‘White’ gathering brings light during a dark, cold season

Tags: Eurasia, Russia, Story

By our team in Ulan-Ude, Russia — The Buryat holiday of Sagaalgan marks the first new moon of spring. Buryats believe that it is a time of cleansing oneself from evil, impurity, bad karma and bad luck.

Although this holiday is intertwined with Buddhist and Shamanistic practices, there are actually a lot of ways it can be used to share Christ and how he makes all things new and clean.

Throughout this holiday season, also known as "White Month," Buryats say goodbye to the old year and celebrate the new by deep cleaning their homes. They eat white foods, symbolizing a fresh start. People sometimes wake up really early to trick the spirits, give offerings to idols, and rub dough over their bodies, then throw the dough into a fire to burn away the past year’s troubles.

Our team often experiences extra spritual oppression during this time, but we also aim to redeem the holiday in order to engage Buryats — only 0.5 percent of whom are Christian — with the gospel. For five years, our team has hosted White Month parties, in which we invite Buryat friends over to learn more about their traditions and to share about the One who can truly make us whiter than snow. 

After five years of organizing this gathering, white chocolate cheesecake (though not at all typically Buryat) has become part of the tradition.

After five years of White Month events, white chocolate cheesecake (though not at all typically Buryat) has become part of the tradition. 

Together, we prepare posie, a traditional Buryat food that’s basically a meatball wrapped in dough and steamed. Posie take a lot of time to make, but this presents a natural opportunity to share about each other’s traditions. We also eat other white foods and play creative games that revolve around the color white. 

Blessings are very important in Buryat culture, so we focus on the blessings God promises in the Bible and present our friends with gifts that include a biblical blessing. We pray that God will use these verses and this time together to plant seeds in our friends’ hearts.

At one White Month party, a SEND worker printed a picture with Isaiah 1:18 —

Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool."  

This verse led to a chance to share the gospel. A Christian Buryat girl shared her testimony, and then another girl opened up and asked some very good questions. A third young lady expressed a desire to read the Bible and was given one.

It's exciting to see God working — not because of our great plans or because we led a great discussion. It's all God! Please pray for God’s work to continue in the hearts of those who heard his truth. Please pray that they will know Jesus!