Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Week in Astana, Kazakhstan - 28 December 2008

It was another busy week here in Astana! Having the missionaries from Novosibirsk here for a few days with us was wonderful and we will never forget them. They had their visas by Monday night which was a relief to everyone! Not that we didn't want them to stay longer, but they were anxious to get back to their field of labor for Christmas, and we didn't blame them one bit! They left Tuesday morning for Moscow and then on to Novosibirsk.

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!

This lady is using one of the 5 computers that were donated by the church. The computers have external speakers because many of those who are partially blind have hearing difficulties, too.These two ladies received new glasses from the project. The lady from the optical store was also there and presented them with chains and glass cases. The people that were there were so appreciative of the glasses and the computers! It was a good presentation and we felt like we were able to explain a little more about our church and what we do.

Wednesday we made goodies to take to all of our friends we have made here in Kazakhstan.

Mira wrote the message in Russian to put on the gifts. Then we delivered some to Kulnazira, Kamka and Elena who are some NGO's that we have worked with this year and sang Christmas carols to them. We spent the next two days delivering the rest of them and teaching Mira some more Christmas songs.Wednesday night we went to the University English Club. This young man is Vitaly Tsimmerman. He wanted to give us a gift of the replicas of the dombra and the kobuz, Kazakh musical instruments, for our Christmas celebration. We thought that was so kind. He is such a delightful person!

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.

Here is "Father Frost's" granddaughter,(middle) "Snow Girl" with two of the handicapped children at the orphanage. The young lady on the left sang to the children. The lady standing in the back is Zhanna, who we worked with on the project for the orphanage. After the program was over, the director took us up to the room to see the materials donated by the church for the Montessori room. We will tell you more about it when we have the closing presentation in January.
Next we went to the "Duman", a fun center for families, for the handicapped day care New Year's Celebration. We saw children perform and had our picture taken in front of the big New Year's tree with Mira. After we left there, we sent Mira home and went to the University where the English department was having a Christmas celebration.

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!

Everyone got into the fun and they danced around the New Year's Tree and sang songs. Father Frost and Snow Girl also came and gave out gifts. We got in and enjoyed ourselves. At one point, they put on a song that sounded more American than Russian or Kazakh so we danced the swing together and the people loved it.!!They were happy that we were enjoying ourselves! It was a fun celebration and we were so glad that we went!

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dinner Out and Dinners to Feed the Elders In Astana, Kazakhstan - 23 December 2008

We are slow this week getting the blog done because we have been so busy! Monday we were invited to another dinner. Aiman, an NGO, had a dinner and invited a local Muslim leader to come and bless her organization for the coming year.
Of course the table is full to overflowing as is the Kazakh custom. It was all very delicious.
The Beshbarmak was lamb and was very good. It is always cut up by one individual for everyone else to eat with their fingers. The round pastries are filled with meat and onions and were our favorite.
Aiman is in the center in front. Her husband and the former head of the organization are in the back. The young lady is the office secretary. They are wonderful compassionate people.
Anne in the park on the way home with her sack of Kazakh bread and lots of candy. The snow is beautiful when it isn't blowing so we can enjoy it.
Tuesday, December 16, was Kazakhstan's Independence Day. There was no school for two days and the children and families enjoyed the time to skate. This rink is in the square at the center of the city.
Thursday morning, 8 Novosibirsk Elders arrived by plane for their Russian visa renewal. Four of them we knew because they were here in September for their visas. We got them an apartment here in our building and they had dinner with us each day they were here, which kept Anne very busy trying to prepare enough to feed hungry Elders with a small stove and a very small oven. Saturday we went to see the Pyramid of Peace. Here we are in the very top with the white doves as a back drop.

This photo was take on Sunday after our church meetings and dinner. We could hardly believe the numbers. Roy still conducted but the Elders gave the Christmas talks, played the music on the keyboard (not the computer), prayed, blessed and passed the Sacrament and taught the lesson. It was great to have others here to take part and especially to sing. It was wonderful.

We hope you all had a spiritual Christmas Sunday too. We truly feel of his love for us here and pray that you will all have a wonderful time with your families and enjoy celebrating the Savior's birth.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Celebrating the "Feast of "Sacrafice" in Astana, Kazakhstan, - 14 December 2008

We had a great week!! We are now helping in three classes at the university and doing an English Club at the university Monday and Wednesday nights. Zarina, a young lady that we have used as a substitute for Mira, asked us if we would help at a place where she has started to work, to speak to the students who are learning English. So on Wednesday night, after the English Club at the university, we walked from our bus stop to her work place and visited with the lady in charge and told the students all about us and why we are here in Kazakhstan. The students are 12 years old to middle age adults hoping to better themselves in their education and the business world. Some even want to go to the US, Canada or England for school or to visit family. They were enthusiastic and we enjoyed being there with them. We think they liked us so we will be doing that every Monday and Wednesday night along with the English Club!! That should keep us busy!!

Friday, while visiting with Kulnazira and Kamka about a "Family Enrichment Program" for non-members, they invited us to a Muslim celebration called "Feast of Sacrifice". This celebration is held 70 days after the end of Ramadan and commemorates Father Ibrihim's (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son. However, they feel that it was his son, Ishmael who they are descended from, instead of his son, Isaac.
We had "Beshbarmak" but it was with beef this time instead of horse! The meat is served on a plate of wide noodles and it was all very tasty!
This lady is cutting up the meat and serving it to us. Anne is on the left and the server just kept piling food on her plate where Anne would promptly move it to Roy's plate! The flat bread is called "God's Bread", kind of like a fry bread. The round bread is called "Baurysak" and it is our favorite!
Here we are waiting for the dinner to be served!
Kamka (on the far right) and two of her friends. Most of them had their heads covered in traditional Muslim fashion.
Kulnazira, standing, with some of the people she works with. Zarina, our substitute translator, is on the far right.
Roy, Aiman, Kulnazira, Anne and Kamka after the dinner.
Roy and Anne with Zirina, our substitute for Mira. We just love her and she is always around when we need her!!
Clara was also at the dinner and wants us to do a project for her next year. We wanted to walk her to her bus stop, but instead, she jay-walked across the busiest street in the city! She was so cute that we just had to take a picture of her in her leather coat and fur hat! Anne, Clara and Zarina posing for the camera.

Ok, a couple of weeks ago Anne got brave and made "Borch", a recipe that Sister Pieper emailed us!
Borch is a Russian soup made with potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, cabbage, garlic and tomatoes and other ingredients to your liking!

It's a very colorful soup and is served with sour cream and dill. We loved it and will definitely be making it again!!

President Alexey Marchenko was with us again for church today. He will be going back to Moscow on the 26th where he is the Branch President. We have sure enjoyed having him with us.

This week we will be getting 8 missionaries from the Novosibirsk Mission to renew their visas. They will be here until next Tuesday. It will be fun having them here with us!

Happy "90th" Birthday on the 16th, Mother!!!!!! We love you!!!

Thanks so much for your love and prayers in our behalf. We know we are truly blessed!!


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Talents and Culture in Astana, Kazakhstan - 7 December 2008

This week started slow but we finished big!! We completed writing a project for a handicapped day care center and sent it to Moscow. We also got news of a project that has been approved for a handicapped organization here in Astana.
Friday we visited the Tslenigrad Regional Hospital and picked up the papers for their project that has been approved. We delivered some knitted hats (from Roy's mom and friends) to the orphanage for handicapped children. They were very happy to receive them!

We also visited the Astana Union of Handicapped and War Veterans of Afghanistan to see if we could help them with a project. They were very happy that we came by and told us that they would get back with us!

It seems like everything comes at once! On Saturday we were invited, by Kamka and Kulnazira (our NGO friends), to an Art Show and Concert where the participants were all handicapped children from different cities here in Kazakhstan! The Art Show was held at the "Duman", a Fun Center for families.
These are some of the pictures that were done by handicapped teenagers. We loved the traditional Kazakh pictures.
They even had baked items that the handicapped youth made which were also judged. These are more of the pictures that were done by children and youth. We saw many of the participants and we were so impressed with their ability to create such beautiful pictures and items despite their handicaps!!

While we were, we visited the Oceanairium and a new event called the Animated Jungle! All of the participants were able to go in free of charge along with the invited guests, which was us!! It was like going into the "Lost World", or something out of Indiana Jones!!

We had to go through this maze and came up on this HUGE spider which was trying to protect her babies!! It was pretty creepy!!
We saw everything from LARGE crocodiles, to a HUGE Tyrannosaurus Rex and a BIGGER THAN LIFE ape. We went down deep and saw all of these rock formations in a very cold place!!
Here we are in front of the Triceratops! We caught him looking right at us!They had these young men dressed up like a scary head hunters hiding behind bushes and rocks and they would jump out and scare the adults! They got Anne several times! She was pretty jumpy by the time she got through the maze!! It was a wonderful adventure that we were able to go on! At the end they had a program and the participants danced and sang! We were all pretty impressed with the animation and how well it was done!!

Later in the afternoon there was a concert performed by handicapped children and teenagers which was marvelous! These participants were able to perform despite their handicaps.

These young men were both physically handicapped but sang together and they were really a favorite. A young man, who was blind, played the accordion beautifully. There was lots of singing and dancing!!This young boy is blind and sang with perfect pitch!! There were some teenagers who recited poems and readings. One young man talked about mothers of handicapped children and how hard it is for them but they never give up on their child and they support them in whatever they do. He had everyone in tears!! We were so grateful for the opportunity we had to go to this concert!

We had to leave early because we had tickets to "Swan Lake" at the theater!

Never in our lifetime did we ever expect to see this famous ballet!! What a thrill that was! It was all Russian and Kazakh performers and beautifully done!

We invited Zhanna to go with us and Mira. We all had a great time there and really enjoyed the ballet! It was a very long day! Some days we have nothing to do and other days, we never stop!! But we would rather be busy!!

But today, Sunday, was the best day of the week! (Here Sunday is the last day of the week instead of the first!) Alexai Marchenko was here for our Sunday meetings! He lives in Moscow but is working on a project here in Astana for his company. He is a Branch President and worked as a CES coordinator for the Church for 10 years. He speaks Russian and English, which is what we have prayed for!!

Zhanna was so glad to have him here so that he could translate for her and he could translate for us. She said she had prayed for this day when she could bear her testimony in Russian and we could understand. The Spirit was very strong and many tears shed. We are blessed to have him with us even though it will only be for a couple of weeks. The Lord sees our needs and provides for us and for that we are so grateful. Zhanna, Anne, Roy and President Alexai Marchenko together after our Church meetings. Anytime we have someone new come to Church, we have to get a picture of them!!

We hope all is going well! We are so grateful to have the gospel in our lives and the knowledge that the Lord is aware of our needs and loves each of us!


Elder and Sister Welling

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving in Astana and Weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan - 2 December 2008

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! We had our first Thanksgiving in Kazakhstan without a turkey, but we had good food and good conversation with wonderful friends we have met here. Nathan and Heather Jones and their children, from Sharbakti, spent Thanksgiving day with us along with Bakytzhan, who we are helping to understand English.

Frank Tetreault had to fly to Almaty and Mira and Zhanna Beckinbi had to work. But we had a great time with those that were here!
Anne and Heather were in charge of getting dinner ready and on the table on time.
Bakytzhan, Anne, Desi, Nathan and Heather enjoying the desserts. Anne made an apple pie, without lard, mind you, but she did have Crisco and it worked out pretty well!!
But Bakytzhan brought this beautiful cake for all of us to enjoy!! The cakes they make over here at this bakery are a work of art, as you can see!!Mira was able to come after work and meet the Jones family and taste the desserts. It was fun to be with some of our good friends on Thanksgiving!!

Friday morning the Jones family left by train for Almaty which is a 23 hour ordeal; but we were able to fly to Almaty in the afternoon for Zone Conference which only took us an hour and a half!! Lucky us!!

When we arrived at the airport, President Cranney, our Mission President, and his family had just arrived from Moscow, so we were able to visit with all of them on the way to the hotel. They had two of their children with them, Caleb and Kathryn, because they are on their way to Madrid, Spain to get their visas renewed. What wonderful people they are!!

Saturday we attended our first Zone Conference and it was great!! President and Sister Cranney spoke to all of the missionaries and gave us some insight on what we can do better and what we need to keep doing! There are now 48 missionaries in our mission which is down from 70 missionaries. Of those, 22 are North American missionaries. More and more it will be up to the members to fellowship and bring in new converts.

President Cranney and Sister Cranney and Sister Vincent talking together during a break at Zone Conference.Sister Samsonovich, from Vladivostok, Russia; Sister Davis, from St. George; Elder Janovich, from the Phoenix area, Elder King, from the Arco, Idaho area; Elder Galo, from Florida and Elder Volegov, from Latvia, singing a hymn during Zone Conference. They are such great missionaries and so dedicated to the work!!

Elder Volegov, Elder King, Elder Galo, Elder Jonovich, Sister Samsonovich and Sister Davis after receiving their mail from President Cranney. (Sister Samsonovich cannot wear her badge yet because she isn't accredited. It took Sister Davis 70 days before she was able to proselyte.)
We all went out to eat for lunch on Saturday during our Zone Conference. President Cranney is the gentlemen sitting on the left. We had a great time with everyone there!
Saturday evening we were invited to dinner at Elder and Sister Vincent's apartment. They are the Leadership couple in Almaty. Elder Vincent has been a member of the Seventy. They are from Salt Lake and will be leaving in April. They are wonderful people!
President Pieper's son, Chris and his wife, Evelyn and their baby daughter were there, too. He is on a Fulbright Scholarship in Almaty. Zhuldez (on the far left) is the Vincent's translator in Krgystan and she is a member of the church.
Also at the Vincents were Nathan, Heather, Zoe, Desi, Roy and Gary Despain, an Air Astana pilot from Mendon, Utah. We all had such a good time together and being with members is so great!!
On Sunday after church, we wanted a picture of Sveta Rahimzhanova, our visa clerk, and her mom, Galina. They are such wonderful people and we love them so much!
We were also able to get a picture of the Cranneys; Sister Cranney, Caleb, Kathryn and Roy. We enjoyed being with them for Zone Conference and church. We hope to see them again next time they are scheduled to come to Almaty.

This is Murat Imangaziev, our driver to and from the airport and the former Branch President. What a great guy he is! He and his family are really stalwarts in the Branch. He has a son serving in Kiev.

We had a wonderful time in Almaty but it was just too short. We want to come back again as soon as possible! It's so wonderful to attend a branch and feel the spirit of the members!

May we all be grateful for the blessing that the Lord has given us.


Elder and Sister Welling