You may have heard me tell the story of the emerging indigenous worship of the Sakha people of Siberia. This story was a catalyst in helping me to think more about global worship and my potential part in HSI’s ministry. In sharing the story, I tell how a people who once had few followers of Christ were encouraged to use their own art forms to worship Him, and how a fellowship of Christian artists was formed, followed by events like music festivals, and eventually the planting of a church that was entirely Sakha in its singing, dancing, preaching and praying. Below is a video which shows one of the songs from the 2007 Sakha New Song Festival. The story behind the festival is amazing (from HSI’s youtube channel):
“This song festival was the first of its kind in the history of Yakutia. Never before have Sakha Christian believers gathered from various regions of Yakutia to celebrate their love of Christ by performing newly written, culturally appropriate music. It was a powerful witness to the many non-Christians present that Jesus loves the Sakha people and that it’s not necessary to use foreign cultural forms to celebrate one’s faith.
The festival was an enormous challenge for Algys, the Sakha arts fellowship. First, Sakha Christian musicians had to be contacted all over Yakutia, a province the size of India, inviting them to Yakutsk for the festival. 2000 invitations were handed out by members of the four evangelical churches in Yakutsk and a 700 seat hall was rented. Banners were created, and the Algys team dealt with the logistics of finding housing for 40 guests coming to Yakutsk for the festival.
With less than 48 hours to go, Russian government representatives contacted the hall director and forbade him to host the concert. It didn’t matter that Algys had a signed contract and the hall’s rental was fully paid. Suddenly, Algys had to scramble to find somewhere else to hold the event.
The organizing team quickly decided to move the event to their own church building, the only place in Yakutsk safe from further surprises, but with seating for only 120 people. Considering that the church has about 70 Sakha believers and there were another 40 out-of-town people coming to sing, they alone would have filled the church! Local Sakha Christians were asked to escort their guests to the church and then go home in order to make room for the huge number of non-Christians who would come and listen.
The audience packed the church to bursting with over 150 people seated and standing; many others were barely able to hear in the cramped foyer. Performers lined up outside in 15 degrees below zero waiting to sing. Despite all that, people were fascinated to hear Christian themes in the Sakha language and musical style. Many declared they want this festival again next year.”