YAMAL PENINSULA, NORTHERN SIBERIA – The locals call this place “Yamal,” which means “the end of the world.” And in many ways, it is. There are no roads here. People use frozen lakes and rivers to get around on reindeer or snowmobile.
The Yamal Peninsula sits in the deep, frozen Siberian tundra above the Arctic Circle – Latitude 70 degrees north. Longitude 70 degrees east.
The temperature here fluctuates between -30 and -60 degrees Fahrenheit. As I prepare to venture outside, I put on layers and layers of clothing.
It’s a little after 6:00 a.m. Peter Khundi, our Siberian guide, does last-minute checks on a snowmobile that has a sleigh attached. The sleigh is covered with reindeer skins. This is how we are going to travel into the tundra.
The Dangerous Trek Across the Siberian Tundra
“I have to make sure we have enough rope and other emergency supplies in case we get stuck,” Peter says.
I ask him if this is dangerous. “Yes, it is,” he replies.
Our destination this morning is a four-hour journey deep into the wilderness to meet a nomadic family. Two hours into our journey, we stop briefly. It’s about 9:25 in the morning, and the sun has yet to rise.
The sun shines only a few hours during the winter. When it does appear, normally around Noon, the sunrise is something to behold.
“This is a special place,” Peter says.
Sharing the Gospel with One Family at a Time
Peter belongs to the largest nomadic tribe in Northern Siberia. It’s called the Nenets. He’s more than just a guide. He’s a Christian. And for the last few years, he’s been sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with his tribe and others who live here in the tundra.
“When I became a Christian, God gave me a new heart,” Peter tells me. “He also gave me a new heart for my people. I go out on my snowmobile meeting these nomadic families and telling them about the love of Christ.”
The Lifeblood of The Nenets – Reindeer
The Nenets are nomadic reindeer herders. The word “Nenet” means “child of a deer.”
Reindeer are the lifeblood of the Nenets people here on the Siberian tundra because their meat and their hides fetch a lot of money in the villages.
“Our food, clothes, shoes, homes, our transportation – everything comes from them,” says a Nenets herdsman. “Without deer, we cannot not survive.”
Click here to read more.