Ob Mission (Siberia, Russia)
Ob Mission, a Mennonite mission along the Ob River in Siberia, Russia, opened by the Mennonites when World War I and the Russian Revolution cut them off from their work in foreign fields. As early as 1889 F. W. Baedeker and J. G. Kargel, well-known leaders of the evangelical movement in Russia, preached in the prisons of Siberia. Here, in the Omsk district on the Ob River, they especially noticed the native Ostyaks (Khants), who lived under conditions similar to those of the Eskimos. During the Russo-Japanese War Karl Benzien, a German Baptist and associated with Mennonite Brethren of Chortitza, engaged in evangelistic work and distribution of Bibles in this area, and during these five years among the German and Russian population he became acquainted with the Ostyaks. Upon his return to European Russia he advocated the cause of missions among them, especially in the Mennonite circles.
In 1918, during the Revolution, a group consisting of Johann Peters, his wife, his sister Helena, and Johann Kehler, all Mennonites, and Paul Beer and his wife, undertook the trip to Northern Siberia to begin mission work. They had no special preparation or any idea where they would find a field of labor nor any congregational backing. They settled on the territory along the Ob River from Tomsk to Narym, up to Khante Mansiysk, where the Irtish River joins the Ob. They first contacted all evangelical Christians, usually Baptists, who had migrated or had been banished to this place. The natives of the territory were, besides the Ostyaks (Khants), the Voguls (Mans) and further north the Samoyeds (Nents). Small outposts were established from which the missionaries undertook preaching trips. Johann Peters and his group worked for five years around Narym. Karl Benzien and Johann Peters undertook a trip to the Mennonite settlements in Siberia to create interest in their work. In 1924 they were joined by six families and a few individuals. More stations were opened, some as far north as Obdorsk, covering at times an area extending some 750 miles (1200 km) north and south. In 1925 Johann Peters returned to his home settlement in Orenburg and also reported to the Mennonite General Conference (Bundeskonferenz) in Moscow, on the success in the work and the need for more workers and support. Enthusiastically he wrote in 1926: "Brethren, for nine years we have now had religious freedom in our country. Why do so many go to America and so very few come to the northern mission field where we can proclaim the Gospel without interference?" As a result interest in this work increased. Reports were published in Unser Blatt, contributions were made, and new workers arrived. Some of the workers preached in Russian, while others learned the native tongues of the various tribes. Special interest was shown by the Mennonites, especially the Mennonite Brethren, of the settlements in Siberia, Samara, and Orenburg, some of whose leaders even visited the mission stations.
A complete history of the efforts of Mennonites and other evangelical Christians to bring the Gospel to the exiled and imprisoned Russians and the natives of this area has not been written, nor is it known how long this work was continued.
Unser Blatt I: 24, 216, 242, 309; II: 271, 374; III: 16, 188.
Kargel, J. G. Zwischen den Enden der Erde. Wernigerode,1928.
Latimer, R. S. Ein Bote des Königs, Dr. F. W. Baedeker's Leben und Wirken. Vol. 4: 8-9.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 8-9. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Krahn, Cornelius. "Ob Mission (Siberia, Russia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O359.html.
APA style: Krahn, Cornelius. (1957). Ob Mission (Siberia, Russia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/O359.html.