him and that they (and their families) would come into a relationship with Him.
Secondly, get involved with Immanuel’s Child. It can take all year to prepare for this Christmas outreach. If you are able, start getting involved now for next year’s Immanuel’s Child! You can help by praying for next year’s outreach and by giving. When you give, you are providing a child with a Bible, a locally purchased Christmas present, follow-up care, and a paper star of Bethlehem ornament with your name printed on it.
To get involved with Immanuel’s Child, click here.
Want to learn more? Reach out to Slavic Gospel Association at 1-800-BIBLE-50.
“We need your listener’s help in equipping these churches,” Mock says.
Header photo courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association.