Tuesday we went to a closing presentation for a project that we did for the Blind Society here in Astana. We donated 5 computers with special programs to use for those that are partially blind. We also paid for 80 pairs of glasses for this group because the government does not fund payment for glasses for those that are partially blind.This is Khamza Khazima Yerzhanovna who is the director for the Astana Blind Society. She had invited many of the people who are members of this group to come and be a part of this presentation. She presented us with a "Thankful Letter". We have enjoyed working with her.
Roy was asked to say a few words and then each of the members that wanted to speak and thank us took their turn. Khazima turned the time over to the group and then let them ask us questions about us and our church. It was great! We were able to explain to them about our humanitarian work and how our church is represented in over 160 nations in the world. They wanted to know how we get the money for these projects and we explained the principle of "Fasting" to them. They all applauded after that! They wanted to know about our family, how many kids, and how many grandchildren and they all applauded us for that and said that we are very richly blessed of which we totally agreed!! They wanted to know about the handicapped society's in America and lots of other questions. We felt like we were able to explain more about our church in this one meeting than we have done since we have been here!! It was a wonderful opportunity for us!
Wednesday we made goodies to take to all of our friends we have made here in Kazakhstan.
Christmas Day was very busy! After opening the gifts we received from family, we went to the orphanage for a New Year's Celebration where "Father Frost" came and gave gifts to all of the children.
The students did a wonderful job and are so talented. We have grown to love each one of them. They all wanted to have their picture taken with us when it was over. Aizhan, their teacher, is standing on the left at the end.
It was such a cold day (-28 F) and we we weren't too excited to go out again that night but we were invited to the other English club's New Year's celebration.Here the students are having a good time playing games. We sat and watched and judged which one gave the best toast for the New Year in English. It was fun to be there with them. They are a great group of students and we enjoy working with them.
As we walked home in the frigid cold air, we reflected on what a different Christmas this was for us. Christmas here in Kazakhstan is an individual, personal celebration because there are so few Christians. We feel that our Christmas this year was more internalized because we realize what Christ has done for us personally and how important His birth was in our individual lives.
The next day we collapsed and stayed in and caught up on project and paper work. It was pretty cold outside so it was also a good reason to stay in.
Saturday we were invited to another New Year's celebration for the Blind Society, which is Kazima's group. We thought that it would be just a small group of people, but when we got there the whole gymnasium was filled with people!! We tried to remain inconspicuous by sitting on the back bench, but that didn't last long!
The people in charge came right over to us and wanted us to say a few words! Mira didn't want to, but we finally persuaded her to sing with us the only Christmas song she knew!! So when it was our turn, Roy said a few words and then we all sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"!!Anne enjoying herself with one of the participants!
In the afternoon, we met Zarina, who has been a translator for us when Mira is unavailable, to give her a gift. She was with her parents and we also got to meet them. They are as wonderful as their daughter! We just can't say enough about how good people are to us here!!
Sunday we were back to just the three of us for church. But we enjoy being with Zhanna so much!
We surprised her with a Christmas gift which she was thrilled about! (Thanks, Kara, for sending the gift.) It has been a wonderful week and it was nice to be able to be a part of so many celebrations and feel of their love for us.
Next week we will be in Almaty for New Years. We will also be able to be with the people in the Branch on Sunday. We plan on doing some business for the NRT coming up next year. We are looking forward to the trip.
Thanks for all of the wonderful Christmas emails and cards we received from family and friends. They mean so much to us when we are so far away! It has been a Christmas that has been very special to us. We hope you all have a wonderful New Year!!
Elder and Sister Welling