Sunday, September 28, 2008

Visa Succcess Times Six in Astana, Kazakhstan!! - 28 September 2008

What a week this has been!! I'm sure that you're all dying to hear how our visa work went. Well, on Monday afternoon, Mira called the city offices to find out if our permission to renew our visas was ready to pick up and the official told her, yes. We were thrilled!! When we got there he told us he had heard about some of the projects we had been doing and he had also heard about us from Kamka Medievna and that he was renewing our visas for 6 months!! (Maybe we are making an impression!) We could have hugged him!!! We were so excited!! So off we went to get copies and then to the Immigration Police!! But the Immigration Police wanted a copy of the Registration and Charter of the Church and also a document stating why we were here in Astana. We had the copy of the Charter and the Registration but we didn't have the other document. They have never asked for it before but Mira told us that these were new rules. We called Svetlana, our visa clerk in Almaty, and she said that that document does not exist!!

Mira went back the next day and told the lady at Immigration Police that we don't have that document and she told us that would be fine for this time but that we would have to have it the next time we renew. So we were able to get our visas!! Hooray!! Sveta said that she would tell Moscow and see if they can draw up the papers for our next and last renewal in March. What an ordeal!!

On Wednesday morning, we went with Mira to the train station to pick up the Elders from the Novosibirsk Mission. (This is a trial run to see if they can send missionaries here to get their visas renewed instead of sending them to Estonia or Madrid, Spain; and also to see if it will be less expensive in the long run!) They are wonderful young men and it was a joy to have them here for three days with us!!
Elder Bindrup from Las Vegas, Nevada and plays soccer for BYU, Elder Bendixsen from Carlsbad, New Mexico and has a identical twin brother who is in the Vladivostok, Russia Mission, Elder Luddington who is from Cheyenne, Wyoming and loves to sing, and Elder Jesse from San Clemente, California and loves to cook!!

Mira made sure all of their paperwork was correct for their visa renewals while we fed them all breakfast. While they were filling out their papers, we received a call from Svetlana, in Almaty. She was surprised that the Elders had come because the two Elders that were sent to Almaty to renew their visas had been rejected and were forced to remain in Almaty for an extra two weeks!!

The next morning Mira was at the Russian Embassy bright and early. When she finally got in out of the freezing cold, they wanted to see the missionaries train tickets from here back to Novosibirsk to make sure that they were only going to be here for just a couple of days. Roy and two Elders jumped in a taxi and off they went to the Russian Embassy with the train tickets. When they got there the consulate told them he needed copies so he told Mira to come back tomorrow!! It's so frustrating!!

So Mira came back to the apartment and made copies and got everything ready for the next day! We sent her home and took the missionaries sight-seeing which was so much fun!!

Elder Jesse, Elder Bendixsen, Elder Luddington and Elder Bindrup at the President's Palace.

Elder Luddington, Elder Bindrup, Elder Jesse and Elder Bendixsen on the Government Mall.

The Elders and Elder and Sister Welling on the Government Mall. We also went to the Mosque and they loved it. They asked questions and were able to converse in Russian, of course! It was so interesting to us and we learned a lot because they translated for us what was being said!

Friday morning Mira was at the Embassy bright and early again! When she did get in she called Roy and said they needed $240 more dollars to get their visas processed and to hurry because they close at 12:30. So we dropped everything and ran to get a taxi. (It was 11:40!) We didn't have time to call the Elders. We hurried as fast as we could because the missionaries were leaving tonight on the train, hopefully! We gave Mira the money and she went in again. We waited and hoped all of this was going to happen on schedule! She came out and informed us that we would be able to pick up the visas at 5:00 in the evening!! She was leaving for Pavlodar at 2:00 on the train.

We called the missionaries and they were relieved that the visas would be going through. Roy went with the missionaries while they checked out the souvenir store and stopped in at "Ali Baba's" for just a taste of Kazakh food. They had "Baursak" (bread) and "Horse Kabobs" which they loved!! They also went to the history museum and then over to get their visas at the Russian Embassy. They all breathed a sigh of relief when Elder Bindrup walked out of the Embassy with their passports!!

Then Roy took them to the Ramstore, which is a Turkish chain but they cater to Americans, and they bought Salsa, Ranch Dressing, Ortega Sause and Taco spices and more to take back to Russia! They acted like kids in a candy store! That was their favorite place!!

It was hard to say goodbye to them that evening. What a wonderful opportunity we had to be with the missionaries!! We loved being with them and talking to them and feeding them and feeling of their Spirit and enthusiasm.!! Hopefully, they will be back in 3 months to renew their visas again if Moscow approves of it. It was just wonderful having members of the church here with us.

Saturday morning Roy went with Gene Wikle to the train station to pick up Nathan and Heather Jones and their two children. They are living in a small village near the Russian border. He is doing research for his Doctoral Degree. It has to do with the Russian citizens of German descent that were moved here at the outbreak of World War II.

They spent the weekend with the Wikles. We went out to dinner on Saturday night and they were with us for church Sunday.

Heather and Nathan Jones and their two children Zoe, 2 and Desmond, 4. They are originally from Southern Utah and have a home in Philadelphia. They have lived in New York City for nine years where he served as a Bishop.

This is the largest group yet that we have had for Sacrament Meeting!! So we had to take a picture! The Jones family on the left and the Wikle family on the right. Anne is sitting by Zhanna Beckenbai, our Mongolian sister. (Roy is taking the picture!) The Jones hope to be able to come once a month for church. We are so thankful because he speaks Russian very well and is able to communicate with Zhanna, too! It was wonderful having them with us!!

We have two closing presentations this week to attend. We are well and happy and trying to get as much done as we can before winter sets in. We are not going to get fat so that we can hibernate for the winter but we do want to get the work done!!

We hope you are all continually praying that the Lord will soften the hearts of the leaders of the former Soviet Block countries. The missionaries struggle continually with the rules and regulations and it certainly is hampering the work.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The On Going Visa Saga in Astana, Kazakhstan - 21 September 2008

The first thing Monday morning we took our paperwork to the city offices for our three month visa prolongation. Three months ago we were told that we would not have to bring notarized documents of the church's registration in the United States for another year. When we got there, he wanted a copy of the registration anyway! So we called Sveta, the visa clerk for Kazakhstan in Almaty, and she quickly faxed the documents to us.

When we took the documents to him on Tuesday, he said they needed to be notarized. We politely reminded him that he said we wouldn't need them notarized because he already had a notarized copy for the year! Mira turned on the charm and pleaded our case and asked if he couldn't find the notarized copy and he said that it had already been put in the archives. She asked him if it would be too difficult for him to find. After much pleading, he told her that if he had the time he would look for it!

We called the next day, and he had found the notarized copy and was approving the visa work and told us to call next Monday to see if the papers were ready to take to the Immigration Police. What an ordeal!! Hopefully we have passed the first hurdle and we are on our way to the next step!

In the midst of all of this, we received word from Moscow that the Russian missionaries would not be coming to Astana for their visa renewals!! We had already bought their train tickets to return to Novosibirsk. The train station would not return our money because we didn't have their original passports, just copies. So Mira called a travel agent and she told us that we could get some of our money back but that we couldn't do it that day because they were out of money; but that we could come tomorrow.

Later that evening, we got a call from Moscow saying that President Peiper had changed his mind and was once again going to allow missionaries to come here to Kazakhstan to renew their visas on a trial basis!! We were blessed that we hadn't sold their tickets! That is one of the "tender mercies " of the Lord! He certainly watches over us all!! We had such a hard time getting the tickets in the first place. The missionaries will be here Wednesday morning and will leave on Friday evening.
This is Khazima Yerzhanovna who is the Director of the Blind Society that we are considering doing a project for. On Friday, she invited us to a computer competition held at the library for blind and partially blind and handicapped adults.
The young lady against the wall and the man standing are the instructors of these blind students. They have taught them how to use the computer using a program that speaks each letter they type.
This man is physically handicapped and partially blind and did very well on the computer.This man is completely blind and was still able to complete the task given by the instructor. We were impressed with the skill and ability that these individuals demonstrated. We were glad we went to learn more about what the handicapped can do with the technology we now have.

While it is still good weather, we thought we would show you some more of the sights in Astana.

During the summer, people enjoy playing chess in the park and others just enjoy watching.
When we went to the First President's Museum with Nancy and Kathy, this group of men were playing the Dombra and the Kobyz which are both national instruments of Kazakhstan. We weren't allowed to take pictures of anything in the museum but they did allow us to take a picture of this group. We were delighted!
This is the statue of Seifullin who was a great poet and writer of the Kazakh people
This fountain is at the other end of the government mall and is quite beautiful. We had not been here and were able to see this and the next two monuments when we were with Nancy and Kathy.
Another monument representing a Kazakh ornament.

This monument is at the end of everything that is completed on the mall. Another large building is being built across the road which will complete the entire mall that runs about 3 or 4 miles but it seems like a lot longer than that!! This new building is in the shape of a large hat and will have palm trees, sandy beaches, a river with boats, gardens, a golf course, shops , and a concert hall. The temperature will be the same all year round. So when it is 30 degrees below zero, you can go there and sit on the beach and drink Coca-Cola!!

We have a busy week planned and we hope everything goes as planned. We love you all and are thankful for the blessing we are receiving each and every day. The gospel is true and we are so grateful to be members of the Church.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, September 14, 2008

BFCF(Best Friends and Cousins Forever) World Tour in Astana, Kazakhstan - 14 September 2008

What a wonderful week we have had with my sister Nancy Baker and our cousin, Kathy Bell. It's our first visit from family!! People asked them where they were going and when they told them Kazakhstan, they asked them "Why??" Kazakhstan is not a place one "visits" but we tried to show them a good time and besides they were coming to see us, not the country!

They arrived Monday morning after a 2 1/2 hour delay in Frankfurt, Germany. It was so good to see them and I think they were as equally glad to see us, too! They rested most of the day. Jet lag had hit them pretty hard!! Tuesday we took a walk along the Ishim River that is right near our apartment. Anne, Nancy and Kathy along the "river walk". We also went to the history museum which they really liked.
We walked to "Ali Babba's" restaurant in the afternoon and ate there and introduced them to some of the wonderful Kazakh and Russian dishes, but without the horse meat!!
Wednesday morning we decided to go the the Outdoor Bazaar and purchase some souvenirs with our guests. Mira went with us so she could tell us if we were getting a good deal or not!! They got to know Mira and love her as we do!
In the afternoon on Wednesday, we went to the "Duman" and had our picture taken in front this painted camel. There are animals like this all over the city; it's pretty colorful!
In the "Duman" we went through the oceanariam and had our picture taken in front of the "octopus"; Roy, Nancy, Anne and Kathy.
Thursday we went to the First President's Museum and Kathy and Nancy had their picture taken with Nazarbayev's picture! It's a pretty impressive museum!
In the afternoon, we went to the Pyramid of Peace and had our picture taken on the dome in "the great room".
After that we went to the largest mosque in all of Kazakhstan to show them the beauty of this magnificent building!
Friday we spent all morning on the government mall. It was a little chilly in the morning, but pretty good weather. Here we are in the top of the Byterick.
Another look at the government mall with Kathy, Nancy and Anne.
Saturday evening we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! Can you believe it 40 years together?!! For our 40th anniversary, we thought it would be wonderful to celebrate it in an exotic place, so we chose Kazakhstan!!

This is the anniversary party that we had before Nancy and Kathy left. We had such a good time and we will miss them very much! But we are so glad that they came to visit. It has been a highlight of our stay here in Kazakhstan. We were sad to see them go but we're grateful for the time we had with them.

We now have to get back to work. We are doing our visa prolongation this week and then we will get ready to receive 4 missionaries from Novosibirsk for their visa work. It's going to keep us busy with that and the projects we are working on.

May the Lord bless you in all that you do. We are so grateful to be members of this wonderful church and to be missionaries to help spread the gospel through humanitarian work. How blessed we are!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, September 7, 2008

More Monumental Moments in Astana, Kazakhstan - 7 September 2008

We can't believe that our mission is reaching its half way mark on the 10th of September 2008!! Time is really flying fast and we are enjoying every minute of it! It is an incredible experience and we would recommend it to anyone.

This week we thought we might show you some more of the monuments that they have around this city since Mira is still on her two week vacation but plans to be home sometime today.
This monument is dedicated to the Participation of the Kazakhstan People in World War II and the Battle of the Kazakh People with the Dzungaria. The figure represents the mothers of soldiers going to war.
At the side of the monument are the representations of each war. On this side is the Battle with the Dzungaria people and....
the other side represents the Kazakhstan people fighting in World War II. It is quite an impressive monument!
This monument was at the Pyramid of Peace but has been moved to some other location. It is four women holding up the center of a yurt which represents the unity of the people of this country.
This is another huge monument with a golden eagle on top which is part of the symbol of Kazakhstan.
This is the Monument to Justice and represents three of the notable judges from the 1600's through the 1800's.
This is a monument to Boganbi, one of their Kazakh generals.
This monument is right outside the circus building. It was just finished in July and is so beautiful!
This monument was one of the gifts from another city to Astana for their birthday celebration. They love their monuments!!

We had Mike Sykos and Frank Tretault over for dinner the other night. They are wonderful gentlemen who are working here in Astana. Mike (left) is from San Antonio, Texas and works for a company doing maintenance on the President's private plane. Frank is a retired United Airlines pilot from Arlington, Virginia now working for Air Astana. We first met them when we went to the opera in the summer and have become good friends. They have invited us out to dinner a couple of times,too! We were able to meet Frank's wife, Kate, when she was over here for two months vacation. Mike will be leaving for home in the next couple of weeks and Frank will be around until December. It's been so enjoyable to have other Americans to talk to!!

We are anticipating the arrival of Nancy, my sister and Kathy, our cousin, Monday morning bright and early!! We can hardly wait!!

Our projects are going well and and we are continually working to get the paperwork done for them (all nine steps and stamps!!) Our Heavenly Father is truly blessing us every day. We are grateful for those wonderful blessings!!


Elder and Sister Welling