Sunday, April 20, 2008

20 April 2008 - Ins and Outs in Kazakhstan

In the last two weeks we have been in and out doing humanitarian work as well as in and out of spring and winter!
This is Zhanagul Beckanbai. She is our Mongolian sister who comes to church each week. She moved here from Kostanai so that she would be able to attend church and enjoy the blessings of the gospel. There are no members in Kostanai.

This past month has been interesting; with the Wikles in Arizona for the birth of their baby, there have been just the three of us to church. She speaks Russian fairly well and speaks very little English; and of course, we know very little Russian! But the spirit is still the same! We sing in Russian and she talks in Russian but her prayers are in Mongolian and she reads from her Mongolian scriptures. We all enjoy of the spirit no matter what language! She is a wonderful addition to our group.

Everywhere you go in the older sections of town, we see the remnants of the Soviet era. These pipes are the two hot water systems. One is for heat, the other for domestic use.

They go up over the streets and up over the driveways. And yet the cold water is buried underground so that it won't freeze! There are two huge coal burning power plants that provide all of this hot water and also the electricity for the city of Astana.

We met with our friend, Kulnazira and Raigul Dukinova (lady on the far right), who is the Director of the Akmolian League of Large Families. Here organization helps families with 4 or more children under the age of 18 who are living below the nation's poverty level. They are currently helping more than1500 families and over 8,000 people. We delivered our second batch of hats, from Roy's mom and sister, to her and she was thrilled!

That same day, a father came in to pick up a wheelchair for his young son. Kamka wanted to have our picture taken with him receiving the wheelchair. He was very grateful. Our substitute translator, Zarina, is on the far right.

We visited Murat Abdymomynov, who is the Director of the Society of Young People with Limited Physical Abilities. He himself is blind and we are in the process of doing another project for him. He wanted us to try out the massage bed that was given to them by the Church to help the handicapped and others. We both tried it out and thought it would be great to have one in our apartment!!!! This handicapped young lady supervises the use of the machine.

The first main street north of our apartment is Kenesary Street named after Kenesary Kasymov, the Kazakh khan, who is a descendant of Ablay-khan, the leader of the liberation fight against the Russian tsars. Almost all of the streets are named after famous generals or poets and writers.

Here is Roy standing at the base of the statue of Kenesary along the river. (Notice no hat, no boots, no coat!)

This is taken at Kenesary's monument looking up the river toward our apartment behind the Radisson. It was actually warm enough that the mosquitoes were out!!

Four days later it snowed and blew all night and most of the next day!! Notice the 6 foot drift outside our apartment.

This is the front door. Notice how high the snow!! This is the biggest storm since we have been here in Kazakhstan! Of course when we got here, it was too cold to snow!!!

This is inside the door below the mailboxes! It has since warmed up a little and the snow is nearly gone but they tell us that it can happen through May and into June!!

We will be going to Bulgaria next week for a Humanitarian Conference with all of the couples in the East European Area. We may not get a post on the blog because we won't be back until Monday morning. But stay tuned.

Just a side note: Kenny and Michele's daughter, Taryn, will be having open heart surgery on April 28th, the day we get back. Please keep her in your prayers!! Thanks again for all of your love and support!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, April 13, 2008

13 April 2008 - The Presidential Museum in Kazakhstan

A few weeks ago, we were invited to go to the Presidential Cultural Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan with some university students that we are meeting with each week in our Englislh club. It is a beautiful building that houses the museum, the library, an art gallery and a concert hall.

The museum reflects the history of Kazakhstan since ancient times to the present day.

The Kazakh people were nomads who lived in yurts. A yurt is a round tent-like structure made out of camel or sheep felt. This is a regular size yurt for the family of average wealth. Someone who was rich would have a much larger yurt.

This is one of the beds inside the yurt. They have such beautiful tapestry and Kazakh rugs everywhere.

As you can see in this picture, they have beautiful chests decorated in silver and jewels in which they placed all of their goods. Notice the colorful rugs!

The beauty and the quality of their materials is astounding for such nomadic people. We were so impressed with their workmanship.

We had to take a picture of this horse because of the beautiful leather work and the silver and stone mountings on the saddle and the bridle! It was very impressive!

This is one of the many women's head-dresses that they wore. They were adorned with silver and jewels. The more important and wealthy you were the taller the head-dress was. The girls told us that the head-dresses had weights of silver down the back to help keep the head up straight. (If you ever bent over, I'm sure you couldn't get your head back up!!!) The women wore lots of silver jewelry that was beautifully made!

This is the statue of the "Golden Warrior". You see representations of him everywhere. He represents the ancestors of the Kazakh people. Two of these warrior statues were found near Almaty in some archeological excavations. They date back to the 7th century BC.

These are the girls that invited us to be with them at the museum. They told us so much about the history and culture of their Kazak people. They told us how their ancestors tried to keep the Kazakh tradition and language alive even when they were being oppressed by the Soviet Union. The Kazakh people have a great heritage and are trying to reestablish it.

The girls are Zhanara, Gaukhar, Bilimzhan, Anne, Zarina, and Manshuk.

Zarina is our substitute translator while Mira is in America. She is on the left. Bilimzhan was going to be, but she already has a part time job.

We have gotten close to all of the girls and would love to be able to bring them all home to live with us. They are wonderful and so sweet and kind! They all have studied English for 4 years at the university and want to further their education in the United States! They are all studying to be translators.

After going to the museum we have an even greater love for the Kazakh people. They have such a rich heritage!

This week we received word that our NRT equipment from Salt Lake has reached Almaty. Now we must get it through customs and safely here to Astana before we can go to our Humanitarian Conference in Bulgaria on the 22nd. Pray for us that all will be well! Clearing customs here in Kazakhstan can be a horrific nightmare!

Thanks again for all of the emails, love and support for us and our family. We feel those prayers every week! May the Lord bless all of you!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, April 6, 2008

6 April 2008 - To Almaty, Kazakhstan For Branch Conference

Three weeks ago we had the opportunity to go to the Branch Conference in Almaty. President Larry Gibbons, from the Area Presidency and his wife and President Cranney, our Mission President and his wife were there. President Cranney was particularly interested in meeting us. He had never met us but we do email him every other week to let him know that we are alive and still here!! After meeting us he told us that we must really like one another because we have to spend so much time alone together!!

It was so wonderful to be with them and the saints in Almaty! The branch is growing very fast! They have three missionaries out and were sending another one the week after we left. This is a branch of only eighty members but extremely spiritual and faithful!! President Gibbons said that President Pieper, the Area President, felt that the Almaty Branch held the key to spreading the gospel to all of central Asia. We feel the spirit of that Branch everytime we go there.

There are two sets of elders and one set of sister missionaries in Almaty. They have been registered to proselyte since January. They have to renew their visas, just like us, every three months; but it takes them three weeks to get registered to proselyte once they get there. They are so far away from the mission home which is Russia Moscow (3 time zones) that the President has to completely trust them to be on their own. The only supervision they have is the leadership couple, Craig and Pat Vincent.Craig Vincent is a former lawyer and a former member of the Seventy. He has been very influential in getting the missionaries registered to openly proselyte. He and his wife have also made several trips into Kirgystan and Tajikistan for the Area Presidency in hopes of doing missionary work and Humanitarian work in those two countries and to visit extremely isolated members. The infrastructure of both countries are imploding leaving the people in extremely poor circumstances (poor sanitation and utilities) and the government wants help. They also help us do humanitarian projects in Almaty.

While we were at the Branch Conference we also met Matt Sontag who works for the US Embassy in Uzbekistan. He has a wife and 5 children and they hold Sunday meetings by themselves in their home, because it is illegal for citizens of Uzbekistan to practice Christianity. But there are members there but they can't practice for fear of being turned in. That was a real eye-opener!!

At the close of our meetings on Sunday, President Cranney called everyone back into the chapel. He had 18 patriarchal blessings that were given by a traveling Patriarch from Jerusalem 6 weeks before. (He was giving blessing for three days.) You have never seen such excitement and emotion!! Some people took them and put them in their scriptures to read privately at home but others were even borrowing glasses to read them right then and there and the tears flowed!! Parents and teenagers both were getting their blessings!! It was a very emotional scene for everyone!! It is something we will never forget!

The interesting thing about all of this is that it has been noted that members from all of the ten tribes of Israel have been located either in Eastern Europe or Central Asia through patriarchal blessings!!We felt very blessed to be with the saints at their Branch Conference in Almaty!! We don't have to opportunity to be with that many members at one time.


Last week we told you that we would tell you more about the Duman that we visited. Located within the Duman is a large Oceanarium. It is the farthest inland aquarium in the world. Here we are in front of the Coral Reef, as you can read above our heads!

There were many tanks of very interesting and odd looking fish. This was one of the most beautiful.

Aren't these two sea horses adorable?

There was one extremely large area of glass tunnels where we walked and walked through the fish in their natural habitat. Here is one of the many sharks we saw!Here we are, Anne and Zirina, our substitute translator, inside one of the tunnels. Overhead is a large sting ray.

Anne and Roy inside the tunnel. Notice the large shark and sting ray in the background.

See the large stingray overhead!! They were the most interesting to watch!
There were several of these large fish swimming around!

This is at the exit at the Oceanarium in the Duman. We had a great time!

We hope you all got to enjoy conference. We got both morning sessions live on audio and we will listen to the afternoon sessions later on in the week. It was nice to join with the rest of the church in solemn assembly.

Thanks again for your love and support!!


Elder and Sister Welling