About 800 local churches across Russia and the former Soviet Union will deliver Christmas gifts and the gospel — along with personalized greetings from donors in the United States — to an estimated 50,000 needy and forgotten children.
“It’s the first time most Russian families have ever had any connection with someone in America, and they can barely contain their excitement,” said Eric Mock, vice president of the Slavic Gospel Association, which operates Immanuel’s Child, the evangelical organization’s annual Christmas gospel outreach. “‘What’s the name of the person in America who’s praying for me?’ is the question the children ask most. It’s overwhelming for them. It’s not about the gift as much as the giver.”
Immanuel’s Child offers U.S. families a special connection with needy children in 10 former Soviet countries ravaged by poverty and the pandemic. Each child receives a gift, a Bible and a Star of Bethlehem ornament printed with the name of an individual or family in America, along with the message “God Loves You” and a note saying they are praying for them. Last year, a church team from the United States helped a local pastor reenact the Christmas story at a Russian shopping center and hand out gifts to families.
“All the parents stood in line to find out how to pronounce the name of the person in America printed on their star and praying for their family,” Mock said. “Many will keep their star for years, often hanging in their room.”
This Christmas, as Russia battles a new COVID surge, local pastors and church members from the Arctic Circle to the deserts of Central Asia are determined to reach more children and families with the gospel than ever, organizing Immanuel’s Child events at local churches and orphanages, and going door-to-door in temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero.
“Many have never heard about Jesus or the Christmas story,” said Mock, who spends several months every year in the former Soviet Union, working alongside local pastors as they share the love of Christ.
For every three children reached by Immanuel’s Child, local pastors estimate one parent responds to the gospel. This spiritual spark is bringing hope to communities battling the pandemic, poverty, rampant alcoholism and depression.
–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice