From Propagandist to Pastor

Temir and Nina Tedekbayev are translators at the Almaty Bible Institute (ABI). On a recent visit to Kazakhstan they shared their testimonies with a teacher from SGA.

Nina’s grandfather was a priest in the Orthodox Church. Forced to recant his belief in God in the 1930s, the family spent a very cold winter in a cattle-shed where one of his children died. Nina remembers being given an icon by her grandmother but asking, ‘Why should I pray for blessing to a baby?’ No one could answer her satisfactorily, but her search for the living God had started.

Temir worked for the Kazakh Friendship Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries – a career that provided a very good living. It was part of the Soviet propaganda machine and it was necessary to belong to the communist party. Tamir and Nina accepted communist ideology without thinking too deeply about it. They were permitted to travel abroad despite the Soviet restrictions at the time and spent several years working in Zambia.

Nina was one of the first Kazakhs known to turn to Christ.

In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, and they decided to return to the newly independent Kazakhstan. Temir started working for a joint Kazak–America venture which he later discovered was a Christian missionary organisation. He organised cultural visits to Kazakhstan for businessmen from the USA. On the surface this looked like a business relations programme but in reality, it was a vehicle for spreading the Gospel. He also organised English speaking clubs for young people. Their eldest daughter attended one of these clubs and accepted Christ as Saviour. Nina was also involved and translated for a women’s Bible study group where she heard the Gospel for the first time.

It was a difficult time in Kazakhstan. Food was in short supply and the stores were empty. Nina bought bread from a man called the ‘watchman’. One day a British missionary challenged her because the bread was stolen. Nina was bitter and argued, ‘It’s easy to be righteous living in Britain. Try to be so good when you live in Kazakhstan!’ However, the Lord was working in her heart and making her aware that she was a sinner.

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After three years of hosting and working with missionaries, Tamar and Nina accepted Christ. ‘These missionaries were a good example to us of a different type of relationship.’ They were baptised in 1994 in a lake near Almaty. Nina was one of the first Kazakhs known to turn to Christ.

At first, they met with other Christians in homes, but later they were invited to a church in Kaskelen – a small rural Russian speaking Baptist church. As the only musician Tamir led the worship. In 2010, when the church pastor moved on, Temir took responsibility for running the church. He is now the pastor.

When the leaders at ABI heard of their language skills they invited Temir and Nina to translate at the Bible Institute. However, this service has its rewards. As they translate they also learn and the lessons provide the theological education that they never had.