Mission to North Siberia – the Impact

This is the final part (6) in my mini series about my trip this summer to nowhere you ever heard of in Siberia.

When I think about the impact this summer’s trip had, I have to evaluate it in terms of my own aspirations for it. I had two goals – an amazing memory with my son, and to have God expand my heart for missions. Yes, even as a missionary, I feel that I get stuck in my ways, and I needed to be stretched.

Father-son impact

First, as to my son and me. I had originally wanted it to be with both of my sons, but Simon backed out, both for health reasons (back trouble earlier this summer), and because this kind of trip was not his cup of tea. That’s actually putting it mildly. He would have hated it, starting with the mosquitoes, whom he says love him way too much because he has type O blood, which supposedly attracts them the most. Oh well. He’s younger, so I’m sure we will find another trip that suits him.

I’ve always wished for more opportunities to have my family more integrated with my ministry, but the nature of the work is hard to lend itself for such a thing. And though this trip was far from my ministry, it did offer us a chance to do things together with and for people. It gave us a chance to interact with others as adults together, where Kerith has a real place at the table, both as a learner and someone who can sometimes contribute important ideas.

Of course just exploring a really cool part of the world together was itself unforgettable. Kerith has spent nearly 100 days in the wilderness of Wyoming with an incredible ministry called Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries (SROM), and he has long desired to take me to the outback to experience a wilderness hike together. But we got so much more than that together. Together we got to:

  • race through Moscow on a taxi to change flights AND airports
  • fly business class for the first time (nothing else was available, but it was only about $200)
  • get detained at the border for not following rules no one knew about
  • travel with an amazing man of God and a laid-back travel companion – Igor
  • ride for 8 hours on the world’s most traumatic road and most precarious bridges
  • trek across the tundra with unbearable weight on our backs and zillions of mosquitoes
  • stay up late and talk over tea about eternity, family, college life, Russia, and Nenet culture
  • feast our eyes constantly on amazing landscapes
  • befriend and serve (just a little) a beautiful but nearly forgotten people group
  • live in tents with super host families
  • meet the one and only Michael Jackson

I saw Kerith at some of his best, and I didn’t see him at his worst. I told him that he no longer has the right to say that he has no father potential. He was awesome with the kids. In reflecting back on the experience recently, he described the impact of the trip on him in two ways. First, he said that he became more aware of how unaware and even apathetic most people in his circles are with regard to the world outside their field of vision and began to consider what his role might be in impacting that ignorance and apathy. Second, he told me he was challenged by observing, thinking about, wrestling with, and considering the role and place of evangelism in the life of a Christian and how he can actively include that in his life. As far as I as a dad am concerned, those are incredible takeaways.

Personal Impact

I also got to think a lot about evangelism on this trip, which is something that is a growing conviction inside me and growing to be a bigger part of my ministry in general, even though I am clearly not an evangelist. But I am convinced that if God is real, and if Jesus has reconciled us to the Father, then it is not only an abstract truth that needs to be “bought into,” but a psychological, universal reality that answers how we are designed to be most fulfilled. I saw its application with the Nenets and the Khanty.

Living in the city I have never had an experience that felt so much like I was living in the New Testament. Jesus sent out the disciples in twos to go to a new community and go into the homes of those who received them and stay there, speaking of the Kingdom. He said not to stay where they did not receive you. I was learning his plan for myself, because I wanted to share more with people who were not interested. But when I saw genuine openness, then I knew that I was in the right place, and the conversation flowed with power.

The Good News about Christ actually resonates and works for the Nenets and the Khanty. I saw this in a clear way one day when I decided to offer the women of our second chum experience to go through a Bible study with me. We looked at the story of Jesus calling Peter to try a different approach to fishing, which of course brought a huge bounty. It was wonderful to see how the story spoke to them, especially in the ways it did NOT make sense initially. I did what I do well – I did not teach or try to impose any view of the passage on them. For example, with Irina, I listened to what she were hearing and the questions that came up, and I helped her explore what was stirred up in her. Irina was impressed, saying “Now that’s the way we need to learn this kind of thing. Otherwise, the Bible makes no sense to us.” I was encouraged to see both that such an approach (our mission Novo actively encourages this approach) is not only applicable in a new (to me) culture, but that it works well for how God has built me.

The theme of cooperating with how God has made and energized me was a larger thread for me during this trip. I saw it also in my conversation with Simyon in the last chum we visited. What God showed me was that I don’t have to make conversations happen where people are not engaged. God will open doors where He wills, and that my own love for people is not in question when it doesn’t happen. It was tremendously encouraging to me to see that I do actually love and care about these people, though they were new to me. I may not ever see them again, but they will be in my heart now.

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