Slavic Gospel Association helps feed 20,000 families on edge of hunger, supplies nearly 2 million meals
LOVES PARK, Ill — An Illinois-based, international organization is leading a major humanitarian effort to feed hungry families and orphans struggling due to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) has served its grassroots network of 6,350 local evangelical church partners in the vast region by supplying enough groceries for nearly 2 million meals that have helped around 20,000 vulnerable families, many on the edge of starvation.
SGA and local churches are targeting the most at-risk, including orphans, elderly shut-ins, and single-parent families as part of the organization’s Christ Over COVID campaign (www.sga.org/COVID).
With COVID-19 still spreading through the massive region — stretching across 11 time zones — millions of people are struggling to put food on the table. Russia has the fourth largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 960,000.
“Some are so desperate they’ve been on the brink of suicide,” said SGA president Michael Johnson.
One mother — who lost her job at a local café when it was forced to close — was going to hang herself because she had nothing to feed her kids. Members of a local church came to her door just in time, carrying groceries.
“If we stop giving food to these families, they will simply be left to starve,” said a pastor in Ukraine.
Orphans — and children who’ve been removed from dysfunctional homes because of alcoholic parents and abuse — are among the most food insecure. Prior to COVID-19, more than 700,000 unwanted children and orphans — equal to the entire population of Boston — were housed in bleak, under-funded orphanages from Eastern Europe to Siberia. Many of these children were forced to return to abusive homes as orphanages shuttered due to the pandemic.
The ‘Forgotten’ Children of COVID-19
“They’re truly the ‘forgotten,’” Johnson said. “Some commit suicide, others end up as drug addicts or prostitutes, or turn to crime.”
Veronika and her young siblings live in poverty, with no mother to look after them, and a father who’s often drunk. The task of feeding the family falls to Veronika. It’s difficult under normal circumstances, but COVID-19 has made it much worse.
Supported by SGA, a local church was able to deliver a food package to Veronika in the nick of time, just as supplies at home were running out.
“She was really happy to receive the food from us,” a local volunteer said.
Millions in Russia and neighboring countries 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, with many surviving on much less.
With its extensive network of local evangelical church partners, SGA is able to deliver aid quickly to the exact point of need — a crucial advantage when tackling a major crisis like COVID-19.
“We call our humanitarian response Christ Over COVID (www.sga.org/COVID) because we want to show people that God loves them and cares for them in the midst of this pandemic,” Johnson said. “Love in action is powerful, gives people hope, and can transform their lives.”
Founded in 1934, Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) helps “forgotten” orphans, widows and families in Russia, the former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel – caring for their physical needs and sharing the life-transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. SGA supports an extensive grassroots network of local evangelical missionary pastors and churches in cities and rural villages across this vast region.
Photo Cutline: TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE: Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association (SGA, www.sga.org) is leading a major humanitarian effort to feed hungry families and orphans struggling due to the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 in Russia and the former Soviet Union. So far, SGA and local evangelical churches have helped around 20,000 families and supplied enough groceries for nearly 2 million meals.