As summer comes to an end and cooler temperatures arrive, the countdown begins in earnest for the upcoming Christmas season and SGA-supported Immanuel’s Child outreaches across the former Soviet Union. With the support of SGA partners last year, a record number of children received Christmas gifts and heard the Gospel as the true story of Christmas was shared.
Valentin is an SGA-supported missionary pastor in Russia’s Altai region, and he describes how each year’s ministries begin on a foundation of prayer:
“In October, we began to pray for the Christmas holidays at the initiative of the sisters of our church. The stability in holding Christmas services for children and adults has its own benefits! We began praying for the children and their parents, and that God would give us wisdom in organizing all the meetings and events, praying about finances, the presentation, and for those who would participate.
We observe Christmas on January 7. We spend the day with children and adults, sharing the Good News with them. Last year, we held Christmas evangelism outreaches in front of houses where believers or children who attended our church lived. And this year we agreed to do the same thing. We decided in advance who would do what: who would run the ministry, and who would speak with the children and adults, who would pray directly at the meeting place, who would pray in their homes, who would put up posters, and who would hand out invitations, who would cook dinner, and in which homes we would have tea and stay warm in between meetings—almost all members of our church wanted to participate. This, too, was a manifestation of the glory of God– the unity of His Body.
The first outdoor program lasted between 30 and 40 minutes. One boy named Oleg told us, ‘I have a cross.’ We replied, ‘It is good that you have it, since the cross reminds us of Jesus, but it is more important for you to receive Jesus into your heart.’ They were then instructed about repentance and given an example of prayer. ‘When are you coming again?’ Oleg asked. ‘Probably in the spring,’ we answered. ‘Come visit us!’ sounded the reply. Thus, two more souls were touched with the great mystery of God’s salvation. At the second meeting, there were more than 20 children who came with their parents. Some of the adults joined in the celebration. The Christmas story, focused on the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, was heard with joy by both children and adults. Their open and smiling faces told us that. A grandmother always brings her two grandchildren to our celebrations, which are held outside. And this time she was not alone, but with her daughter Anna. After speaking with Anna, you could see how the message of salvation touched her heart. She cried and asked us to pray for her and her grown-up son. The Lord softens the hearts of people!
At the third meeting, they were waiting for us, as everyone had already gathered 15 minutes before the beginning. There were also about 20 children with their mothers. There were little children, so we quickly adapted the whole presentation to be age-appropriate, and the Good News resounded again. We also handed out gifts and books at the end of the celebration, and every child received one. ‘But I can’t read yet!’ exclaimed one boy. ‘Can your mom read?’ – Yes, she can!” – “So, you’ll read together!” – he was delighted when he left!
Once again, we would like to thank all those who helped us minister to the children and their families. Thanks to these meetings, some children have begun attending our Sunday school. Some adults have also begun attending our church services. We also tell them about our Christian camps that we hold on the premises of the church during the summer.”
Please pray in advance for Pastor Valentin and the hundreds of churches across the former Soviet Union that will hold Immanuel’s Child ministries this Christmas. Pray that an even greater number of children will be reached with the Gospel and come to faith in Christ!