(Photo courtesy of SOAR)
Russia (MNN) ― Christmas is past; the 25th has come and gone, right? Not for everyone.
Russia does not celebrate the holiday until January 7, which means you still have an opportunity to bring joy to people's lives for Christmas. SOAR International Ministries, in partnership with Russian Inland Mission, created the "Stuff a Stocking" project.
SOAR's Greg Mangione says, "Soar International Ministries has been conducting the Stuff a Stocking Project in Russia since about 2001. It’s a project that we kind of brainstormed with our Russian partners to deal with some of the complex issues of importing aid within Russia. "
Mangione goes on to explain, "We're trying to serve the people and trying to serve them in a way that's effective; the increasing complications and challenges made us stop and think, 'Is there a better way to do this?'"
This project overcomes the increasing expenses and complications of red tape involved in importing gifts and aid into Russia. Notes Mangione, "We do the purchasing and packing of our stockings in Russia, with the help of local Russian churches. This does several things: one of them is, of course, greatly simplifying the process of getting these gifts over there because [they are] already there. We simply bring personal letters from individual donors and the finances to purchase the materials. But it also gets the Russian people involved and makes this as much a Russian project as it is an American or western project."
SOAR International needs you to help them raise enough money to purchase 5,000 stocking. “Right now we are at 1200 or so, maybe a little over that,” Mangione says. "Each stocking we have is priced at $35. An additional $5 adds a Bible--a Russian Children's Bible to the stocking. I do want to make it clear that every stocking will have a Bible. A lot of people elect to just give $40 to cover both the cost of the stocking and the Bible; some people specifically donate just toward the Bibles, and some just toward the stocking. So in the end, it generally evens out."
When the team goes to Russia to deliver the stockings, they visit more than one spot. Mangione says, 'We'll probably visit upwards of 5 cities or more, and probably between one and three orphanages a day, or children's shelters." SOAR always has more requests then they can fill, but they do what they can with the funds they receive.
"When we go into an orphanage, [the staff] is always just a bit cautious, [wondering] who are we, what are we trying to do, and are there any ulterior motives. When we start to share stories, just start visiting with the kids, of course the kids just light up. They're so love-starved and looking to have interaction with other people," says Mangione. "Then we give them the gifts. [It's amazing] to just see their faces as they pull open the letters from the donors and look at the pictures that are often included. You never saw a kid get so excited about toothpaste and shampoo! It's amazing."
Mangione said the children are not the only ones who appreciate the stockings. "The orphanage director and teachers are looking on and seeing all of this, and they often start to get engaged and start talking. We almost always--whenever possible--bring in some local church representation, which often is the first step in opening the door to get that church to have some connection with the orphanage."
You can sponsor a stocking and submit a letter online. Even though it’s getting late, any money sent after the trip will be given to the Stuff a Stocking program for next year. Pray that funding for the stockings will continue to come in. Pray that the hearts in Russia will be prepared to hear the Gospel.
Check our Featured Links section for ways to connect with this project.