Happy belated New Year to you, dear Brothers and Sisters, and greetings from Buryatia from Fr.Vitali Gavrilov! And here is his little report:
“Buryatia is waiting for you!”, my wife texted me when she got the message from me that our train will soon arrive to Ulan-Ude station.
But in reality, Buryatia, of course, was not waiting for us very much, given the forty-degree frost and strong wind. But neither frost, nor heat, nor wind, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord [from Rom. 8:39].And so, although the weather did not favor us, a cozy home atmosphere awaited us with the parishioners in Buryatia. We were greeted as if we were returning to our relatives from a distant land [from Prov. 25:25].
Everyone hugged and congratulated us and each other on Christmas, gave each other gifts and rejoiced. Such warm meetings were the best reward for spending few days in the trains, and then taking a long ride in a bus where the heating did not work. 🙂
This time the frost seemed to test us, forcing us to persistently resist. But no matter how cold it was, we hurried to our “home church.” (Our parish in Buryatia does not have its own church building, so we meet in a house of parishioners; the people there are very poor, but their faith and love are incredibly strong.)
Historically, the Lutheran community has existed in this land on the border with Mongolia since the end of the 19th century, when the first engineers came here to work on the railway. Of course, during the Soviet times there was no church here, but when freedom came to our country, a Lutheran parish also appeared. 25 years ago, Fr.Vsevolod, our future bishop, began to come here. Many parishioners joined the Church then, while others came later. Adults and children were baptized.
Alas, we do not have a resident priest here (and the parishioners can’t sponsor his life in here). Therefore, Divine services are held here four or five times a year. It was a great honor for me that the Church has entrusted me with the care of this parish.
You probably know that two church calendars coexist in Russia – the new (which is used by Christians all over the world) and the old (which is used by Eastern Christians). This gives me the opportunity to celebrate Christmas on December 25 in my parish in Tuim, and then on January 7 in Buryatia.
That is why I’m here now (and my daughter, as she asked to travel with me).
Before the Christmas Mass began, I conducted a catechism class, and after the Mass there was a wonderful meal, a lot of laughter and a cheerful atmosphere. I conveyed congratulations to everyone, and they thanked and asked me to greet our beloved Bishop Vsevolod and everyone whom I know.
So, greetings to all of you from remote Buryatia! When the quarantine is over, please come to us in Siberia, and we will go together to this cold and hospitable land!
We wish you a blessed time after Epiphany!
Please pray for the safe travel of the priests in Siberia.