No jobs in town, debts piling up, no bread for the table. Umid had no choice but to leave his wife and young children behind in Kyrgyzstan to find work. He got a construction job in St. Petersburg and shares an apartment with 20 other men. He sends money home for his family’s basic needs and tries to save enough to build an addition to their small house when he returns home.
Internet access and a computer? Zarya knew her teenage daughters would do better in life with an education, but she struggled to make ends meet. She cried all the way from Tajikistan to Moscow. It would be months before she’d see her girls again. She cleans an office building at night and, though exhausted and lonely, earns enough to keep her daughters in school.
Umid and Zarya are among the 4.5 million primarily Central Asian labor migrants in Russia. They work on construction sites and in oil fields, in markets and cafés, as housekeepers, nannies and live-in nurses. Driven by a lack of jobs, low wages and discriminatory labor practices in their home countries, they seek opportunities not only for their families’ survival, but for a better future.
John 6:1–15 tells of a large crowd that ate its fill of bread Jesus miraculously provided. The next day, they sought Him out again, looking for something more. They may have recalled how God, through Moses, provided manna to sustain the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16). Perhaps this Jesus was God’s new agent for “daily bread.”
I am the bread of life. After urging them to work for food that won’t spoil, Jesus states He is heaven’s everlasting bread, the food that will satiate us forever. In His broken body and shed blood, we find God’s ultimate provision and humanity’s best opportunity for true, flourishing life.
Central Asian Christians are introducing migrants like Umid and Zarya to Jesus as the Bread of Life, the source of eternal provision. Pray for migrants to take hold of this hope for their weary hearts. Consider your own spiritual hunger this Christmas season. In what ways do you long for Jesus to nourish and sustain you?