In just one month they have succeeded in reaching out to almost 3 million World Cup supporters. Since the beginning of June, volunteers with the American evangelical mission, Mission Eurasia, have been involved in a huge operation among football fans in Russia.
They have distributed 600,000 Bibles — including 100,000 special editions of the New Testament translated into Russian — during live, big screen broadcasts of matches in more than 250 Protestant parishes in the country.
“We wanted to focus on this unprecedented opportunity that the World Cup represents …. in order to evangelize,” said the president of Mission Eurasia, Sergey Rakhuba, at the beginning of June in an interview on the American media network, Christian Broadcasting Network.
Through this unprecedented viewing of World Cup matches in religious buildings, the association hopes to bring back former believers in the various congregations, as well as football fans who have, for a long time, been distanced from the faith.
After watching the matches together “we will be able to share the Gospel with them,” said Rakhuba.
“We want these young leaders that we’ve trained, who have so much energy and are full of enthusiasm to share their faith by sharing scripture with people in the community,” he said.
It is a difficult task in a country where only 1 percent of the population is Protestant.
Since the July 2016 adoption of the Yarovaya law – named after the Russian deputy who adopted this reform within the framework of the anti-terrorism measures launched by the authorities – the Russian government has tightened its control over the country’s religious minorities.
This includes a ban on “missionary activities” or evangelism beyond the walls of the churches officially recognized by the state.