Evangelical Christians in Russia and the former Soviet Union have distributed groceries to provide more than 1.5 million free meals to families facing hunger due to Covid-19 — even surprising frontline healthcare workers with food packages and a message of God’s love.
“We’d like to share with you that God loves you very much,” a local pastor told medical staff at a hospital in Tula, 120 miles south of Moscow, where his church handed out 500 food packages as well as Bibles to medical workers caring for Covid-19 patients. In Russia, medical staff often work in terrible conditions and are typically paid less than schoolteachers.
This “love in action” ministry is part of the “Christ Over Covid” global campaign launched by mission agency Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), calling for prayer and urgent relief for orphans, widows, and families across Russia and neighbouring countries.
Supported by Illinois-based SGA, evangelical churches across Russia and the former Soviet Union have proven to be a lifeline for thousands since the pandemic started in March. Russia has the fourth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases — more than 740,000.
“We wish there (were) more people of light like you,” a grateful healthcare worker told church members at the hospital.
In a nation where only 1% of the population is evangelical Christian, local believers are seizing the opportunity to “let their light shine” by reaching out to their neighbours — including widows, orphans, elderly shut-ins, and those with disabilities — sharing food packages and the Gospel.
Millions of Russian families are in dire straits, with no safety net or stimulus package to help them. Even in normal times, the average monthly salary in Russia is about $500 (R8 382) with many surviving on much less.
Christians in Russia — the world’s largest country stretching across nine time zones — are discovering that a single bag of groceries can pave the way for the Gospel to change people’s lives.
In Pokrovsk, a town in the far east of Russia, church members gave a food package and a Bible to Natalya, a mother of five abused by her alcoholic husband. The local believers shared the Gospel with Natalya and her husband’s brother, Sergei, and prayed with them. As a result, Sergei gave his life to Christ, and Natalya’s husband stopped drinking and got a job.
“This is the greatest opportunity since the fall of communism for evangelicals to share the Gospel message and the love of Christ in word and action,” said SGA President Michael Johnson. “We hear stories of changed lives every day.”
Through a network of 6 350 local evangelical churches in 10 countries across the former Soviet Union, the ministry distributes aid at the exact point of need.
Across the vast region, local believers partnering with SGA and its supporters say food recipients are open to hearing the Gospel — many of them for the first time — because they see Christians really care about them.
Anyone interested in learning more can go to www.sga.org/Covid to sign up to pray and receive updates about how God is working through evangelical churches in Russia and the former Soviet Union during the crisis.