The Balkar of Southern Russia
There are approximately 80,000 Balkars living within the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. The Balkars were one of five North Caucasus nations deported through Stalin’s policies of ethnic cleansing from 1944-1957, which displaced the entire nation to various Central Asian locales. Their homes were inhabited by others, primarily the Karbardinians and Russians; many villages were burned or destroyed. When the Balkars were allowed to return to their homeland in 1957, they were without homes and livelihood. The scar of the deportation is deep and still strongly felt by the people. This history makes them distinct from most of their neighbors who suffered under Communism but were not deported.
Today, there are about 40 baptized believers among the 80,000 Balkars, with a church, a Balkar pastor, and most of the Bible translated into the Balkar language. The first Balkar came to faith in Christ in 1959; the second in 1989; the third, now the pastor, in 1992. This timeline demonstrates the time that has occurred to penetrate the wall of Islam! The vision of the Balkar pastor has been to reach his nation for the Gospel, and he has been innovative in creating outreach through Balkar children’s camp; visitation in the villages, which have distributed Jesus videos, praise CDs, Scriptures and calendars, all in the Balkar language; a jail ministry; English classes for the community; and a ministry in a rehabilitation center among drug addicts.
In 2008, an individual from the church felt God’s direction toward Muslims. Four months prior to this ‘vision’ of the lay person, the Senior Pastor had a ‘chance’ meeting with the Rector of the North Caucasus Bible Institute (NCBI), a Bible-training school for bi-vocational pastors in the North Caucasus region of Southern Russia. The Rector was on a flight to America, and during his visit, came to visit with the Senior Pastor, and also met the lay person. The potential connection of the NCBI and a MUPG surfaced as a possibility as the students/trainees of the NCBI were from the heart of the 50-‘nation’/5 million population Muslim territory of Russia.
The Balkars are embedded in the hearts of this church, and individuals have made commitments beyond the scope of the initial partnership agreement to assist with specific projects for the NCBI and the Balkar Church. Rainbow Forest Baptist Church also sponsored the Balkar pastor and NCBI Rector to America to assist in spreading information about the Balkar/NCBI ministry and raising money for the national pastors to attend NCBI.
A book about the Balkar and their incredible story of deportation has been written by Karen Baker, former RFBC member. For more information, contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.