Sunday, November 23, 2008

From Dignitaries to Dogs in Astana, Kazakhstan - 23 November 2008

This fall, we have been visiting a couple of English classes each week so that they can hear Americans speak. While we were there, one of the teachers asked us if we would help them with an English Club twice a week. We told them that we would love to as long as it didn't interfere with our humanitarian work here in Astana.

Monday was the opening for the English, Japanese, and Kazakh Clubs. Those in charge told us that it would be very informal and that we should come up with a game or something really fun to do to introduce what we would be doing in the English Club. When we got to the university, we were taken to a different room with a large table which had individual microphones at each chair!! It was a beautiful conference room with huge chandeliers!! We looked at each other and needless to say, decided to scrap the fun and games we had planned and Roy prepared a formal introduction about why we are here and what we are doing!! He did a great job! We have found in Kazakhstan, that we really need to just "go with the flow" and usually everything turns out all right!!
This gentleman speaking is Shigeo Natsui, the Ambassador of Japan, and he was invited by Mr. and Mrs. Tomoko Miyata, who teach a couple of Japanese courses at the university.This wonderful lady is Depale Pal, the Director of the Indian Cultural Center here in Astana. She spoke about how English is so important to learn because it is spoken in so many countries. She was there representing the English language and we were grateful for what she said about how important English is in the world today.
The man on the left is Sergey F. Udartcev, Rector of the University and the man in the middle is a wonderful professor that we love and have gotten to know very well. (He has friends who are LDS professors at UCLA who he says are very passionate about their religion!!)
Mr. and Mrs. Miyata and their translator wanted to have their picture taken with us also.
All the students involved in making this happen wanted to have a picture taken with everyone. It was very enjoyable to meet all of these interesting and wonderful people.

We are working on another couple of projects that we hope will get approved by this week. We also had one of the professors at the university call to see if we would help a young man, Bakytzhan, to speak and understand English better so that he can pass the interview at the US Embassy in order to get his visa to attend the University of Houston, where he has been accepted. He has to have a visa to get there and he has one more try before classes start in January. We told her we would love to!!

Bakytzhan came Friday evening and we spent 3 1/2 hours with him. He is a wonderful young man and very bright. He told us that we are the first Americans that he has every heard speak and he would like to spend some time listening to us and have us ask him questions so that he can understand and answer them better. Then Roy invited him to go to the circus with us on Saturday because Frank Tetreault, the Air Astana pilot, had invited us to go and Bakytzhan could listen to him talk, also.
Roy, Bakytzhan, and Frank enjoying the circus....

along with Mira, Damir, Mira's nephew, and Anne.
This is the Russia Moscow Circus and they had all different kinds of acts with animals and acrobats. The dog acts were just adorable!!
This was one of the bear acts which were quite good!
During the intermission the children could buy a ticket to ride on this camel.
This was the best animal act of all!! This kangaroo was very fun to watch in this boxing match!

These two acrobats were just incredible and they were fun to watch. They were probably the best act at the circus. We enjoyed it all and especially the people we were with. We have made such wonderful friends here and it seems we are meeting and making more friends each week!

We hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your families this week. Living in Kazakhstan has made us more thankful for the things that we have in our lives; like our family, our country and our Church. We are so blessed and grateful for the opportunity the Lord has given us to serve this mission. It truly has blessed our lives.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Getting Cold, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, in Astana, Kazakhstan!!!! - 16 November 2008

The snow has already come to Astana!!! It really isn't too bad yet, if the wind doesn't blow. Roy bought a hat for the fall so Anne decided to get one, too. (Actually, I hate wearing hats; but everyone tells me I should wear one or I will get sick!) Everyone wears hats; hats of every kind, from mink to knit. They even have stores here with nothing but hats! We had to break out the winter coats again and the snow boots! It gets icy pretty fast. Once it snows, it doesn't melt until spring!!

Roy in his new "kapka". Doesn't he look great!! When it gets a little colder he'll wear the Russian "shopka".

Two weeks ago in our English class, we had a discussion on favorite foods. We had a great time because food is something that is easy to talk about. We took Peanut Butter M&M cookies to share with them. The next week Oxsana brought us these delicious rolled cookies made with a waffle iron called "trubochki" (little pipes or tubes). Sometimes they fill them with something sweet!! They reminded us of waffle cones but they were a lot thinner.

After class, the students invited us to a program on Friday night at the Pyramid of Peace put on by the university students. Each department nominated a young lady to represent them in the contest to choose a new "Goddess of Justice". (It would be like a "Miss U of U" or "Miss USU" or "Miss BYU".)

The students from each department then presented a short production highlighting their department, the young lady they had nominated and her platform. The costumes and scenery were incredible!We were told that the students have practiced every day for a month to put together this program. It was evident by the singing and the dancing that was preformed.The young lady holding the justice scales was the winner of the event. We had a wonderful time and were so glad that we were invited to attend!

After the performance we took this picture outside the Pyramid of Peace looking back at the President's Palace and the Byterick. It was so beautiful!!

One of the projects that we have written for the Tselinograd Hospital was approved this week. We are writing another project for a handicapped group here in Astana. We will be starting and English Club at the university on Monday of this next week so wish us luck!

Our Sunday meetings are wonderful!! We are so grateful to have Zhanna with us and we love her so much!! We wish that we had more members to have her associate with but we must be patient--all in the Lord's time!! She is a good example to us because of her diligence to attend Church and even though we struggle communicating, we seem to understand through the Spirit!

Thanks to all of you for your prayers! As a Church, we need to follow the prophet's admonition to pray that the gospel will be spread in all countries. "... Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance." (Alma 8:10)


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, November 9, 2008

From a Day With the President to a Night at the Opera - 9 November 2008

Monday morning President Pieper, President of the East Europe Area, came to Astana to visit some government officials and to spend the day with us and find out how things are going. What a treat that was for us!! President Pieper and his family came to Kazakhstan some years ago with American interests, along with two other American families. They started the Branch in Almaty, Kazakhstan which now has 80 members. They were there for 5 years and he was then called to be President over the St. Petersburg Russia Mission. Then he was called to serve in the First Quorum of Seventies and is now the Area President.

We could tell from visiting with him that he has a great love for this East European Area and especially for the people of Kazakhstan. He told us that the number of American missionaries are decreasing in Russia because of the trouble with visas. They are continually trying to find a solution to the problem. He said that he wishes things would move faster in this area but we are on the Lord's timetable and we shouldn't get in a hurry!
President Pieper wanted us to meet one of his colleagues that he used to work with in Almaty, but who now lives and works in Astana. Her name is Galina Khazova. (President Pieper, Galina and Anne)
As soon as we met her, we fell in love with her. She is such a wonderful, outgoing person and she speaks English. President Pieper was hopeful that we could befriend and invite her to do things with us; but during lunch we found out that her company is moving her back to Almaty. We told her we would love to help her in any way we could with the move. We hope to be able to see her again. (Roy, in his new fall hat, Galina and Anne)
While President Pieper rested on our bed (he was fighting a cold), we had a meeting here in our apartment with Nadezhda, from Pavlodar. She was in town visiting family and Mira brought her here to sign some papers to finish up the project we did for her and to discuss a possible wheelchair project for her next year.

After the meeting, President Pieper was able to visit with Nadezhda. We explained to her that he was the leader over all of the members of our church in the East Europe Area. She was so impressed!! Through her tears, she explained to him how grateful she was for the handicapped equipment that she had received from our Church. Mira told us later, that on the way home Nadezhda told her that she had only been with us for an hour but she felt so uplifted and happy!! Of course, we know it is the Spirit!

After a meeting with a government official about the overall feeling of their attitude towards religion, President Pieper came back to our apartment and told us that the meeting went well. We ate dinner and visited until he had to leave for Moscow. It was wonderful to be with him throughout the day and we realize the what a great and difficult responsibility he has for this area of the church because he works with so many countries where religion is being suppressed. We were so glad that he would come and spend some time with us.

Tuesday was election day and because our ballots never came, we weren't able to vote. Because of that, we realize how important the opportunity to have a say in the election process is. So many of these countries over here do not have a say and consequently, they live differently and do not have the rights that we do in the United States. We should be grateful for the great democracy the Lord has blessed us with.

And how blessed we are that the transition from one president to another can take place without conflict and dissension. We are very blessed to live in a country such as ours and we are mindful that the new president will need our full support and prayers.

After inviting Frank Tetreault, the Air Astana pilot, over for dinner on Friday, he invited us to go to the Opera on Saturday with him.
Here we are at the opera, 5th row and only $4.00. Pretty good deal!!
It was a Kazakh opera and this is the hero and the heroine.
This guy is the villain. For this scene, the whole stage was transformed to look like the inside of a Kazakh yurt! It was very cool looking!
The best part about this opera was the costumes; they were all in traditional Kazakh dress.
This was the curtain call with the four main characters. (Don't you just love the villain's hat?)

We enjoyed the opera very much. We didn't understand a word because it was all in Kazakh but the music was beautiful. We hope to go again soon as things are winding down for the year.

We enjoyed having Zhanna, our Mongolian sister, for Church with us this week. She wasn't able to come last week because of work. It was just the two of us, but...."where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20) So whether there are two or three of us, we still feel the spirit and are able to partake of the sacrament. What a blessing that is!!

May the Lord bless each of you.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Halloween in Astana, Kazakhstan - 2 November 2008

It has been wonderful weather this last week and we have enjoyed being out. We hope it stays this way for a while and that the cold doesn't come too soon.
The good news this week was that our latest project was approved for the Blind Society. We will be getting them 5 computers with special programs for the blind and also 80 eyeglasses. This is Khamza Khazima Yerzhanovna, who is the director of the Blind Society. She is a wonderful lady who cares so much about the people in her organization and tries to find ways to help them. We enjoy working with her.

On Wednesday we went to the university to help in one of the English classes and the students asked if we would like to come to their Halloween program that all the English classes were to participate in on Thursday evening. We told them we would love to!

On Thursday evening we were at the university again where Aizhan, the teacher, took us to this wonderful auditorium. As we walked in, this lady stopped us and said since we were Americans, we should judge their program since Halloween was celebrated in Europe and America!! We declined, but she insisted!! Reluctantly we agreed to the task at hand and she seated us directly in front of the stage. We were to judge the best skit, costume, carved pumpkin, and poster!

The President of the University was at the program and welcomed us there and thanked us for coming to participate in their program.
The skits were all stories the students had read about or they made up their own scary story.
This skit is about the Adams Family. We were impressed with their interpretation of Halloween because they don't celebrate this holiday in Kazakhstan.
We thought that they all did a wonderful job with their skits! We told them that they made us feel at home because we love to celebrate Halloween in the United States.
This group of young ladies are in one of the classes that we visit each week and their skit was pretty good too!
Some of the students that participated in the Halloween program.
This group won for the best pumpkin carving. We don't really know who won for the best skit and costumes because we don't really understand Russian even though all of the skits were in English!!
The lady standing next to us is the Head of the Department of English at the University and her name is Marazhana. She is the one that asked us to be the judges! She is going to get in touch with us later about coming to visit her class.
This is another group that wanted their picture taken with us.
After the program some of the students that Aizahan teaches wanted a group picture on the steps of the university. Aizhan is the one in the red coat. They are such wonderful young ladies, we can't help but love them all!

The University as night is really quite a beautiful sight! (How poetic!) We had a great time and were glad that we went.

President Pieper, our Area President, will be here tomorrow for some meetings with some government officials and to spend some time with us. We are looking forward to his visit.

Thanks for the wonderful support and prayers in our behalf and for all the missionaries throughout the world! We are so grateful to be members of this wonderful world-wide church. The gospel is true and the greatest blessing in our lives.


Elder and Sister Welling