Russia (MNN) – Christmas is growing ever nearer, and that means ministries are beginning to wrap up planning and preparation for their Christmas outreach. But there is still time to get involved in impacting the world for Christ in a major way. SOAR International, for instance, still needs people to step up and support the Stuff a Stocking project in Russia.
This year, the team has a goal of handing out 2,500 stockings to children in Russia. These are children who are orphaned or come from impoverished or otherwise difficult backgrounds. The stockings will be distributed in Ryazan and St. Petersburg the first two weeks of January.
Joanna Mangione of SOAR says, “We’re really excited for this year. Again, our goal this year is 2,500 stockings to reach all of the kids. And included in the stockings are the hygiene products, and the small toys, and gifts like hats and gloves, and then the Bible as well. And as we visit each of these locations, the Gospel is shared. So that’s a huge impact there that you can be a part of.”
They still need sponsors for the stockings and Bibles, as well as for people to write letters and sew stockings.
The eternal impact of Stuff a Stocking
This project began as a bridge project to help local pastors build relationships with orphanages in and around their communities. The Christmas outreach continues to be a launching pad for other ministries throughout the year. And because it invites the global Body of Christ to help, it also serves as a great encouragement for churches in Russia.
(Photo courtesy of SOAR International)
So, what does it mean for a child to receive one of these stockings?
“You’ll hear from some kids, ‘I’ve never received a gift in my life. This is the first time I’ve ever received a gift.’ And that is such a big deal because not only is [it] wonderful to see that they’re getting their first gift, but [also] that their first gift includes a Bible and their first gift includes the Gospel message in letter form, in a puppet show, and in little tricks that our director does as he tells the Gospel.”
And because the gifts are thoughtful and include a personal letter, it communicates love to children who likely have never felt love before.
“This is their time when they are acknowledged and loved and they just soak it up,” Mangione says.
But the impact doesn’t even stop at the children. The directors have been impacted, too. First of all, they often see a change overcome the children after the Christmas season. Somehow this gift of love and the teaching on Jesus changes how they act. And secondly, some of the directors are even engaging with the Bibles given to the children.
“We have heard from directors ‘I finally understand the Bible. It was difficult in the adult Bibles but I have borrowed the youth Bible that you gave, and I’m starting to understand.’”
Mangione says they hear stories like this year after year. This kind of impact has also opened doors for SOAR to go back and plug into the community in other ways throughout the year.
Stuff a Stocking made possible by people like you
Projects like these require a number of pieces to come together. In other words, people need to step up to pray, give, or go. And it’s God who brings it all together. SOAR has seen this time and time again over the years.
“We have been in the middle of a project before [needing] additional funds. And, you know, we’re coming up with different fundraiser ideas and a check will come through and it’ll be this huge amount of money that will help cover the costs.”
They will also receive volunteer help from small groups from the community who come to help at SOAR headquarters in Alaska.
(Photo courtesy of SOAR International)
“We have been immensely blessed… We’ll get volunteers and they just work hard. And they just put all their effort into it.”
International teams as well are constantly exemplifying what it means to serve sacrificially as they give up rest and time in order to pour into the kids.
“It’s a daily thing that we just see how God has blessed us through the people who are around us and the people who make this ministry possible because we couldn’t do it without everybody who has donated their time, their money, their effort, and their prayers.”
If you’d like to be part of this divine recipe for blessing children in Russia, there are a few ways you can do that. If you’re a crafty person, consider helping with sewing stockings. You can find the pattern and information, here.
The deadline for the stockings is December 20. Donations will be accepted for this year through December 25th.