As pandemic accelerates, 'Immanuel's Child' outreach helps local churches bring Christmas joy, share Gospel
LOVES PARK, Ill. -- One of the biggest evangelical missions to Russia is calling on America's Christians to help "save Christmas" for children in dire need in the COVID-ravaged former Soviet Union.
Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) has launched a Christmas gift blitz across 11 time zones, stretching from eastern Europe to Siberia.
Thousands of kids have given up hope of receiving a gift this Christmas, according to SGA, which partners with a vast network of local evangelical churches across the COVID-gripped region to help needy families.
"Under normal circumstances, these children live in poverty-stricken homes where many parents struggle to afford even the basics, like bread and potatoes," said SGA president Michael Johnson. "But the pandemic has plunged them into an even deeper crisis. There will be no Christmas for these kids without the help of American Christians and our local church partners across the former Soviet Union."
In recent months, local evangelical churches, joining forces with SGA's Christ Over COVID hunger-fighting outreach, have supplied groceries for more than three million free meals -- a lifeline for families reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
"There is no safety net for most of these families, apart from the local churches, especially in isolated, rural areas," Johnson said.
Through the Immanuel's Child Christmas project, SGA serves local church partners in the former Soviet Union, which aim to deliver gifts and put smiles on the faces of 50,000 disadvantaged and hurting children this year. So far, they've collected gifts for 31,000 kids -- but still have nearly 20,000 requests to fill before Christmas.
"Without Immanuel's Child, very few of these children would have a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning," Johnson said. "We bring the joy of Christmas to them, and give them the most important gift of all -- the Gospel."
Real Hope Amid COVID Suffering
With Russian-speaking neighbors delivering locally purchased gifts, Bibles, Christmas ornaments and the real message of Christmas door-to-door in their own towns and villages, even the most desperate families are seeing there’s hope in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
During last year's Immanuel's Child outreach, local Christians gave out more than 37,000 gifts and paper "Star of Bethlehem" Christmas ornaments with "God Loves You" in Russian printed on them.
"Each ornament bears the name of a supporter in the U.S., and when families read that 'God Loves You' they're often overwhelmed with gratitude," Johnson said. "Those three simple words open hearts to the true meaning of Christmas and the love of Jesus."
SGA has an Immanuel's Child sign-up page -- www.sga.org/ImmanuelsChild -- on its website for individuals and families in the U.S. and Canada who want to bring joy to children who otherwise would have nothing to unwrap at Christmas.
"Every child knows the name of the person or family who sends them a Christmas present and Bible through Immanuel's Child," Johnson said. "To know they're loved by God, and that someone in America cares about them... it's life-changing. Many keep their Christmas ornament and hang it up year after year, knowing the family who sent it is praying for them."
Founded in 1934, Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) helps "forgotten" orphans, widows and families in Russia, the former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel – caring for their physical needs and sharing the life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. SGA supports an extensive grassroots network of local evangelical missionary pastors and churches in cities and rural villages across this vast region.
SOURCE Slavic Gospel Association (SGA)