Christmas presents are a staple part of our festive celebrations – and for believers in Central Asia, many of whom live in poverty or under pressure for their faith, a Christmas gift can mean so much. Evgeny, a local Open Doors partner, shares the impact of your prayers and support for these believers.
Christmas is a time for gathering with loved ones and exchanging gifts as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel – “God with us”. For isolated Christians in Central Asia, Christmas can be a painful, lonely time. But thanks to your gifts and prayers, these believers know they are not alone.
Every year, local Open Doors partners like Evgeny* host events for believers to gather together, and distribute gifts. “We distributed many Christmas gifts in an area where people never heard about Jesus and the children never got presents for Christmas and New Year,” Evgeny says. “We organised celebration programmes in schools – songs, performances and games. We visited rehabilitation centres and poor families and gave them all a Christmas gift.”
The importance of this project cannot be overstated. It makes it possible to reach out to lonely Christians, including those in orphanages and hospitals and believers living in poverty. There are many families who can’t afford to buy the necessary things for school for their children; some can’t buy shoes or other basic needs.
It also provides an opportunity to visit Christians who cannot attend church because of pressure from their relatives or community, and to encourage children from Christian families who might not be able to share their faith with their friends. Christmas is a good reason to visit them, to provide spiritual counselling and invite them to the church. About 50% of them come back to church following a visit.
A gift at Christmas can remind us that we are remembered by someone who loves us – and this is even more potent for people who are neglected by society. Around Christmastime, some orphanages, cancer hospitals, hospitals for lepers and care homes in Central Asia are open for visits. Some of them receive very poor support from the state. During visits, church members are not allowed to speak about Christ officially, but in most cases, they are still allowed to share the good news of Jesus in private talks.
“It is always special for them, as many of them wait for these gifts,” Evgeny shares. “Before giving the gifts, we share about God, who loves and cares for them. We want to break this stereotype that these gifts are given by the fictional Santa Claus, but to show the real concern of the living God for them.”
Thank you so much for your gifts and prayers during November and December, as part of Open Doors’ Christmas campaign. It has made, and is making, a real, lasting difference in the lives of our persecuted church family.
*Name changed for security reasons
The World Watch List parliamentary launch represents a wonderful opportunity to highlight the plight of our persecuted family to those in power. Last year, more than 90 MPs attended the event – and that's because they were invited by Open Doors supporters like you! Can you invite your MP to this year's event? It's taking place on Wednesday 18 January.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.