MELTING FROZEN HEARTS: REACHING RUSSIA’S REINDEER PEOPLE

December 2016 Faces Eurasia

Dear Friend of Eurasia,

No running water, no electricity, no stores, no paved roads—just hundreds of miles of reindeer as far as the eye can see.

Reindeer define the lives of the “reindeer people,” a multi-ethnic group of unreached people living in an area of northern Russia that stretches across eleven time zones.

The reindeer people are nomadic, living in teepees and following the reindeer through the year as herds migrate in search of food. Reindeer are their source of survival: what they eat, what they wear, and what they trade as currency.

Russian pastors began building relationships with the isolated reindeer people about three years ago, and since then, they make yearly treks across thousands of miles of snowy tundra to spread the gospel.

The Russian pastors are the reindeer people’s only hope for hearing the message of Christ and are often their first exposure to Christianity.

These pastors are establishing relationships with the people scattered throughout Russia’s Komi Republic. Just east of Finland, Komi is a remote region above the 70th parallel that is accessible only by a 2-hour snowmobile ride from the nearest city.

One of our AGWM missionaries recently joined the Russian pastors on a journey to the Komi republic. The reindeer people there can only be reached during the winter months, when snowpack allows for snowmobile travel. The team traveled for days in arctic temperatures to reach them.

When the group snowmobiled up in front of a cluster of sleds, a young, rosy-cheeked girl came out to meet them, too shy to speak. She led them to a teepee in which sat her four siblings, her parents, and her grandmother. Though they remembered one of the pastors from the year before, they remained distant and quiet.

As the pastors shared their testimonies and spent several days with them, the family slowly warmed to conversation. Living in poverty, the family eagerly accepted gifts: much-needed food supplies, the children’s first toys, and a solar-powered DVD player with sermons in the Russian language.

These gifts of food, toys, and Christian literature cost as little as $15—but they are the only gospel witness that families like this one receive!

web_image-2“These people are consumed with daily needs—getting enough food, keeping warm,” recalled the missionary. “It’s difficult for them to make the switch to thinking about eternity.”

On the last day of their visit, the pastors asked if anyone in the family wanted to pray and receive Christ—and one of the sons responded to the invitation!

Later, the pastors and missionary said goodbye to the family and snowmobiled to a church four hours away to preach the next day. When they stood in front of the congregation the following morning, there was the family from the tundra! They had sledded four hours in the sub-zero cold to hear more about Jesus!

Conversation and compassion are melting frozen hearts on the Russian tundra!

This is what it means to literally take the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says our AGWM missionary. “These people are living above the Arctic Circle.”

Will you help Russian pastors fulfil the Great Commission?

By investing what it costs to fill a Christmas stocking into materials that introduce the reindeer people to Jesus, you can help Russian pastors  reach the largest population of lost people in Russia.

But Christian materials are not the pastors’ only need. Snowmobiles are the only way to reach the reindeer people. “The need to equip pastors to reach the people is urgent,” says our AGWM contact. “They only have a short window of time each year when the snowmobiles can reach the reindeer people.”

Many pastors cannot reach the reindeer people for lack of snowmobiles. They must travel in groups: if someone is stranded and the vehicle breaks down in this desolate region, death could be imminent. One pastor’s congregation saved money for years to buy him a snowmobile so he could reach the reindeer people. “We believe in your mission to reach the reindeer people,” they said, “and we want you back alive.”

Would you consider supplying a snowmobile for a Russian pastor to reach the Komi people and the unreached reindeer people across Russia’s 10 other time zones?

Investing $20, $200, or $2,000 in the reindeer people of Russia’s frozen north means investing in their opportunity to hear a message of hope for the first time.

Thank you for partnering with our Russian pastors as they reach out to the reindeer people this winter, planting the Church where it is not yet established.

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