Russia (MNN) — Earlier this week, a state of emergency was
called in Siberia after 49 people died of alcohol poisoning. According
to the Washington Post, they died after consuming a bath oil they hoped would give them a buzz.
(Photo courtesy of SOAR International)
Historically, Russia has struggled with alcohol abuse. In 2014, the BBC reported a study where
25 percent of men died before age 55. The study attributed most of
these deaths to alcohol. In fact, according to Rehab International,
there are 20 million people in Russia who are dependent upon alcohol.
The same is true in the Far East, even in locations that are hard to
reach. In Chukotka, a federal subject of Russia in Provideniya, it’s no
According to the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, some of the major concerns in this region include alcoholism, suicide, underdeveloped health care, and poverty.
We spoke with Joanna Mangione of SOAR International
who visited the region years ago. She describes Provideniya as a dark,
treeless tundra — harsh and barren in its appearance. SOAR works with a
church near the remote villages of Chukotka. Alcohol, especially among
indigenous Eskimo and Chukchi people, has been an evident challenge in
Mangione says, “You will see, or at least I saw, young children on
the street drinking. So they’re exposed to it at a very young age. There
doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope. The struggle, even sometimes with the
Church, is keeping people strong in the faith — the instinct is to just
fall back into their old ways and go back to doing whatever they want.”
But even in this dark corner of the earth, there is a light.
Recently, we shared a prayer request with you from SOAR International
for God to open new doors for ministry when others have closed in
Russia. That is what He has done for them in Provideniya.
Paperwork challenges make it difficult for SOAR’s team from Alaska to
visit this area, but God has brought a family in from Moldova who can
minister full time. In 2012, Ruslan and Olya came to serve there under
In 2012, the church needed some repairs. (Photo courtesy of SOAR International).
“They serve in the small church there in Provideniya. So they help,
pastor the church, coordinate, [and] take care of the church and the
church members. And they have continued since the U.S. teams haven’t
been able to visit and go into Provideniya and do the camps we used to
do — they have taken up the mantel of conducting Bible clubs and camps
and Bible studies and such. So they have just kind of continued to keep
the light on — the Light of Christ on,” Mangione explains.
And this light is very much needed. In fact, according to the Joshua Project,
only 0.7 percent of the Chukchi, one of the people groups in this area,
are evangelical Christians. Mangione says in Provideniya, people are
just trying to survive. There isn’t much there as far as livelihood
goes, and so many times adults have to travel to find work.
“You often will have kids living months at a time by themselves. It
is a very harsh climate, a very harsh way of living, so it makes it very
difficult to live there and therefore to have missionaries there. They
face a lot of difficulties and struggles with trying to reach these
people who are so set in their ways, but also just have a hard time
believing there is such a hope that is being spoken to them.”
Even worse, the villages are often cut off from the rest of the world
because of weather conditions during both the summer and winter. They
can only be accessed by special vehicles.
God provided a family to serve. (Photo courtesy of SOAR International)
Recently, they were able to purchase the vehicles needed to do outreach to the remote villages.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see that God has provided and their ministry is growing and reaching out to the surrounding people.”
Clearly, the work is an uphill battle, and that is what makes your prayers so important.
“Pray that the church would continue to grow. Pray for the members of
the church, that they would remain strong, that they would just be
filled with the Spirit, filled with God’s strength, filled with God’s
Also, pray for the missionary family as they’ve had recent health issues. Pray for their protection, strength, and perseverance.
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