Russia (MNN) – Christmas is barely a month away. Stores across the globe are decorated with scenes from the nativity, bright red and gold bulbs, and lights strung from ceilings. Holiday songs fill the airwaves. The countdown for Christmas has begun. But SOAR International is counting down to Christmas for a slightly different reason.
SOAR is a ministry based in Alaska that serves Russia. For Christmas, SOAR runs its Stuff-A-Stocking outreach to bring the true meaning of the holiday season to Russian orphans—Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
There are 55,000 registered orphans in Russia. Hundreds of thousands of these orphans are considered “social orphans,” meaning one or both of their parents are alive, but they are unable to care for them. Richard Page of SOAR says that some kids wind up in an orphanage, but most live on the streets. A tangible expression of Christ’s love makes a world of difference, and that’s where SOAR’s Stuff-A-Stocking program comes in.
Stuff-A-Stocking is centered around the Russian Christmas, celebrated on January 7th. SOAR is currently raising funds to sponsor stockings. A stocking costs $40 and includes a Bible for a child. Letters written by donors are also included in the stockings. These letters are put on a special form which includes the Gospel in Russian on the back.
“We do all the shopping and assembly in Russia. The churches get involved in a big way with that. They were able to customize the stockings to fit a particular orphanage or even particular children, depending on the situation,” Page says.
During Christmas, SOAR teams travel to Russia and help stuff and deliver the stockings. The team hosts a program at orphanages where the kids can play games and hear the Gospel message.
This week while many people may be decorating trees and purchasing gifts for loved ones, Russian orphans have their minds on one thing: survival.
“Many of these kids have experienced things in their young lives that we hope to never see. Many of these kids have been abused…they’ve watched one of their parents attack the other one or kill the other one. They’re around drugs and all sorts of crime,” Page explains.
Once in the system, these kids are left to themselves without much to lift their spirits.
“They see very little hope. One of the orphanages that we went into, there was a sign over the door – that these kids see every day – that said, ‘This home is for children who are not normal and will never be able to live in normal society’,” Page says.
Stuff-A-Stocking is a tangible way to show Christ’s love to these kids. The Gospel message is about bringing the hope of Jesus to situations where no hope exists. It’s about a redemptive relationship with God because of the sacrifice of the cross. Stuff-A-Stocking has become a door for this message to penetrate hearts.
Impact From Stocking Program
Some kids have been in the system long enough that they have been recipients of Stuff-A-Stocking multiple times. Stuff-A-Stocking has been running for the last 14 years. Today, SOAR encounters kids served in those first years. Now, some are adults who were impacted by the program. Page says it’s “really special to see how…these kids have grown”.
Plus, Stuff-A-Stocking has developed a positive reputation in communities. Despite the laws restricting religious activity in the country, SOAR has even visited police-run orphanages.
“Last year we had a special distribution. They didn’t tell us ahead of time, they just said it was another police orphanage. But when we got there it was actually a police headquarters and we were able to share the Gospel with the children of the police themselves. So, we’re seeing God open doors in amazing ways with this project that we never thought we would,” Page recalls.
Will you care for the orphan this Christmas? Get your church, school, or Bible study group involved with Stuff-A-Stocking. For $40 you can provide a stocking and a Bible for a child in Russia.
Also, take time to write a letter, which will be translated, to a child living in a Russian orphanage. Remind these kids they are not forgotten by the Church or God.