Russia (MNN) – SOAR International returned from their Easter outreach project in Russia last week. SOAR’s Joanna Mangione filled us in on how the trip went.
She says, “We headed off to Russia on the 8th which was Russia’s Orthodox Easter when they were celebrating.”
The goal of this trip was to distribute “Baskets of Hope” to children in orphanages. Ever year, these baskets are filled with necessities, small gifts, treats, and a Bible. Along with the baskets, the children receive a letter from the person who sponsored the basket.
The team was hoping to be able to hold a camp within one of the orphanages as well, but they learned just before they arrived that they would not be able to. However, Mangione says, “We were still able to go and visit the orphanage and do a distribution and ended up doing a small camp at the church there in Ryazan.”
At the orphanages, the team was also able to share the Gospel through a puppet show. This time around, the puppet show centered on Jesus as the Good Shepherd who pursues even just one of His lost sheep until they are found.
After this presentation, the church team asked the kids a series of follow-up questions.
“The kids have an opportunity to answer what the story was about, what it means for us, how it relates to Jesus.”
Mangione says it’s fun to be able to see the kids taking in what they are hearing. But the children weren’t the only ones exposed to the Gospel message. Typically, the orphanage directors also get to hear. And this time, there was another special visitor sitting in:
“It was actually pretty amazing, the first distribution we went to, there was actually an Orthodox priest at the orphanage. And he ended staying and watching the presentation which was pretty cool. Sometimes the Orthodox priests don’t often stay around to participate in anything that the Baptist Evangelical will put together in Russia. And he did, and got along with us wonderfully and was incredibly kind. So that was very wonderful to see the Lord work in that.”
After the presentation, there’s time for games and then, finally, the baskets are handed out to each child.
Overall, the SOAR team was able to do three distributions. Because of how schedules worked out, their church partners completed a few more distributions this last Saturday.
“In between the distributions, we were able to do a small camp for the kids at church. It’s always fun to do a camp for the kids at church, as well. Yes, the kids have been exposed to Scripture. Every once in a while, we get a child who is a friend of a friend who doesn’t know God at all and doesn’t know Christ. And so, it’s a really fun opportunity to get to reach out and share the Gospel.”
The two-day camp SOAR helped their church partner run included Bible learning, English lessons, games, and crafts. Among the children were familiar faces and those they’ve never seen before.
Following up the Easter Trip with Prayer
Easter provides a unique openness to ministry. Mangione explains, “One interesting thing is that Easter is acknowledged by everybody in Russia. It is the biggest religious holiday in Russia. So, obviously they believe Jesus was alive, existed—they just don’t all have a personal relationship with Him.”
So much so is Easter a part of Russian tradition that many children in the orphanage would respond to “Christ is risen” with “He is risen indeed.” The same is true for the rest of society.
Mangione says it is beautiful to hear these words in Russian. But because it’s such a cultural thing, it should also cause us to be praying:
“Christs name is being proclaimed in Russia, and may we not stop our prayers. May we increase them.”
that that truth would sink deeply into the hearts of the people of Russia, within the children, within the orphanage worker’s hearts.”
Overall, the Gospel was presented in letters, Bibles, and the puppet show. And, the church SOAR works with visits these orphanages on a regular basis throughout the year.
“Be praying for these follow-up visits, that during that time, the kids can ask questions—but that you would pray for our Russia partners, that they would be given the words to say, the wisdom, and that they know how to answer these questions– know how to direct them to Christ. And that these kids would come to a saving knowledge of Christ.”