An Illinois-based missions group credits the COVID-19 pandemic with reaching 25% more unchurched children in Russia, where it has supplied 3 million meals to those in need, as tens of thousands are now hearing about Jesus Christ.
Slavic Gospel Association's (SGA) "Christ over COVID" campaign and Immanuel's Child Christmas outreach equipped Russian Christians and their local evangelical churches to minister to tens of thousands of Russians in the bitter cold winter, with the pandemic allowing them to go door-to-door.
Hope in darkness
SGA president Michael Johnson is grateful for God making this largely atheistic nation more accessible during the pandemic.
"In God's providence, COVID is actually opening doors for the gospel in Russia and the former Soviet Union," Johnson states in a press release. "At their wit's end, many people are asking: 'Is there any hope?' Then their Christian neighbors show up on the doorstep with food, gifts for the children, Bibles and the life-transforming message that Jesus loves them."
SGA partnered with local Christians over the harsh winter months to deliver free groceries and provide millions of meals while giving approximately 40,000 children Christmas gifts, Bibles, and Star of Bethlehem Christmas ornaments donning the words, "Jesus Loves You."
Many in Russia have become averse to Christianity because of communist rule over the years that is steeped in atheism – but times are changing, says the ministry leader.
"[Christian compassion and the power of the gospel in action] is melting even the hardest and most frozen of hearts," Johnson offers.
Nothing too big for God
On top of the dire situation of skyrocketing unemployment and hunger in Russia and the former Soviet Union brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic, a new Russian variant of the virus has surfaced, but hope has pierced the darkness.
"The news is very troubling, but the 'silver lining' is that Russian churches partnering with SGA were able to reach 25% more non-churchgoing children over the past year – children who've never been to church or heard the gospel before," Johnson explains.
According to SGA, these hard times have resulted in many afflicted children and women seeing the love of Christ in action.
"Because members of a local church showed they cared about her, ten-year-old Dasha started going to a Bible Club and brought her friends with her – three of the girls committed their lives to Christ," GSA shares.
"Partnering with a vast grassroots network of more than 6,500 local evangelical churches across Russia and the former Soviet Union – covering 11 time zones – SGA and its supporters in the U.S. help thousands of widows, orphans, unwanted children and families in dire need."
Meeting precise needs has been made easier with SGA's Russian partnerships.
"Because we work directly with local churches and local believers, we're able to get aid quickly to the exact point of need," Johnson explains. "We believe in sharing the gospel in both word and action – local Christians telling their friends and neighbors what Christ has done for them, and helping to meet urgent practical needs, too.
"It's truly amazing how God has used the pandemic to open doors for the gospel in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries, and it's a wonder how [God is] drawing together the hearts of Christians in America and believers in Russia – who've never met each other – to fulfill the Great Commission in the Russian-speaking world."
Providing hope for more than 700,000 Russian orphans and unwanted children is a main focus for SGA's Orphans Reborn outreach, which equips evangelical Russian churches to serve some 160 orphanages. It is also a provider of food, supplies, Bible materials and the hope of the gospel to impoverished households in Russia and the former Soviet Union, where approximately 12,000 "forgotten" children are reached.
"In the midst of the global pandemic, local evangelical churches across this vast region are pouring hope and love into these broken-hearted children, showing them they're deeply loved and wanted by God," Johnson rejoices.