InterACTION - March 2017 The Forgotten Communities of Buryatia

By Lucas Orner

Twenty-Seven Hours on a Train

The train’s whistle blew as it slowly pulled into the Krasnoyarsk train station. The smell of coal and the crisp cold October air covered the station platform. My wife, our three kids and I showed the conductor our tickets. Her stern expression softened to a smile as she looked at the kids’ goofy passport pictures and motioned us up onto the train.

It’s amazing to think over the history of that train station. Krasnoyarsk used to be one of the GULAG processing centers along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Political dissidents were shipped here on the train and then marched for days either north and south to work camps. Now we use this train station as a starting point to get to areas even more isolated than the GULAGs, to disciple people toward a deeper relationship with Christ.

We settled in and soon the train accelerated and rumbled its way out of the city and into the vast forests of Siberia. We were on our way to Ulan-Ude, a city of about 400,000 and the capital of the Russian Republic of Buryatia. The trip takes twenty-seven hours, so we hunkered down for the long ride. The kids wandered off to find some other children to play with, and my wife and I gazed out of our window, hypnotized by the passing Siberian taiga. To think, if the train suddenly stopped, we could probably walk for days in any direction and never run into another person or a man-made structure.

When we woke the next morning, our train was rounding the southern tip of world-famous Lake Baikal. The landscape of the vast, flat Siberian forest that we had been traversing for so many hours changed. The view from our train window looking north was now filled with the beauty of the world’s deepest lake, and from the other side of the train looking south were the Eastern Sayan mountains.

Five-Hundred Forgotten Communities

Besides a few resort towns on the lake, the surrounding area seemed empty. And it is this perception that has lead to so many communities being forgotten. But a closer look reveals that there are over 500 communities in Buryatia. Of these, the vast majority are populated by Buryat people who practice the tenets of Shamanism and Buddhism. These 500+ communities remain unreached. There are no churches in these forgotten villages. There are no fellowships. There is no gospel witness.

Our vision is to go into these forgotten regions and share the hope and joy that can be found in relationship with Christ and then disciple people to reach the other villages in their region. But accomplishing this will not happen overnight.

People living in the cities also think of emptiness when they consider Russian village life. There is little work and little entertainment. It is a life of desolation. Even believers often refuse to visit these villages, not wanting the be exposed to the emptiness. Instead, they live with the mindset that if people in the village want hope, they should pack up and go into the cities. But Jesus commands us to “Go and make disciples!”

As we continued on the route, we prayed that one day we would be accompanied by Russian believers. We have been working toward that goal for the past couple years with little fruit, but we know that God is sovereign and His timing is better than ours.

We are thankful for what God has done over the last three years and are looking forward to the future. By 2025 we hope to see two more organizations partnering with us and we hope to have trained sixty students in the Scriptures and see them actively engaged in the process of making disciples. Our hope and prayer is to see thirty of these students placed into ministry leadership roles.

As we plan for what lies ahead, please pray for our current students, and pray that God will raise up more students who are eager to become reproducing disciples.

Our train pulled into Ulan-Ude and we eagerly de-boarded. We always look forward to riding the Trans-Siberian Railway, but by hour twenty-seven we were ready to get off. Will you join us in praying for the forgotten communities of Buryatia?

How Can You Get Involved?

Go - Has God been burdening you to go into full-time mission work? Take some time and prayerfully consider Russia. Contact us and let us share with you more about our ministry in Siberia and opportunities that are there.

Help Spread The Word - Perhaps you aren’t called to go yourself, but you can help get the word out. Perhaps you can help spread the word at your church, in a Sunday school class, small group or directly to your pastor or missions director. Or maybe you have family members interested in going into missions who are looking for opportunities. Let them know that InterAct is seeking people who are called to serve among the least-reached peoples of Siberia. We have both short and long-term opportunities available.

Give - Consider supporting our Russia ministries. We currently have missionaries on the field in need of support, as well as others who are in the process of raising funds to go. Contact us or visit InterActMinistries.org/Give to support one of these missionaries.

Pray - Visit InterActMinistries.org/PrayForRussia for links to information about some of the least-reached people groups of Russia. Consider “adopting” one of these groups and specifically praying for the work of the gospel to be furthered among them.

InterACTION is a monthly publication of InterAct Ministries

Credits:

Created with images by rickbradley - "looking out of the natural dye unit at Avani" • Marko Mikkonen - "untitled image" • Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. - "Lake Baikal - 001" • trolleway - "RZD ED9M-563 EMU, Ulan-Ude station, Transsib" • stepa - "Охотник"

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