Photo Essay – Siberia

Paul and Cassie have made their home among the indigenous people groups of Siberia since 2006. They long to see many churches planted through their work in discipleship and translation.

The Evenki of Northern China, although having left their reindeer culture behind 270 years ago, still feel a deep connection with their reindeer-herding relatives. The Evenki stage a spectacular dance and musical performance every summer that is intended to bring attention to the plight of the reindeer herders, both in China and in Siberia.

The taiga forest is so vast and dense that it is impractical to fight fires unless they come too close to a settlement. The locals watch nervously as they hope the fire will not come closer to their isolated village.

The reindeer herder lives in the taiga with his brother and their reindeer herd. While in the village stopping for supplies, a rudimentary conversation struck up in Evenki resulted in telling the story of creation and prayer.

The Aoluguya Evenki of Northern China were resettled in a modern village in 2003. Their reindeer were placed on a farm. Reindeer however are nomadic and don’t like to be tied to one place. These reindeer are depressed in their tourist prison. Eight hundred of their reindeer relatives escaped back to the forest in 2005 along with their nomadic herders.

The Sakha “Ihiakh” festival involves many sporting events. These Sakha university students are wrestling with their necks and ears to pull the other over the line. They are hoping to impress the girls!

While preparing for a beauty contest God broke into Varya’s life by answering her prayer for a beautiful costume. The costume won the prize for best costume in the “Miss Asia Siberia” contest.

“What a beautiful day God has made,” said the Australian to the Shor men gathered around the motorbike. “Don’t talk to me about God!” came back the aggressive reply from one of those gathered. Minutes later, an invitation to get drunk with them was declined, and the two intrepid visitors moved on to the next village, “no person of peace to be found here.”

This Evenki grandmother works hard all August to collect berries and mushrooms in the forest that will sustain her and her family through out the deep winter.

This Evenki woman recounts that 270 years ago her people left the mountains and their reindeer behind. Yet she can’t stop talking about them, to the point of writing a musical that highlights the plight of her reindeer herding relatives. Such love for her people is equalled by an intense fascination that the Creator loves them too.

Every ancient culture interacts with the modern world. The Sakha youth of Yakutsk city (pop. 300,000) in far northern Siberia are no different. Their language and world view are strong, but they enjoy popular culture as much as their western counterparts. And they are talented too.

The River Mana is getting ready to go to sleep. The first snow of October has fallen. It will be another month before the river freezes in southern Siberia.

The Sakha people are the largest indigenous people group in Siberia at 480,000 people. Every summer at the solstice they celebrate their “new year.” The festival is full of dance, story, sporting events and food, as well as spirit worship. These university students are far from their home land in the big city. They stage an “Ihiakh” festival in May, as they are busy sitting exams in June.

“The first time that bananas came to my Evenki village when I was a boy, I thought they looked like soap.” This Evenki man has plenty of other funny stories about the first time he encountered an apple, a kiwi and other fruits.

The Evenki reindeer herders in the Amur region of Siberia have maintained their culture very well. This in part has been helped by the fact that their reindeer were given back to them by the government in the 1990s. They now have a strong motivation that has seen them leave alcoholism behind in the last ten years, and now present an openness to the gospel. This woman is sewing canvas bags to be carried by the reindeer during migration from one camp to the next.

While traveling on a “person of peace” trip we stumbled upon Gera, a prolific painter living in a tiny shack on the edge of the Siberian taiga. We were treated to a simple meal of “grechka” (buckwheat) while telling bible stories and praying for the residents.

Do you enjoy colder climates? Perhaps you should talk to us about work in Northern Europe, Central Asia or Siberia itself. Start the conversation in the chat feature.

Stories from the pursuit

Video – What Is Church Planting?

As a missionary goes out, they are usually sent by their local church. But the goal is not to replicate their local church in another context.

Article – What Is Church Planting?

Church planting is central to Pioneers. Our mission statement and core values make that clear. But how does this priority work itself out on the ground?

Video – Lost Versus Unreached

Lost. Unreached. Words Christians use to describe people who aren't followers of Jesus. Where do these terms come from and what's the difference?