Nikolay shares the Gospel in the heart of Siberia

14-10-2023

Eastern Europe

Jan van Reenen, RD

Nikolaj Soechanov and his wife live in a remote village in Siberia (Russia). Photo Martin Droog

Even though his congregation in Teya, in the heart of Siberia, is very small, Nikolay Sukhanov is not considering quitting as an evangelist. "I want to get into the lives and hearts of the people around me," he says.

Sukhanov (54) spoke last Saturday at the Friedensstimme Foundation's annual Meeting Day in the Netherlands. This spring, he was ordained as an evangelist. He evangelises in Siberian Teya and visits evangelists in the Evenkia region. His life has been "miraculous", he says.

What was your childhood like?

Sukhanov: "I come from a peasant family in Voljena in Siberia. My mother was a shepherd, and I grew up among the sheep. My parents had a very vague view of God. Our village had no church, not even a Russian Orthodox one. That changed in the 1990s when a Baptist church came to our village. At the request of a friend, I joined the church a few times, but I turned away from it again."

How did you change?

"I had a company for transporting coal in a village near the city of Bagan in Siberia. Things were going well, and I got more and more orders until people disappeared around us. We never saw them again, and we think they were killed. I knew I would be next, and we fled. After a long ramble, we were tired and returned home. I was prepared to die. At home, I fell on my knees before God. I felt peace and experienced that God was with me. When I stood up, I knew I was dead to the world. I immediately went to the prayer house and prayed with a woman, Lyudmila. I felt I could love the whole world."

Did you start evangelising right away?

"Yes, it started right away. I took a songbook and a guitar, on which I could play three chords, and went out into the streets when people were waiting for the cattle to return home. I also gathered the village's children around me and told them about God. Before, people were afraid of me; now they listened to me.

After evangelising for a year, I started feeling bad about my previous sinful life. There were still people to whom I owed money. I went to them and apologised. They asked for their money back. I finally managed to pay off all my creditors. Then I was really free."

How did you end up in Teya?

"In 2009, I attended a Bible course in the Novosibirsk area. A brother asked me, "How does Christ take shape in you?" I thought everything seemed fine. I had a nice house and was a Baptist church member, but I had no inner peace. I understood that I needed to deepen my faith, and I prayed a lot with my wife for a year. Then, we were ready to leave everything behind and serve God. The Siberian Synod of Baptist Churches sent us to Teya, in the middle of Siberia, in March 2012."

What kind of village is that?

"Teya used to be a village to which people were exiled. When we arrived there, there were still barriers at the entrance, so people could not enter and leave the village unnoticed. About 1,600 residents of all origins live there, and it is very cold in winter. Many people leave the village when they get the opportunity and move to a more southern location where it is warmer. This often happens when they retire. Our church, therefore, has a high turnover. Now there are ten members.

We built a new church. It also serves as a home for my wife and me, a meeting place for the congregation and a place to shelter people with addictions. On average, one to five addicts attend.

In March, I was ordained as an evangelist. Before that, I was a deacon. It means I now have more time for evangelism work in the surrounding area. And I am now authorised to administer Baptism and the Lord's Supper. In addition, I keep my occupation as a fire engine driver."

How do you envisage the future?

"Together with my wife, I want to continue living in Teya and continue evangelising. I get a lot of support from my wife. I want to sow the Word of God, care for the people around me and get into people's lives and hearts. There is no good in me. All good is in Christ. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He is everything to me."

This article was translated by CNE.news and published by the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on October 7, 2023

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