Russia (MNN) — Since last July, when the Big Brother Bill was signed into law, we’ve been asking you to pray for our partners who are doing ministry in Russia. This Anti-Terrorism law contained wording that, depending on how it’s enforced, could inhibit Christian ministries. Last month, SOAR International completed their annual “Stuff a Stocking” trip, and they are praising God for how it went.
The team visited both Ryazan and St. Petersburg, distributing stockings to a number of orphanages along with their church partners.
Joanna Mangione of SOAR shares, “In St. Petersburg, we did have a few restrictions in some of the homes as far as whether or not we could share the Gospel, so we did have to be careful with some of that. We weren’t allowed to always take pictures. But overall, we were very pleasantly happy to see and just gave the glory to God that overall, we were not really prohibited at all to continue this ministry in light of the new law.”
They started the trip with a three-day kids’ camp in Ryazan. During this time, there were games and crafts as well as Bible history lessons and quiz games for the children in the church and the surrounding community.
After that, they distributed stockings to a number of orphanages in the area.
“Really the churches do a wonderful job in personalizing the stockings per home. So if it’s the little kids, they talk to the directors about what they need. So, maybe they need soap, or maybe they need shoes, or they could really use a more hats,” she says.
In addition to the gifts, the children each receive their own age-appropriate Bible so they can study Scripture on their own.
With the distribution, SOAR and their partners will sometimes do presentations. Their director, for instance, does magic shows which incorporate the Gospel story. Of course, he reminds the children that these tricks are only illusions. Through this presentation, he tells of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and stories like the prodigal son. The church will also do a Gospel message when they can.
It not only engages the children, but it also is a chance for the adults in the orphanage to learn the Gospel as well.
Overall, SOAR was able to visit five homes in Ryazan. Before they left, they were able to celebrate Christmas with the church partner too.
On to St. Petersburg
Next, the team traveled to St. Petersburg to visit a church there and help with six more deliveries.
“Just getting to visit with the church, the pastors, the people in the church — we got to hear a lot of wonderful, uplifting, and encouraging testimonies from people in the church.”
According to the different needs, they gave gifts of backpacks and shoes and other items, too. Overall, SOAR and partners were able to distribute about 1,200 stockings.
Some may be wondering, how does a magic show and the gift of a Bible with shampoo make a difference? Mangione gives three reasons.
First, she says, “They have had somebody take the time to pay attention to them, and to present them with something at Christmas.”
The items given are thoughtful — either it’s something they can use now in their daily life, or something they can use into the future. For instance, some of the older boys will get a few basic tools.
The second reason it makes an impact, she explains, is because the churches have already established relationships with these orphanages. The work SOAR does supports that, and it helps the churches give something tangible to the children they’re ministering to.
Finally, Mangione says, this gifts are impactful simply because of what goes along in each stocking.
“Each child is given a Bible. And I think that alone is an eternal, life-long impact. We continue to hear stories of kids who have had Bibles, [and] oftentimes the directors of the homes who have attempted to read the Bible say, ‘It’s too hard, we don’t get it, we can’t get it.’ All of the sudden they see the kid’s Bibles, and they open them up and start reading.”
And when they read, she says, they finally begin to understand the Scripture for themselves. They understand the hope and joy that is in Jesus.
Even in homes where the Gospel presentations aren’t allowed, the children will receive their own Bible.
Praying for their future
“Stuff a Stocking” for this past Christmas may have concluded, but already, the team is looking ahead to what’s going to happen this year. They’re already gearing up for Baskets of Hope this month, and they hope your church will help spread the word in March. To learn more, click here.
After that, SOAR will begin planning for summer outreaches. They’re looking for interns, so click here if you’re interested.
After that, they’ll focus on raising support for the churches and rehab center in Abkhazia. And then, it starts all over again!
Would you continue to pray for this ministry as they navigate ministry in Russia and beyond?