Sunday, May 25, 2008

25 May 2008 - Out and About in Astana, Kazakhstan

We had to do some shopping a week ago for a project for a handicapped society and while we were out we visited the Memorial to the Memory of the Political Repression Victims. It is a beautiful monument.In Kazakhstan, during the suppression by the USSR, hundreds of thousands of people were condemned for political reasons and over 25,000 people were shot. According to the estimations of 1927 to 1953 over 40 million people were repressed by the USSR.
Here are Mira and Roy at the base of the stairs leading up to the monument. It was a beautiful day and there were bus loads of children visiting the memorial. Tuesday and Thursday we visited the Museum of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan which is the building with the blue dome. This picture is taken in the "Tree of Life Park". The fountain is the central figure of the park. The figures around the fountain portray the myths of the Turkic people. It is affectionately called "The Lollipop Park". We walk through this park anytime we walk instead of riding the bus.

We wanted to take pictures of the inside of the Museum but were not allowed to. This is the former government office of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev. It was beautiful and Roy loved the inlaid wood floors. All of the doors were beautiful maple with quilted maple panels. Some of the walls had inlaid panels with birds-eye maple. The HUGE desk used by the heads of the government was mostly maple burl. The wood was absolutely outstanding and we have never seen such quality in this country.

The President's memorabilia and gifts from every nation were in there. We couldn't see all we wanted to see the first time so we went again. The second time we had one of Mira's classmates give us the tour in English. She was great and we will get a picture of her next time. We will probably go again! It was definitely worth it!!

This picture is taken in The Central Square near the Presidents Museum. It has beautiful fountains and their is a lot of entertainment that goes on here during each celebration. The panther at this end and the wolf (that you can't see) at the other end are symbols of their ancestry. We walk through this park several times a week.

Thursday was pretty eventful. After the Presidential Museum, we came back to our apartment and worked with Mira. She left at 4:00 and we got ready for the town meeting that was being held at the US Embassy for all American citizens. We were given the wrong information about the bus to take. After a half hour on the wrong bus, the ticket taker stopped another bus in the middle of the road and put us on it. As soon as it got as close to the Embassy as it was going, she put us off the bus and pointed the direction that we were to walk!!

After a hurried walk for 15 minutes, we finally called Gene Wikle, to see if we were getting close. Have we mentioned that we have no idea where we are at or which direction we are going?!! We met a young lady who spoke enough English to let us know that we were going in the right direction! By now, we are late for the 6:00 meeting! Finally after retracing our steps, Gene picked us up and hurried us to the Embassy!
We were 25 minutes late! Oh, well!

The meeting was informative about the impending legislation on restricting religious freedom in this country. We'll just watch and see what happens.

After the meeting, we walked another two and a half miles to the new government mall to catch a bus that we KNEW would get us home!

On the way to the mall, we crossed this large bridge that had these huge sculptors of rams on each side of the bridge. They really looked cool!! We had to take a picture.We also took this picture of the new Presidential Palace while we were crossing the bridge.

When we got to the mall, we waited for a bus that we knew would take us home, remember? When it came by, we got on. But it was going the wrong direction and it took us so far out of town, that we ended up at the airport! They wouldn't let us ride back, or they couldn't understand what we were trying to tell them, so we got off and took a taxi home! It took us almost two hours from the time we left the Embassy to get home, but that's just part of the adventure!! We were so tired, but glad to be home!!

But the best news, when we got home was that the NRT shipment had cleared customs!!!! Happy day!! We are picking it up on Monday.

Friday we visited two orphanages that we might do some projects for. One of the orphanages is strictly for the handicapped from ages 3 to 18. It was pretty emotional. We also went to the baby orphanage and I got to hold one of the babies!! She was so cute and I could have taken her home!! There are 34 of the babies in this orphanage that are handicapped and that was pretty hard to see.

Saturday we went to a Kazakh Benefit Concert which was put on by one of the NGO's that we are working with. They moved us to the front row because they said we were special guests! So we had great seats!!

This was the opening and closing act in the concert. They even have their own CD out! They were very good. Their group is called Bayterick.

This lady had three trained Dalmatian dogs that were fun to watch!

This is another of the many acts that performed. All of the singers sang in Kazakh. It was pretty cool!
But this act was incredible!! If you can figure out which head belongs to which body, you're better than we are!!

Here they are supporting their own body weight by their teeth!!They were amazing!! We had a wonderful time at the concert!

Elder and Sister Welling strolling home at the end of the day. Don't we look like a couple of tired, but fulfilled missionaries?!!

Thanks to all of you for your love and support of us and our family. We do miss you all but we are glad that we are here helping in the Lord's work. We love you all!


Elder and Sister Welling.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

18 May 2008 - Day Trip to Karaganda, Kazakhstan

We have been very busy this past week. Monday we picked up some documents for a project that had been approved by Moscow. We sent a wheelchair to Almaty and we got two packages from the Post Office, which is always a thrill!

Our big day was Tuesday. We left at 9:00 a.m., in a taxi, to Karaganda, which is south east from Astana and is about a 3 hour trip. Our Russian taxi driver, Sergai, was delightful and a very pleasant person. He took us where ever we needed to go and you can't believe some of the places we had to go!! We've seen mountain trails better than a couple of roads that we traveled on in Karaganda!!!
The drive down was very beautiful. We had to idea what to expect, never having been out of the city. There was still a little snow along the side of the road, in a place or two, but the farmers were out digging and planting. There were no mountains, just flat, beautiful country!! In the picture above, there were 4 tractors each pulling 4 six foot wide drills. When we passed by that evening they were still drilling the same field. The fields looked to be several thousand acres in size!!

On the way to Karaganda, we stopped in Osacaravka, where we had an appointment with some government officials and a lady who was the Director of the Handicapped Society. Osacaravka is a village with small homes and grass lined streets.

This is the old building where the government offices are located. Mira, Valentina who is the Director of Labor and Social Protection and Anne are in the picture. It is amazing to us the conditions many of these people work under!! They were very kind and thoughtful and fed us breakfast of fruit, juice, bread, cheese, salami and dried apricots and raisins. They were very interested in our religion and we briefly explained some of our beliefs. They would like us to help with some rehabilitation equipment for a room which they hope to get built by the end of the year. They want us to meet their families and fix us a home cooked meal next time we come!! We told them we would love to! They are wonderful people and we hope to be able to do something to help them in the future.

This is a picture of Temertau which means "Iron Mountain". This city is located between Osacaravka and Karaganda. It has many steel mills and an abundance of coal and iron.

Karaganda is the second largest city in the nation. It is much older and more run down. During the II World War, they housed many of the USSR's Japanese prisoners of war. Also many political prisoners of the Soviet Union were sent here in past years also.

This is the office building of the NGO, Alexander Ivkin, who received 500 wheelchairs back in February and we are here for the presentation of the clothing container that he just received from Salt Lake.

This is the room where all of the clothes were located. Much of the clothing has already been distributed to other villages outside of Karaganda. They have had over 100 people that they have given clothes to here in Karaganda.

This is Alexander Ivkin. He is a wonderful man and does so much for the handicapped people in Karaganda. This is one of the women that work for him. She told us that she was a Para-Olympic weight lifting champion. As you can see, the whole room is filled with clothes!

This lady is trying on one of the coats that was sent. We found out that she is a Para-Olympic champion in wheelchair racing.

This lady looks like she found the coat that just fits! These people were so grateful for the clothing that they received!

Anne found a jacket from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake. We thought that was pretty cool!

After the presentation we were taken to a Handicapped Children's Hospital which was a very interesting. We saw children who had all kinds of physical handicaps. The facility was very clean and well staffed but lacked so much in the area of modern equipment and technology. Mira and I had a tough time!!

We went from there to a Handicapped Day Care Center for children from 3 years to 18 years old. It houses 75 children who come and go. It was very, very nice and one of the best well kept buildings that we have seen. Tatayana, who is the director, is an advocate for the rights of handicapped in Karaganda. She works closely with Alexander. She would like us to help with rehabilitation equipment for the hospital in the future. Both the hospital and the day care center received wheelchairs from the project in February as well as the village, Osacaravka, who received 35 of them.

It was 9:00 in the evening when we returned home. It was a long day but a wonderful day.

Spring has sprung in Astana!! This was taken in the park the day after we got back from Karaganda.

We also found out that another one of our projects has been approved and we spent the rest of the week working on invoices for it. It's been a great week and we are very busy.

As a side note, we still haven't got the NRT equipment through customs and it has been nearly 6 weeks. But the letter has been received from the Director of the Ministry of Health so we should be able to get it some time this week. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thanks again for your love and support and prayers in our behalf. There is never a time when we don't feel them!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, May 11, 2008

11 May 2008 - Celebrations !! Kazakh Style

The last couple of weeks we have been enjoying two of Kazakhstan's holidays. May 1st was "Unity Day of the People of Kazakhstan" and it lasted three days. In the square, in front of the Akimat (Mayor's Office), was a huge stage where people from every country, that are living here, performed their native songs and dances. These are a group of Kazakh children, in traditional dress, playing the national instrument called a dombra.

These children are playing the Kobyz, which is another instrument native to the Kazakh culture. They played several numbers and the music was great!

Along both sides of the square were yurts and open booths set up with displays and food and artwork for sale. These are some of the pictures that were in one yurt.

We had a great time walking around and enjoying the culture of the people.

Victory Day for World War II was celebrated on May 9th. We were invited to a concert on Thursday in Congress Hall. It is a beautiful auditorium, and we felt very privileged to be there.

They had young men dressed up in World War II uniforms and Mira made Roy sit down and have his picture taken with them. He looks like one of they guys, suit and all, don't you think!!

Here we are with two young men in current military dress uniforms.

In this nation, the President honors women with large families. These women are wearing their medals for having more than 10 children. I thought they were so cute that I had to take their picture!

Mira and Anne in front of Congress Hall after the concert. It was a very patriotic and inspiring program and they honored all of the World War II veterans. Famous people from all over Kazakhstan were there to perform World War II songs. We were so glad that we were able to go.

On the morning of the 9th of May, which is Victory Day, we went with Gene Wikle, Mira, our translator, and Kulnazira to see President Nazarbayev lay a wreath at this monument to the "Participation of the Kazakhstani people in the Great Patriotic War" (World War II). The United States embassy along with other embassies were also represented at this event.

Here we are with Kulnazira, an NGO director that we are working with, Anne, Roy and Gene Wikle.

Kulnazira, Anne, Mira and Gene with the monument in the background.

These are the flags of Kazakhstan (blue) and the city of Astana.

This is the military performing in honor of the fallen dead at this historical monument. It was very impressive. Gene gave us a history lesson while we stood an waited. He explained some of the military practices.

This week we are planning on getting the NRT equipment through customs! It has been 4 weeks since it has arrived in Kazakhstan!! It is trying our patience, to say the least. We have people working on it, but it seems to take forever!

We are also leaving Tuesday to go to Karaganda for a presentation of a container of clothing which was sent from Salt Lake. We will be meeting with another NGO in Osakaravka on the way there. We haven't been on a day trip out of the city yet, so it should be quite adventure!!

We are doing great and are enjoying this experience. The Lord is blessing us all the time and we feel that we are here to do His work. We love you all. Thanks for the love and support.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, May 4, 2008

4 May 2008 - Humanitarian Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria

On the 22nd of April, we left to attend the Europe East Area Humanitarian Conference held in Sofia, Bulgaria. We traveled from Astana to Amaty, then Almaty to Frankfurt, Germany and from there to Sofia. We arrived Wednesday afternoon on the 23rd. It was so exciting to meet all of the couples and learn where they are serving their missions.
We stayed at this very nice hotel on an extremely narrow street and in a very old part of the city. It was very nice and they treated us royally. We had good food and good company. What could be better!

This is taken from the window of our room. The building down the street is a school. You can see that the streets are very narrow. Notice how old all of the buildings are. The only new buildings we saw were the hotel we stayed in, the museum and the airport. Bulgaria is a very old city!
This is a beautiful, modern government building. It is across the street from the Parliament building.
This is the Parliament building and we were able to see the changing of the guard. It happens every hour on the hour.
This is the oldest surviving structure in the city which still serves it's original purpose. This is the Rotunda of the Church of St. George. It was built by the Romans in the 4th century. It was built on the ruins of a previous civilization that you can see in the foreground. These ruins existed at the time of Christ.
The church was named for St. George. For you that are familiar with children's literature, this is the St. George of St George and the Dragon.
These are the ruins they have unearthed in front of the Church of St. George. This were evidently cooking ovens. We walked among the ruins.The conference was presided over by President Pieper. Here we are with him and his lovely wife. President Pieper and his family and another American family were the first members of the church in Kazakhstan. Because of their efforts, the church got it's start in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

During one of his talks, he told us that serving a mission in the States was a "convenience" but serving in the Europe East Area was an "adventure". He told us that miracles would happen in our families because of our service. He also said that we need to have patience and that the Church in this area would move forward on the Lord's time table and not ours.This is Jerry and Sue Ann Capener, Roy's cousin and our former dentist! They have been serving in Belarus since July. It was so good to see them!

These are two of the couples that we were in the MTC with. We enjoyed seeing them again. Richard and Joanne Loosli (back), Country Directors in Istanbul, Turkey and Paul and Lois Fifield, serving in Izmir, Turkey. We have become good friends.

We also met couples serving in the countries of Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, and all 7 Russian Missions, including Novosibirsk, Moscow West, St. Petersburg, Samara, Yekateringburg, Vladivostok and Moscow. And yours truly, serving in Kazakhstan!

It was interesting to hear about each mission and the things that they are doing. We learned a great deal and gleaned a lot from each other's experiences. There are other countries that are experiencing greater challenges than we are and we feel grateful to be serving where we are.

Friday afternoon we went on an excursion to the Bulgarian Museum of History. It was extremely interesting and educational. The reason that we all wanted to go was to see the "Gold Plates".
You may have seen these. The information has been circulating on the internet. These are 6 bound sheets of 24 karat gold plates that are 2 and 1/2 millennia old. They were discovered 60 years ago in a tomb in south-western Bulgaria. These are the only known gold plates bound together into a book. They just help prove the reality of the Book of Mormon!
This is the Alexander Nevski Memorial Church. It was built in honor of the large number of Russian casualties during Bulgaria's War of Liberation of 1877-1878. Craftsman and artists worked for thirty years to create this enormous church, where nearly 300 mural paintings and decorative finishes in marble, onyx, alabaster and gold can be admired.

This is the front door of the church. We went in, but it was the weekend of the Orthodox Easter and it was full of worshipers so we couldn't take any pictures. But it was beautiful inside.

These are some of the Humanitarian couples we got to know. We had a wonderful time and a trip we will never forget. It's great serving in the Europe East Area!

We left on Sunday morning early and got back to Astana on Monday morning and spent the rest of the week catching up and following Taryn's heart surgery and recovery. Her surgery has truly been a miracle as has her recovery!! We are so grateful for all of your faith and prayers in her behalf! She came home on Saturday, five days after her surgery!! If you haven't been following her surgery, and would like to know what happened, go to

Thanks again for the wonderful support. We couldn't do it without all of you!!


Elder and Sister Welling