Orlan slowly opened his eyes and groaned, his head throbbing with unbearable pain. He was lying on the couch in the small coal-heated home. As his eyes began to clear, he saw his mother sitting nearby on a small stool in the kitchen. He recalled being jumped by a band of young men the night before and beaten nearly to death. After spending the entire day drinking with his friends on the outskirts of town, they’d eventually stumbled back to their respective homes.
The last thing Orlan remembered of that walk was several guys coming up behind him, throwing him to the ground, kicking and hitting him until he was unconscious. Since no one in his town had much money, they certainly didn’t attack him for that. Still, he should have known better than to walk alone at dusk without all his faculties. Life in Tuvan towns can be rough, and this kind of random violence happens far too often. He would have died if his cousin had not found him on the side of the road.
As he squinted across the room at his mom, he could tell she was crying and soon heard her praying to her God. His mother had not stopped telling him about Jesus for the past few years. She told him how Jesus was God and had died for his sins, but Orlan could care less. None of the kids he went to school with or the many people he interacted with daily believed in Jesus. They believed good Tuvans worshiped Buddha and sought to appease the spirits of nature through the shaman. Jesus was not their god and Orlan had no interest in his mother’s words.
Yet, despite rejecting his mother’s God, the young man began to reflect on life while lying in bed for weeks recovering from his injuries. Questions swirled in his mind. What purpose did his life serve anyway? There was little joy apart from the temporary comradery of drinking and joking around with friends, which usually ended with more pain and sorrow than it was worth. What did his future hold? What did he have to look forward to? He knew he needed something more in order to continue living. As his body healed and his mind became clearer, a longing began to grow in his spirit—a longing for a different kind of life.
One restless afternoon, with wounds mostly mended, Orlan knew what he needed to do. Something deep in his heart pulled him toward the God of his mother. With a sudden burst of determination, he put on his jacket, stepped out through the creaky cottage door, and began running. He sprinted as fast as his still-recovering body would let him, to the nearest high hill where Buddhists traditionally went to make offerings and pray. He hiked up to the top with his lungs heaving, fell to his knees, and called out to Jesus. There was no one there to walk him through the Romans Road or the ABCs of repentance. Still, Orlan knew that he was weak, broken, sinful and needed a relationship with the One True God, which his mother had explained was only through Jesus.
In the weeks that followed, Orlan connected with the pastor at his mom’s church and learned more about the salvation that Christ offers. He read through the whole New Testament in just a few days and was hungry to know more about God. A year later, God opened an opportunity for him to lead a Bible study with a few high schoolers at his new church. Orlan stopped hanging out and drinking with friends. His life was changing.
A couple of years later, Orlan landed a new job working at a local news station. The hours and pay were better, but the pressure began to mount from his coworkers who looked down on Christianity. When he refused to participate in a shamanistic ritual at work, his coworkers wrote formal complaints against him. Eventually, discouragement dragged Orlan down, and he began to step back from serving with the youth at church. It became difficult to live for Christ when the world around him was against his faith.
Several believers at his church noticed Orlan was struggling and met with him. They explained how they experienced persecution for their beliefs at times. One man pointed him to several Scripture verses, including 1 Peter 4:12-14. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. … If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (ESV). His church family prayed with him and continued to care for and encourage him in his walk. Orlan thought of quitting his job, but no other jobs were available. He remained true to his faith and decided to stay in his career despite the persecution.
Enduring mistreatment from nonbelievers is the harsh reality for Tuvan Christians like Orlan. Every day, followers of Jesus like him risk their jobs and well-being for their faith. Orlan still gathers with friends to pray for the truth of God’s Word to be known among their people. They pray for believers to share the story of Jesus, as Orlan’s mother did with him.
This story is based on the lives of multiple people compiled to give you a glimpse of what life may be like for a young Tuvan Christian. Orlan and Mergen are fictitious names, but they represent many people who greatly need the hope found in Jesus Christ. There are more than 12,000 communities in Siberia without any gospel witness, many of which are in Tuva. Please pray for more workers to bring His Word and truth to some of the least-reached people in the world.