Sunday, June 29, 2008

29 June 2008 - Here and There in Kazakhstan

This last week we needed to take a trip to Almaty to meet with Svetlana Rahimzhanova to get everything finalized for the Neo-natal Resuscitation Training that will be here in a couple of weeks. Svetlana is our visa clerk for all of the missionaries in Kazakhstan and is also the translator for the NRT Team. She is the one who knows all the ins and outs of this program and we literally couldn't do this without her!! She translates for the doctors and knows the medical terms. When they needed another translator in Turkey for the NRT in June, they flew her from Almaty to Ankara, to help with the training. She is invaluable and we just love her because she is a fun person to work with and she is also a member of the church!!
On Monday, after our flight, Sveta took us to meet with PhD Professor Dr. Tamara Chuvakova, who is 70 years old and head of all the Neonatal training for all of Kazakhstan, to plan another NRT for next year. She and her assistants, Dr. Zarina Beisembayeva and Dr. Aliya Aubakirova were excited to think that we were already planning for next year when we haven't even done the one for this year yet!! They are very gracious and wonderful people and we are excited to work with them.

We also met with Elder and Sister Vincent, who are the leadership couple in Almaty. They are doing some humanitarian work in Krgystan and trying to get the Church registered in that country. We had a wonderful dinner with them and Gary Despain, who flies for Air Astana, and is from Mendon, Utah. It wonderful to visit with other members of the church! We miss that!!

On Tuesday, Sveta took us to her home where we finalized our plans for the NRT. Her mom, Galina, made us Russian pancakes (crepes) which were delicious! We had a wonderful time visiting with the two of them. They are very special people!! The next time we come, her mom wants to teach us how to make "bauyrsak" which is fried bread and is really delicious!

The missionaries invited us to their English Club on Tuesday night. It was good to see them again. They always want to know if we are staying for church and tell us that we need to come more often. They have 3 classes of English going on and they have quite a group of people. We met some of them and they wanted to know why we would leave the United States and our families to come to Kazakhstan. We tell them what we are doing and they can't thank us enough. We said goodbye to two of the missionaries that are being transferred. One of the young missionaries is from Taylorsville, Utah and has 3 months left. He said that serving in Kazakhstan, has been the best part of his mission.

On Wednesday, Sveta took us to the Church building in Almaty. We had to to get some more literature to give to the government officials in Astana. We have to give them literature each time that we get our visas renewed.Notice the chapel is on the ground floor with apartments above it. All apartment buildings have businesses or stores on the ground floor. The building is small but beautiful and is adequate for the 80 members of the branch.

We went shopping with Sveta at the Barholka where we picked up a few souvenirs and then took our favorite visa clerk to dinner before going to the airport. What a great time we had!!

A couple of weeks ago we attended the ballet here in Astana. The tickets were $4, which is cheaper than a pound of butter! What a deal!!

This is the ballet and opera house in Astana. They are doing some remodeling on the outside right now but the inside is beautiful.
Anne and Mira inside the lobby of the Ballet and Opera House.
We had a wonderful time at the ballet and will be going to "Othello," the opera on the 30th of June. We are getting in some culture while we are here!!
This is a picture of the US Embassy. It is the largest foreign embassy in Astana. Our nation was the first to recognize Kazakhstan's independence. We go to the embassy every three months to get a notarized copy of our passports so we don't have to carry them with us everywhere we go.The other day as we were walking home from the Ramstore, we saw this Stop sign and were taken back because it is nothing like the small, rectangular, white and black stop signs that you see in this country. So we had to take a picture of this American stop sign!! The funny thing is, these 3 young men, who spoke a little English, tried to tell us what it meant!! We laughed all the way home!

Another sign of how Americanized this city is becoming is this picture of the Mega Mall where we do our shopping if we want American food. Ramstore is the name of the grocery store you see in orange letters. (In Russian, P says R!) They even have a Baskin-Robbins store.
Besides Coke and Pepsi, we even have Red Bull!! Somehow, people are the same in every country!

We even saw this skate boarding competition in the park next to the Red Bull car! Events like this will be happening all this week to celebrate the city of Astana's 10th birthday as the nation's capital.

This week we will be attending some of those events and will put them on the blog for next week. We are also getting ready for the NRT which will be in 2 weeks!! We hope everything goes on schedule, but we're not really planning on it!

We love and appreciate all of you and your support!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, June 22, 2008

22 June 2008 - A Visit to the Pyramid of Peace in Astana, Kazakhstan

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Pyramid of Peace, a magnificent building set on a hill with nothing but gardens all around it. It is fairly new and is directly behind the President's Palace at the other end of the government Mall. According to our guide, the height of the building is as tall as the length of one side of it's base. There are three stories underground, which is where the theater is and five levels that the elevator goes to and then a two or three story climb from there. This is a picture of the Pyramid taken from the entrance. It is quite a beautiful sight to see!!
The ground floor and lobby are all done in black marble and is quite dark. It was elegant buy very dimly lit. It would have prettier if there had been more light.

After seeing the theater on the ground floor, we walked up two flights of stairs into this big open room. It covers the entire floor and is the center of the pyramid. We are standing on the raised dome in the floor. There are art displays in the corners of the room. This dome is the center of the ceiling of the lobby.
We then took the elevator, which goes sideways, up to the 5th foor. From there, on up to the next floor, is a beautiful indoor garden with all kinds of different plants and the temperature always stays the same.
This is the garden which is planted around the walls of the building from here to the next level. It is so beautiful with the sun shinning in from the top of the pyramid!!
This picture is taken from the garden looking down at the dome. It was pretty scary taking this picture, but it looks cool! You can see people down on the dome where we were standing earlier.

On the top floor is this round table which has a whole in the center that you can see clear to the dome where we were standing earlier, many levels below. This is where the World Council of Churches met. Every window in the building is diamond shaped and those on the lower levels are bigger than these at the top.

Most of the windows have these beautiful white doves etched on them. Every dove is unique and is in a different position of flight. You can see the Presidents Palace in the background.
There are 130 doves representing the 130 nationalities that live peacefully in the country of Kazakhstan. This was actually one of the most beautiful features of the pyramid.
We had a wonderful tour of the building. Here we are leaving the Pyramid of Peace.
This monument is in front of the Pyramid. The four ladies at the top of the statue are holding up the four poles that cross at the top of the yurt signifying unity and strength.

Here are Mira and Anne on the grounds of the Pyramid of Peace. They are still doing a lot of landscaping. And from there to the President's Palace will be nothing but beautiful gardens of trees and flowers and shrubs. It is amazing to see all of the work they are doing on it.

Just to let you know, we did get our visa work finished and we can stay for another three months and then we get to do it again in September!! With them in hand, we hurried to the train station to purchase tickets for the NRT team and us for Kostanai. We felt good because we were a month early only to find that all of the tickets were gone!! So Plan B, we are now flying to Kostanai and shipping the equipment by train a week early and putting our trust in the Lord that it will get there safely. Never a dull moment here!! They told us things would get crazy about 3 weeks before the training and we are finding that to be true!!

It is getting hot here, but we are afraid to complain because we have felt the alternative! We are doing great and love what we are doing. We have another project approved for a handicapped orphanage which we are pretty excited about! And we are continually working on the paper work for the projects that are in progress. So we are keeping busy. We hope all of you are doing well.

We love and appreciate all of you so much. It's the prayers of family and friends that keep us going. The gospel is true and we hope that someday these people here in Astana will be able to hear about it!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, June 15, 2008

15 June 2008 - More of the Same in Astana, Kazakhstan

This week we attended a closing presentation of a project we did for Murat, a man who heads an organization for handicapped adults. He is blind and is trying to convince the government that laptops are easier for the blind to use and cost less than regular computers with special braille keyboards and equipment that the government now furnishes for them at a cost of $22,000 compared to the cost of a laptop. This is Murat showing us his new laptop computer, provided by the Church, and how he uses it.Aigul, Murat's wife, is showing Roy one of the programs on the laptop that help the blind.Murat Abdumominov and his wife, Aigul, and Roy and Anne. They are such wonderful people and he does so much for handicapped individuals in his organization. We enjoy working with both of them. They have two adorable children.

We wanted to show you some more pictures of the Mosque and the Bayterek.
The mosque is really quite a beautiful sight!!

Women must have their heads covered or wear a robe with a hood. Mira and Anne inside the mosque. (I know it looks like I have 30 lbs on my hip, but actually, its just my purse!)

This picture was quite unique, so we had to share it with you. There is a half moon on top of every mosque that we have seen and we haven't found out the meaning of it yet; but we'll let you know when we do!!

Here we are at the end of the Mall with the Bayterek in the background.
In 2002 and 2006 the World Conference of Religions met in Kazakhstan. The leaders of the world's 17 traditional religions attended. The names of the religions are on this monument as the rays from the world. This monument in at the top of the Bayterek.

These are the words at the top of the monument above the world.

This picture is taken of the President's Palace from the top of the Bayterek. You can see the Pyramid behind the Palace.
Here we are relaxing at the top before we take the long walk back down the mall. You can see the Kaz Gas Company building at the far end of the mall. It was a fun day!

An interesting sight in Kazakhstan is the large fleet of water trucks that water all the flowers and trees and lawns in the public parks and along the streets. There are no sprinkling systems that we have seen, only these trucks that come around every two or three days. We caught this one on the government mall.

Here is another water truck out our front door watering not only the park but the kids as well!! Kids are the same in every country!

This week we hope to get our visa prolongation finished so that we can purchase our train tickets for Kostanai for the NRT. We also need to get the printing done for the NRT this week. We still need your prayers that there won't be any major problems and that everything will go well for the NRT.

The Mazhillis (Kazakh Parliament) is debating the bill on religious restrictions this month. We are not out of the woods yet. Many of you have asked what you can do to help us over here. Pray for the leaders of this and all nations that their hearts will be softened and they will continue to allow religious freedom.

Thanks so much. WE love you all!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, June 8, 2008

8 June 2008 - WE08KAZ002 and WE07KAZ005 and Children's Celebrations in Astana, Kazakhstan

Those numbers may not mean anything to you, but they are what we deal with on a daily basis. Every project has it's unique set of numbers. Last week we attended those two project closings. The first one was for a printing shop for the handicapped. The Church purchased a copier, printer, and laminating and binding materials for this group. This shop will be completely run by the handicapped. It will give them some employment and make them more self-reliant. This young man is deaf and dumb and is in charge of the shop. Anne is standing in front of the copier machine that was purchased by the Church. They will also use the shop to print informational material to educate the handicapped on their rights and government assistance. These are our friends who attended the closing presentation: Ramazon, Kamka's husband; Rosa, a good friend who works with Kamka; Ramazon and Kamka's son, a handicapped young man who is in charge of the shop; and Kamka and Kulnazira, who requested the project.
Kamka's organization was given the basement of an apartment building on the other side of town by the government. They have dug it down deep enough to make rooms for the handicapped classes and training areas and exercise rooms with equipment and this is where the printing shop is now, too.
You can see their is a lot more work to be done to finish off the rest of the basement. It will be nice when they get it all done! Kamka has now been given space on the ground floor of a building near this one so that those with physical handicaps have easier access.While we were there, these young deaf students came with their teacher and were having a class in sign language. They were embarrassed that we took pictures of them but they were very nice and cordial to us. It was a very nice day that we spent with all of them.

We also went to a Handicapped Children's Hospital to take pictures and do a final report for one of last year's project. They were given rehabilitation equipment that helps children with large and small muscle skills.

They have been using this equipment for nearly a year now and have had great success. This is one of the items that the Church purchased for the hospital. This little girl has paralysis on the right side of her body. She is encouraged to only use her right hand so that it can become as strong as the left.
This boy is nearly 10 years old. A year ago he couldn't sit or stack these rings. But with the help of this chair, that was purchased by the Church, he is making great progress and is able to sit and stack the rings. He is an adorable child with an infectious smile.
This little girl couldn't walk even with the aid of the walker; but now she is walking across the room. The therapist was so grateful for our help with the equipment. She works tirelessly every day in helping these children. She also teaches the mothers so that they can do these same exercises at home. It was wonderful to meet with her and feel her expressions of gratitude toward the Church for the equipment!
Last weekend was Children's Protection Day and we attended several celebrations with handicapped groups. They even asked Roy to say a few words at a couple of the events.
Here he is saying a few words and Mira is translating for him. Ludmilla, on the left, has a day care center for handicapped children and she is the one that invited us.
This little girl is playing the Kobyz. It looks somewhat like a violin but is played like a cello.
This child is playing the Dombra, which is the Kazakh national instrument. Both girls did a great job!

This wonderful lady works with Kamka. She is physically handicapped but does pretty well getting around. She has been so kind to us that we wanted our picture taken with her.

And of course, after every celebration they feed everyone! They are just like Mormons, they eat at every event!! We had a wonderful time at each one!

Saturday night we were invited to a concert which had some wonderful talent!! We were so impressed with all of the singers and dancers and most of them were young people!

This is a singing group of 3 and 4 year old children and they were absolutely adorable!! And could they ever sing!!

This little girl made her singing debut at the concert. She is 2 1/2 years old and sang so well. This man was a professional and he was the star of the show and sang with her. She was the hit of the concert!

We had a busy week, but we like it that way. We are still doing well and trying to help everyone that we can and still stay within our budget from Moscow!!

The gospel is true and we are so grateful to be part of the missionary effort here in Kazakhstan by doing humanitarian work!! We pray every day that we will be able to get the missionaries into this city soon! We love you all for your support and prayers in our behalf.


Elder and Sister Welling