Russia's COVID crisis unable to deter the gospel

Friday, June 5, 2020
Michael F. Haverluck (

The Kremlin (Moscow, Russia)A U.S.-based mission group has delivered more than half a million meals and the gospel message to afflicted families across Russia and surrounding countries as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Russia has moved past Spain to become the third-leading nation in coronavirus cases, trailing the United States and Brazil. Since launching its "Christ Over COVID" international campaign, the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) – which serves Russia and nations formerly of the Soviet Union – has already served 500,000 meals to Russians and former Soviets, with Russia's COVID-19 infections topping 430,000 and total deaths reaching past 5,200.

Christ filling the need and the void

As new coronavirus infections skyrocket, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is very concerned that a quarter of a million people could now be infected in the nation's capital alone, and he has dispatched crews to spray disinfectant over the streets to curb its spread as a desperate measure.

SGA, which is based in Illinois, partners with a grassroots network of 6,350 evangelical churches in the former Soviet Union to serve needy widows, orphans and families. The mission group's president, Michael Johnson, realizes the dire need now to share God's provisions and gospel message of hope and love.

"It's reached a critical point," Johnson warns in a press release. "Much of the region remains in a state of lockdown, and people are getting desperate as food supplies run low."

In contrast to the U.S., many remote rural communities across the vast nation spanning two continents are being hard-hit due to minimal infrastructure and little to no help from the government.

"In many areas, the local church is the safety net," the Christian leader explains. "There's no other help."

Extending the long arm of God

In order to increase awareness of Russia's escalating crisis and draw prayer and aid for those afflicted by the pandemic, SGA's Christ Over COVID campaign is looking far and wide while partnering with the Body of Christ overseas.

"Working directly with local evangelical churches from Eastern Europe to the Bering Strait off the coast of Alaska – a distance of 4,170 miles – SGA is delivering critical food aid to the exact point of need, even to isolated villages above the Arctic Circle," SGA reports. "For $10, SGA provides food to assist a family for one to two weeks, [and] usually, food is purchased in the community to support local sellers."

According to Johnson, SGA tries to fill the gap when the government doesn't step in.

"Our goal is to equip local Christians to help their neighbors in this crisis and show them God's love in action, as well as through their words," Johnson shares. "People in the villages are saying, 'The government doesn't help us – only your church helps us.'"

And SGA points out that with little state assistance, Russia's most vulnerable are even more destitute during this time or crisis.

"Among those at risk of going hungry are Russia's 700,000 orphans and unwanted children – typically housed in state-run institutions," the group notes. "Many of these facilities were forced to close because of the coronavirus, and thousands of children had to return to unsafe households, with parents or guardians addicted to drugs and alcohol."

An SGA-sponsored missionary was "appalled at the terrible conditions these children are living in," noting that "they're left without food and hungry."

SGA's idea of summonsing prayer to help the afflicted originated with its founder, Rev. Peter Deyneka, an immigrant from Belarus who started the ministry in Chicago in 1934 based on his belief in "the power of prayer" to lift up orphans, widows and families. Today, the mission's leader encourages the Church in America to lift up those affected by the coronavirus in Russia and its surrounding nations by joining its Crisis Prayer Team.

"Prayer is needed now more than ever before as the coronavirus places millions in Russia and neighboring countries in danger of hunger and even starvation," Johnson emphasizes.


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