The Hezhen also known as the Nanai in Siberia are from Northern Asia. They are an official minority group of Northern Asia. In the past, they were very isolated from other ethnic groups. Currently, the Nanai are part of many organizations and associations, they also publish books in their native language. The Nanai are fishermen and hunters and follow animal patterns as a way of life. They make their own clothes out of fish and fur. “Nanai” literally means a person of the earth; when they die the body is wrapped in a birch bark, placed inside of a tree and decomposes naturally. The Nanai practice shamanism, and believe that Shamans have the power to expel bad spirits if they pray to the gods.Engagement // What’s Happening Now
In early July 2013, a team went to minister among the Nanai in eastern Russia. Below are brief accounts of the ways God is moving among them:
The Holy Spirit moved in many people as the team traveled to four villages and prayed for people. Words of knowledge and wisdom, visions, and other gifts were frequent. The team also trained believers on how to plant churches and brought them literature and tools needed to plant churches in their village and surrounding areas.
One young Nanai man mocked a group of believers when they came to his home to share Christ. After hearing him proudly announce that he was an atheist, they asked to lay hands on him and pray for him. When they had finished, he said in surprise that he felt something during the prayer. The believers explained that this was the presence of the God he did not believe in! This encounter with God’s presence resulted in a change in the young man’s attitude.
A 15-year-old boy, whom the team had met and trained in a previous trip to Russia, was invited to travel and minister alongside the team in each village. The team members asked him, “Do you think you could teach people with the materials we gave you and do evangelism?”
Enthusiastically, the young man replied, “Yes!”
Sustainability // The Bigger Story
It wasn’t until about two decades ago that the first Christian church was planted amongst the Nani. The number of Christian Nanai is still very small but they are growing even though there is no organized church or a trained church leader able to pastor them.
Ron Maddux, the regional director of Northern Asia states:
“Our Northern Asia team is committed to a vision that encompasses four critical areas: training — conserving the harvest in one of the greatest awakenings in Christian history; unreached peoples — taking the message of God’s love to those who have yet to hear an adequate witness; campus ministries — ministry in the most fertile soil in Northern Asia; and compassion — both as a legitimate ministry following Christ’s example of reaching out to the hurting and disenfranchised and as an access strategy to those who are otherwise outside the reach of the gospel.”
Partnership // Move Beyond
Church planting teams are connecting with Nanai believers to organize house churches in three Nanai villages.
Pray for the teenage boy who is committed to sharing Christ with his fellow Nanai. After his father passed away from tuberculosis, his mother left the family. The boy’s grandfather, a believer, is raising him.