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Reaching the Kazakhs: Looking ahead to new BPC study/mission trips

“Kazakhstan is wide open for the gospel right now." -- Dr. Hal Ostrander, chair of BPC's Division of Religion & Philosophy

Dr. Ostrander
Dr. Hal Ostrander, chair of BPC’s Division of Religion & Philosophy, gives an evening lecture about apologetics in the Russian Baptist Church in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Photo provided)


By Kelley M. Arnold

Interim Director of Marketing


MOUNT VERNON—The Chair of Brewton-Parker College’s Division of Religion & Philosophy has set his sights on another country in the former Soviet Union as the destination of his combined spring mission and study abroad trip: Kazakhstan.


Speaking about Christianity with a Russian gentleman
Dr. Hal Ostrander speaks to a Russian gentleman during a Q&A session following the evening service. (Photo provided)

Pronounced qazak’stan, this country does not have the same social and political restrictions as Belarus, namely because it is a growing democracy rather than a socialist republic and has a more open stance on religious freedom, said Dr. Hal Ostrander.


Dr. Ostrander began searching for a new venue for the Division’s unique learning and serving experience after feeling the tensions of the Belarusian government in last year’s trip. While nothing adverse happened during the trip, he doesn’t believe that it would be in the college’s best interest to return to this area in the near future.


“Belarus is getting a little scary,” said Dr. Ostrander. “It’s not likely we’ll be able to go back to Belarus. It’s really hard to get visas now.”


Kazakh shepherd
The old and the new converge in Kazakhstan. A Kazakh shepherd cares for his flock in front of new construction for a gas station. (Photo provided)

Therefore, Dr. Ostrander plans to team up with International Mission Board missionaries Don and Diane Combs and the Bible Institute in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana this spring. He visited the Combs in late May to lay the groundwork for his return with a handful of BPC students interested in experiencing a new culture and country as well as earning credit for courses in apologetics and, he hopes, a course in missions practicum. This would be a new course that he would like to begin this spring.


“Kazakhstan is wide open for the gospel right now,” said Dr. Ostrander. “(The Combs) are just getting their feet wet. They really want to use American students for ministry over there.”


While Dr. Ostrander was in Astana, he had the privilege of teaching a Sunday night youth class where 13 to 30 year old students asked questions about the Christian faith and how to defend it to their peers, as well as some thoughtful inquiries about Christian maturity. He also taught an apologetics session to preachers in the area. All of this was held at the Russian Baptist Church, the only Baptist church in the capital city, he said. He was also invited to a Memorial Day celebration at the U.S. Embassy where he met the U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, John Ordway.


City view of Astana, Kazakhstan
City view of Astana from a bridge over the River Ishim. (Photo provided)

Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world – and the largest landlocked country. It is located in both Europe and Central Asia. There are still traditional Nomadic Kazakhs living in the southern region of the country; however, most of the country is moving forward in a progressive and industrial economy. It was the last of the Soviet Republics to declare independence in 1991.


“The president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has a vision to make (the country) a true democracy,” said Dr. Ostrander. “A lot of the buildings are awesome. I had never seen anything like it. They are pro-democratic, pro-Western. Six of the top Fortune 10 companies are over there doing business. The Soviets didn’t realize what they had. They used the country primarily as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. Now the Kazakhs, themselves, are tapping into their resources – oil, gold and uranium.”


Baiterek Tower
Dr. Hal Ostrander stands in Baiterek, the “Tree of Life”, a tower in the center of Astana near the presidential palace. Dr. Ostrander puts his hand in the handprint of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazerbayev. The almost 500-ft. tower also houses a commemorative sculpture from the World Religious Leaders Summit with the signatures of the world’s religious leaders. (Photo provided)

Dr. Ostrander looks forward to the Spring 2009 trip and asks those who are interested in joining him to contact him by e-mail at The trip is open to BPC students, faculty and staff. He may even take several individuals from his church, as well. More information about the courses and cost will be available at a later date during the Fall 2008 semester.



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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM