Russia (MNN) — The coronavirus is spreading in Russia, but Michael Johnson of Slavic Gospel Ministries estimates it trails three to four weeks behind the U.S. in the progression of the virus.
Russia had seen a notably low case count, but as the virus intensifies the government is cracking down. SGA works in many countries of the former Soviet Union and has been getting reports about the progression of the virus.
Johnson highlights some differences between the reality of lockdown in the US and that of rural Russia. “We go to the store and the chicken aisle is empty, or the bathroom tissue aisle’s empty. We come back the next day and it tends to be restocked because we have the supply chain infrastructure that is available to us. Over there, particularly once you get past the Ural Mountains, they don’t have that luxury. So when they go to the store, and certain categories of food or resources are gone, it’s [often] many weeks until it’s replenished.”
Georgia and Siberia
Johnson relates reports SGA has gotten from church leaders in Siberia and in Georgia.
In Georgia, the government has locked down everything except grocery stores as case numbers rise. Johnson says, “We keep in contact with believers over the phone. several dozen of our sisters and brothers are experiencing financial crisis not being able to pay the ability utility bills.” SGA delivered food packages to people, but are unsure what to do if the lockdown lasts longer than a month.
In Siberia, most workers have been put on unpaid leave, significantly hindering them from buying food or paying bills. Johnson says, “When one considers that the majority of Russians live from paycheck to paycheck and have no savings for difficult times, very soon a large percentage of people in our country will be in crisis.”
How can Christians engage?
How can Christians get involved, especially with the U.S. shut down and many thinking only about the situation in front of them? SGA will announce a prayer initiative called Christ over COVID. Johnson says, “Because we believe that prayer is the most important thing that we can do at this particular point in time, and it’s a recognition of God’s sovereign hand over this entire situation.”
SGA ministers among people who have suffered a lot already. Johnson says, “I work with those pastors, and I work with those workers who are ministering to Chernobyl victims who are ministering to orphanages, who are administering in the war zones. They have an incredible commitment to meeting the needs of these people who are suffering. And these are people that we would consider to be people who are forgotten.” Mourn, as Jesus does, with those who are suffering.
Johnson asks Christians to pray that God would draw people to himself as Russia starts to feel the effect of the virus. Pray also that people in the former Soviet Union would have enough food throughout the lockdown.
Putin visiting coronavirus patients. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)