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Brewton-Parker students earn college credit while serving in Kazakhstan

Speaking to Russian youth at Youth Conference in Astana, Kazakhstan
Caroline Hegerich, second from left, and Luis Gonzalez, third from left, talk to a Russian youth at an all-day youth conference called “Be On Fire” held at the only Baptist church in Astana, Kazakhstan.

By Kelley M. Arnold

Interim Director of Marketing

MOUNT VERNON – Imagine earning college credit while traveling to a foreign country.


Now, imagine serving the Lord and finding that your experience in the mission field translates to a grade in a college course.


Luis Gonzalez, Tree of Life
Luis Gonzalez, a sophomore Christian Studies major at Brewton-Parker College, puts his hand in the handprint of Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the top of the tower called Baiterek, the Tree of Life.

This is what the students who participated in Brewton-Parker College’s March 2009 trip to Kazakhstan experienced – as well as discovering another culture and a new place where God can work in their lives and in the lives of others.


As Luis Gonzalez, a Christian Studies sophomore from Alamo, Ga., puts it, “The Lord taught me a lot during my trip to Kazakhstan. One thing He gave me was a better perspective of the world. It was just amazing to see the Lord Jesus working in places that I, or many people, have never heard of. He really opened my eyes to see that He is truly the God of the nations. And, I don’t think I would have understood that completely if I didn’t go outside what I’ve known here in the U.S.”


This is the second year Dr. Hal Ostrander, chair of the Division of Religion and Philosophy at Brewton, has lead students to Kazakhstan as part of the college’s Missions Practicum, a three credit hour course.


Traveling to the city of Karaganda
Dachas at the base of a hill on the steppe as the BPC Team traveled to the city of Karaganda.

This year, Dr. Ostrander received an invitation from the director of the Bible League, the only institution for Christian education in the capital city of Astana, to teach to the Christians in the area. The four-member BPC team included Dr. Ostrander, BPC students Gonzalez and Caroline Hegerich and Tony Higgins, an adjunct professor at the college’s Norman Park extension center.


“There are nearly one million people in Astana, but only one Baptist Church,” said Don Combs, an International Missions Board missionary serving in Kazakhstan. “The BPC team helped push back barriers that separate people from a personal relationship with God through prayer walking key locations; interacting and sharing with over 30 English students; leading a Family seminar for a young church start; and learning about life for local believers by staying with them in their homes. Each and every day, this team rose to the challenge and touched numerous lives in the capital city of Astana and at a young church start in Karaganda.”


One of the events that made a lasting impression on the BPC team was a regional Youth Conference called “Be On Fire!” where about 220 young people from across the northern part of Kazakhstan participated in a two days of training, encouragement and fellowship.


Caroline Hegerich dances the two-step with two Kazakh youth and a missionary
Caroline Hegerich, sophomore Christian Studies major, dances the two-step with two Kazakh nationals and a missionary during an evening fellowship.

“We have so many activities here (in the United States) to learn about Christianity but they have so few opportunities. They all wanted to participate. I thought, ‘This is not America. They are hungry for the Word’,” said Hegerich, a sophomore majoring in Christian Studies. Hegerich lives in Mount Vernon, Ga., but was raised in England.


“I’ve found that it doesn’t matter what part of the world you go to,” Hegerich added. “When you find other Christians there is still a kinship in the spirit regardless of language barriers or race, and the same God who is working in me is working in them.”


“Kazakhstan is a land of contrasts, politically and religiously,” explains Dr. Ostrander. “As the most successful democracy to date spun off from the former Soviet republics, a unique kind of society has arrived on the scene over the last decade, led by a growing wealthy class that has taken its place alongside the still impoverished lower classes.


“Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Jews and other groups have so far coexisted peacefully while the evangelical Christian population makes up, at best, one percent o the nation’s peoples. Missionaries in Kazakhstan look at the incredible way in which God’s Spirit is now moving across China with tens of thousands coming to faith in Jesus Christ,” continues Dr. Ostrander.


Enjoying a meal with missionaries in Kazakhstan
Enjoying a delicious meal with missionaries to Astana, Kazakhstan, Don and Diane Combs. Pictured from left are Dr. Hal Ostrander, Caroline Hegerich, Don Combs, Dianne Combs and Luis Gonzalez.

“Their vision, hope and prayer are that His Spirit will continue moving westward to reach into the hearts of both Kazakhs and Russians alike with the claims of Christ. As his missionary servants, they’ve sown the seeds of the gospel faithfully, and now it’s just a matter of history, they believe, as to when a harvest of souls will be reaped. Brewton-Parker students need to get in on this!”


To learn more about the practicum, and to “get in” on the experience, contact Dr. Ostrander by calling 912-583-3116 or email He is preparing for a March 2010 trip to Odessa, Ukraine, and a May 2010 trip back to Astana, Kazakhstan, and hopes students will prayerfully consider this opportunity to reach out to the people of both nations while earning college credit at Brewton-Parker College.


Brewton-Parker College is the only accredited four-year Christian college in south Georgia. With its main campus located in Mount Vernon, the college also offers bachelor’s and associate’s degrees at its three external sites in Newnan, Norman Park and Liberty County.


More photos

inside the Baptist Church in Astana
A singing group performs at the youth conference “Be On Fire.
The largest mosque in Astana
The largest mosque in Astana, Kazakhstan.
a yurt
A colorful yurt, the tent-like homes of the one-time nomadic Kazakhs living on the steppes.
Tony Higgins
Tony Higgins, background left, speaks to a missionary while three Kazakh male youths pose for a quick photo.
Typical apartment dwelling in Astana
A typical apartment dwelling in the lower-class side of Astana.
At the bazaar
Caroline Hegerich poses with the lady who sold the BPC Team meat at the open bazaar. That day, the team had to gather all the food without help from missionaries for a true “immersion” experience. (Photos provided)



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Brewton-Parker College | Located on U.S. 280 at 201 David-Eliza Fountain Circle, P. O. Box 197, Mount Vernon, GA 30445
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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