by Vladimir Burnashev
My four companions and I scrambled out without any serious injury and for the next six hours we sought assistance. Eventually we located a village where there were tractor drivers who thought they could help us. With two tractors and after numerous attempts the truck was eventually pulled upright. But we couldn’t make it move. So it was hitched up to one of the tractors and towed into the village.
My name is Vova and I was born and brought up in Siberia. My people group, the Yakut, live in Eastern Siberia, and my home is a village just outside the city of Yakutsk, the coldest city on earth. My wife and I are members of Wycliffe Russia.
One freezing winter’s day in February 2014 I had said goodbye to my wife and son, and boarded the four-wheel drive all-terrain truck with four Christian brothers, and boxes of Bible stories in my native Yakut language, expecting to be away for a month. We had planned to take audio and video materials as well, but just before we left, while we were loading the truck, they were stolen from right out of the church. That was the first massive setback. We had therefore left with just printed literature, planning to talk about God “live”.
The accident with the truck was the second massive setback. Here we were in a village of a mere 650 people with a broken-down truck, still a seven-day road-trip away from our intended destination.
Local men found a garage where we could all work, out of the cold. While repairing the truck together, we talked about God. They asked a lot of good, serious questions, and gladly accepted copies of the Yakut New Testament, the Book of Genesis, and other Scripture portions that we had in Yakut. These men were fascinated by our Yakut literature because their knowledge of Russian was extremely poor and they had very little material in their native Yakut language. There were no Russian-speaking people in the village, and the last time these Yakut men had spoken Russian was long ago, when they had served in the Russian army.
The four men who were travelling with me were good mechanics, able to make the necessary repairs. Only I do not know how to repair a truck, so I went to the village school, gathered the teachers together, shared the Yakut Scriptures with them and talked about God.
The teachers were so enthralled that they asked me to repeat the discussion, this time with the high school students. I brought to the school as much literature as I could carry away from the garage, and I presented it to the staff and students. I told them that whoever wanted more could come to the garage to get it. I then went off to speak with the village leaders. When I returned to the garage, I found that there had been a phone call from the school, asking the men to take them more boxes full of books.
Our intention had been to travel to the most remote regions of the far north, as my companions had previously, since they believed the people living there were the ones most cut off from the rest of the world and from God. When our unexpected hosts heard that this was the seventh such outreach trip, they were offended – but in a good, respectful way! Why had the team’s truck passed them by those six earlier times? Why had no one ever come to visit them and tell them about the Creator, especially in their native language?
We will be returning to this village, and others like it. We hope that next time it won’t take an overturned truck to get us there!
Photos by Vladimir Burnashev.
This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.