Steadfast in faith, undaunted in prayer

LWF General Secretary Martin Junge visiting the congregation of Kamyschenka led by Pastor Rubin Sternberg (left). All photos: LWF/A. Weyermüller
LWF General Secretary Martin Junge visiting the congregation of Kamyschenka led by Pastor Rubin Sternberg (left). All photos: LWF/A. Weyermüller

A Portrait of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan

(LWI) - "When you meet for Sunday worship, remember: you are doing this along with 75 million other Christians on this earth who are also part of the Lutheran World Federation," LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge told the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Kazakhstan (ELCRK) during his visit from May 15 to 21. "Your steadfast faith is a great treasure for all of us.” The ELCRK is part of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) which has been a member of the LWF since 1989.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

In the “House of prayer” in Karaganda the old German Bible from 1821 still lies on the altar today.

The church currently has around 2,500 members, belonging to  about 50 congregations in the vastness of this ninth largest country in the world. "Most Lutheran congregations in Kazakhstan have their roots in about one million ethnic Germans who, under Stalin, were deported and oppressed here from 1939 onwards. They mainly came from Western Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Volga region," says Yuri Novgrorodov, Archbishop of the church. Gatherings of believers were strictly forbidden. Nevertheless, they secretly met underground, especially in private homes. It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the pressure on religious communities began to ease. In 1956 the congregation of Zelinograd (now Nur-Sultan) was the first Lutheran parish to be re-registered.

Your steadfast faith is a great treasure for all of us.
LWF General Secretary Martin Junge

During its visit, the LWF delegation was able to visit the three congregations of Kamyshenka, Karaganda and Nur-Sultan.

Kamyschenka is a small congregation with about 40 members in a rural agricultural area. It gathers in a former residential building that has been converted into a church and worship room.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

In Kamyschenka there are also several young people who take part in the congregation’s activities.

Karaganda was an important industrial and mining hub, but it experienced an economic decline in the 1990s. With around 500,000 inhabitants, it is one of the largest cities in the country. It had a large population of people of German descent, many of whom  also belonged to the Lutheran congregations of the region. As elsewhere, many left the country after Kazakhstan's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This led to a dramatic shrinking of the ELCRK.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

Meeting members of the congregation: LWF General Secretary Martin Junge (2nd from left) talks to 80-year-old Babuschka Valentina, who has been a member of the congregation since she was five years old.

The capital parish of Astana in Nur-Sultan is also the bishop's seat. "For the status of the ELCRK in our society it is very important that we have a recognizable church building – the Church of Christ the Redeemer was dedicated in 2017," explains Novgorodov. The adjoining center accommodates parish rooms and the ELCRK bishop's office. Here the church also offers training courses and seminars.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

The newly built Church of Christ the Redeemer in the capital Nur-Sultan is also easily accessible by public transport.

Driving out xenophobia with the message of peace and love

The LWF delegation took part in a pastors’ conference with ordained as well as lay staff of the church. A high-ranking guest of this meeting was the Kazakh Vice-Minister for Information and Social Development, Marat Azilkhanov. He expressed his appreciation for the Lutheran Church's contribution to peaceful coexistence in the country. "With your message of peace and love, you are driving out the evil spirit of xenophobia," he said.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

"Our wealth lies in our diversity – that is our advantage", says Marat Azilkhanov, Kazakh Vice-Minister for Information and Social Development (l.), at his meeting with LWF General Secretary Martin Junge (r.) and the ELCRK pastors’ conference.

"I am deeply impressed by your faithfulness and service to the church in Kazakhstan," said General Secretary Junge after the 20 or so participants had told him about their work in the various regions of the country. Some of them had travelled 1,500 kilometers to take part in the meeting.

The LWF emphasizes theological education and training, reflection on Lutheran identity and the promotion of young people, the General Secretary said, and he will also support and promote this concern in the ELCRK.

 LWF/A. Weyermüller

The pastors’ conference is made up of about 20 people who serve in the ELCRK.


LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge visited Kazakhstan from 15-21 May 2019 to meet with the LWF member church and local leaders in the country.

The ELCRK is part of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Russia and Other States (ELKRAS) which has been a member of the LWF since 1989.