You've probably never thought about a bag of groceries as having "power."
But where I live in Siberia, Russia, a bag filled with staple foods is powerful. Given as a gift of love from my local church, it says: "We care about you, and you are loved by us and by God."
I was born after the years of communism, but in my homeland, the legacy of godlessness is still strongly felt in my generation -- those in their 20s and younger -- which is desperate for purpose and meaning in life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many young Russians to put their dreams on hold. Right now, many of my fellow students are struggling to afford even a single bag of groceries.
I've known financial hardship for most of my life. I was raised in a family of nine children, and my mother died when I was 11 years old -- only nine years ago. I remember sobbing and wondering how I would go on living without her. She was a Christian and the 'glue' that held our family together. Even when we had no money, she somehow managed to serve up a simple meal for us. Then she was gone.
I remember the first time someone brought us a bag of groceries, containing bread, rice, and other food items. The pastor of a local church knocked on the door and said: "This is for you… we want you to know that God loves you and he cares about you."
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I started going to the church where I heard that God cared for me with such intense love -- a love I needed to share with my neighbors and friends, especially those struggling with hunger and a feeling of hopelessness.
Today, thousands of Russian believers like me are looking to share God's love in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They're knocking on doors, with a bag of groceries in their hands, ready to share the Gospel in word and action. They're opening the door of people's hearts.
Wrapped in God's Love
Who would have thought that a simple bag of groceries -- wrapped in God's love -- could be so powerful?
For me, being involved in this compassionate ministry with Slavic Gospel Association and my local church is an expression of active compassion in the lives of others. This is exactly what I've learned from Jesus -- to give and be there for others in their time of need.
When I see the loving participation of people in the church, their actions fill me with joy and inspire me. My church is a family to me now, where I not only receive but also give back. It's an instrument of sanctification, where I learn to serve people and love them. My heart is to reach young people with the Gospel.
I believe we often don't notice how caring God is, and how often he provides through other people. Such moments help me realize the responsibility and importance of my own commitment to the church, and this motivates me to not stand aside but rather to be at the very center of God's actions.
To me, the gift of a simple bag of groceries carries a life-changing message that we are not alone, but we have each other and God is near.
I know that I'm just one of the thousands of believers across Russia and the former Soviet Union taking the love of Christ to families during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of our Bible-believing, evangelical churches are part of this movement of God's love… a movement called "Christ Over COVID," partnering with Slavic Gospel Association SGA to share groceries and Gospel hope with our neighbors.
I'm reminded that wherever we live in this world, we are one in the bond of Christ's love. And a simple bag of groceries -- when it's given wrapped in God's love -- is powerful… powerful enough to transform a life.
Alla Ivanov is a 20-year-old university student living in Omsk, Russia, serving others through her local evangelical church in partnership with Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association’s “Christ Over COVID” campaign, delivering groceries and the Gospel to families facing hunger across the former Soviet Union.