Russian Christians celebrate Christmas today!

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russian-childrenMERRY Christmas! You’re probably thinking we’re a little late. Well, we’re not. It’s Christmas in Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas today, January 7.

It also coincides with Russian Ministries Gift of Hope program. With your financial help, evangelical churches purchase Christmas gift boxes and distribute them to poor and orphaned children.

Wally Kulakoff with Russian Ministries says, “We’ve been able to have Gifts of Hope in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and then also a country ruled by Russia 40+ years: Mongolia.”

PRAYER POINT: The Russian Federation is the world’s largest country, extending across nine time zones and made up of 83 administrative districts. There are 162 different people groups in Russia speaking 135 different languages. Some 47% of these people groups are unreached by the gospel. Almost 67% of the population identifies with the culturally strong but spiritually weak Russian Orthodox Church; millions belong to the church without believing in God. Recently, the government has become hostile towards evangelical Christians and persecution is on the rise. Islam is Russia’s fastest-growing religion. Pray for God’s to work mightily in the Russian government, softening their hearts toward the evangelical church and bringing persecution to an end.

Close to 60,000 young people received gifts this year. It was down a little bit this year because of Russian Ministries’ Olympic outreach efforts and the Ukrainian protest outreach.

Gift of Hope is still an effective tool for the local church, says Kulakoff. “[The program] not only trains but equips the local church. And the Gift of Hope program is an equipping method to help the local church to be involved in an area where they couldn’t be involved previously. Previously, just a Christmas program itself wasn’t effective.”

When orphanage directors were previously approached by evangelical churches who offered to put on a Christmas program for the orphans, they said “no.” But when told the churches also had gifts, the orphanage doors were wide open.

MNN’s Greg Yoder was involved in the program this year. His daughter, Anastasia, adopted from Irkutsk, Russia in 2002, raised enough money to send gifts to more than 270 children in the region, including the entire orphanage in which she lived until she was adopted by the Yoders.

“I’m 14, but I can still make a change in the world–or at least in a few kids’ lives by giving them hope,” Anastasia says. She wants the kids to know “people haven’t forgotten about them. It’s coming from me, a former orphan: an example to them that life does get better.”

In the Irkutsk region alone, Pastor Sergey Aleev and members of churches in the community were able to distribute more than 800 gifts in 12 different orphanages. Through Pastor Aleev’s work, “It’s bringing them Good News: the Gospel. That’s real hope,” says Anastasia.

Kulakoff is hoping that Project Hope provides a foundation on which Russian Ministries can build.

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