Stuff a Stocking 2014: more than just a temporary present

Photo by SOAR International

(Photo by SOAR International)

Russia (MNN) — Many people consider Christmas a magical season. Christians remember Christ’s birth, the most magical event in all the history of mankind. Because Christmas connects people from all walks of life, it would be a shame to let it pass by without sharing the love of Christ with someone–even if they’re all the way in Russia.

That’s the reason for the  “Stuff a Stocking” project through SOAR International says SOAR’s Joanna Mangione.

Stuff a Stocking is a unique opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child in Russia. Stockings “are stuffed with hygiene items and school supplies, some gloves, hats, snacks, some small toys,” says Mangione. “We bring these into the orphanages, along with other pastors that we partner with, to visit with the orphans and give them these items.”

Each year SOAR raises money to give as many stockings as they can; they shoot for around 2,000.

Each stocking costs $50 to sponsor.

Mangione says this amount pays for the stocking as well as the items purchased to include in the stocking. In addition, each stocking sponsor is encouraged “to write a letter to the orphan who receives their stocking. And this, at times, is something that the orphan looks for first.”

On the back of each letter they receive, the Gospel is written in the orphan’s language. This is extremely important because along with the items included in the stocking, the child can receive a Bible, too. The orphans are given an opportunity to write a note to the sponsor of their stocking.

Photo by SOAR International

(Photo by SOAR International)

Manigione describes what it’s like to give these children gifts: “It’s almost overwhelming because, being from America, I guess I’m not used to seeing such joy from such a small thing. It’s nothing huge, and yet to them it is the greatest treasure. You can’t help but want to cry or just hug them or hold them or just be with them because they feel loved.”

This act of love, made possible by volunteers like you, helps the children understand Christ’s love for them–and it opens doors to continue ministry to them.

Mangione says many Russian Orphanages disallow evangelical pastors into their orphanages, believing Christianity to be a cult.

But because of SOAR’s reputation in this area, “As Americans bringing in gifts, they will allow us to come in; we can [also] bring in pastors with us so that after we are gone, the church can follow up.

“So it’s so much more than just westerners coming in with these awesome gifts: it’s a bridge so that the ministry can continue. It doesn’t end when we leave from there. And when you sponsor a stocking, you are also helping the ministry to continue even after that stocking is emptied.”

There are several ways to help with this project. If you want to give financially, you can visit SOAR’s Web site here and give directly to this project. This also includes a written letter. If you prefer to give by check, you can send it with the letter by mail. Information for that is right here.

If you’re a crafty person, you can sew a stocking (or a few) and send them to SOAR. The template and instructions can be found under the “Get Involved!” tab here.

And finally, click here and select the PRAY and GO tabs to get involved that way. A small team is heading out the first or second week of January to distribute the stockings. (Christmas in Russia is celebrated the first week of January.) You can participate in the distribution on a 10-day trip costing about $3500 per person. If you’re interested, get your application in right away.

For more information on “Stuff a Stocking,” you can contact SOAR at 907-283-1961.

Share your story: have you ever received a gift that’s impacted your understanding of the greatest gift, Jesus? How would you encourage others to repeat that gifting? Respond in the comments section below.