Russia (MNN) – If you celebrate Christmas on December 25th, then the holiday is exactly five months away. And while it might seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas, Russian and Central Asian churches are already preparing for this year’s Christmas ministries.
Immanuel’s Child: A Christmas Ministry
(Photo courtesy of SGA)
For churches who are a part of Slavic Gospel Association’s Christmas ministry, Immanuel’s Child, July is the time to start wrapping up Christmas preparations for things like plays, programs, and renting venues if needed.
However, it also marks the start of purchasing gifts for children in need, including orphans. And these gifts often lead to something bigger.
“[Churches] make sure that children hear the true Christmas story about Jesus Christ and how he came to earth to bear our sin on the cross,” SGA’s Joel Griffith explains.
“And it’s just a really wonderful time of evangelism. We’ve been doing it for several years now and we’re just hoping to see the numbers grow because we’ve seen some fall off in the past few years. We’d like to get that put up again because it’s probably the best evangelistic opportunity with children all year long.”
Partnering with Churches
Previously, Immanuel’s Child was only a church ministry. Only U.S. churches could partner to help support churches in Russia and Central Asia. However, last year SGA made the decision to open up the opportunity for individuals to support the ministry as well.
Once signed up, supporting churches are sent a participation kit with the resources needed to help support Immanuel’s Child. These packets also include numerous Immanuel’s Child Bethlehem stars.
“It’s a two-part star. One part is a Russian language greeting and the other half is an English language prayer reminder. So the family, individual, or churches who participate, they hand [the stars] out to people in the congregation to participate,” Griffith shares.
“They write their name on the Russian part so the kids will have that…and then the stars are taken over to the CIS with gifts. The local churches then hold programs where the Christmas service is held and the gifts and the stars are distributed to needy children.”
What these stars do is they remind these kids that there are people who have never met them but care for them deeply, people who are praying for them regularly. That’s thousands of kids being told that they matter not just to people, but to God.
Immanuel’s Child gifts. (Photo courtesy of SGA via Facebook)
And last year, for one shepherd teenage boy, the idea that someone who has never met him wanting to give him a gift seemed like a joke. However, Griffith recounts how this boy was moved by the tangible witness and love of Christ. The gift he received also included a copy of a Jesus Film DVD, which he said he’d watch at his uncle’s house. This young man was another life changed.
Yet, he was just one of 17,000 children SGA was able to help reach through Russian and Central Asian churches last year with the Immanuel’s Child ministry. And most, if not all of these children were exposed to the Gospel through gifts and the creative programs the local churches put on such as plays, dramas, puppet shows, etc.
And it’s not just children who are impacted by Immanuel’s Child. Adults have been impacted too!
Opening Gospel Doors
“A lot of times, the parents and caregivers of these children are so moved that somebody half a world away would care about their children, and doors have been opened for the Gospel unto entire families this way.”
And there’s always more room to help with Immanuel’s Child. In fact, a big way to help is through prayer. So please, pray for God’s provision of this ministry, for it to impact children and families with the Gospel message, and for God to use this ministry for His glory.
Want to tangibly get involved? Then consider donating to Immanuel’s gift and help churches physically open Gospel doors through gifts and Christmas programs in Russia and Central Asia.
To donate, click here!
To learn more about Immanuel’s Child, click here!