Sunday, April 26, 2009

Europe East Area Humanitarian Couples Conference in Yerevan, Armenia - 26 April 2009

We had a wonderful time this year at our Humanitarian Conference in Yerevan, Armenia! We can't believe that that we are going to places we would have never dreamed we would see!! The Lord continues to bless us.

Wednesday morning at 6:30 we flew to Moscow and after a 4 hour wait, flew to Yerevan, Armenia. Yerevan is a beautiful place as well as the people. It was fun to meet some new couples and renew our acquaintances with couples that were there last year in Bulgaria. This is Vlad Nechiporov who is the Area Welfare Manager for all of the Europe East Area. He approves or rejects our projects along with the Area Presidency depending on the amount of money needed for the project. He has now been called as a Mission President and will be leaving his job on 2 May to serve in the Russia Rostov Mission beginning in July. What a wonderful opportunity we have had to work with him!!

Our conference was very spiritual as well as informative. Elder Gibbons, from the Area Presidency spoke to us about being missionaries first and to remember that we are disciples of Christ. He also told us that there are 87 couples serving in the Europe East Area.

Elder David Stapley, Europe East Director of Temporal Affairs, spoke and quoted Bishop Edgley who said that half of all humanitarian couples serve in the Europe East Area. He told us of things we need to be doing in order to be more effective as humanitarian missionaries. The goals of the Area Presidency are to strengthen welfare principles, strengthen marriage and families, and extending good will to those in need.

It was wonderful to hear the counsel of these brethren which helps us and strengthens us in our calling as humanitarian missionaries in this area of the world!!

On Friday afternoon, we went sightseeing which was a real treat for all of us!!

This is Mount Ararat which is actually in Turkey now because the Turks took over that area. Armenia still claims it, though. It was a beautiful sight to see where it is believed the ark landed after the flood!! Because of the clouds, we were only able to see part of it. But we were grateful for what we did see!We first visited Khor Virap Monastery. It is a shrine to Armenian Christianity. Mount Ararat is in the background. The monastery is located on the hills where the ancient capital of Armenia, Artashat, was situated and served as a prison then. The capital was founded by King Artashes I around 180 B.C.

Here we are standing on the wall of the monastery with Mount Ararat in the background. What a majestic mountain it is!

The monastery was built atop the pit or dungeon where St. Gregory, the Illuminator, had been imprisoned for about 13 years over 1700 years ago, as he was preaching Christianity in Armenia which was a pagan country then. (This building is where the dungeon is located.) Access to the pit has been preserved. It is 23 ft. down in the ground. It is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Armenia.
This is the chapel at the monastery. These are some of the missionary couples on the tour with us.
Inside the chapel are beautiful paintings. This is just an example. (Elder Welling wouldn't let me put them all on the blog!) After the adoption of Christianity in 301 A.D., this place has become one of the sacred places in Armenia and it forever distinguished Armenia as the world's first Christian nation. It happened during the reign of King Tiridat III.
This picture was taken as we walked down the hill from the monastery on our way to the next stop on our tour. These are the humanitarian couples from Turkey who we are especially fond of because we were in the MTC with the Looslis and the Fifields. Elder and Sister Loosli - Istanbul, Elder and Sister Keeler - Ankara, Elder and Sister Fifield - Izmir, and Elder and Sister Wellilng - Astana, Kazakhstan.
The next stop was at the 7th century Church of St. Hripsimeh which is a unique example of the Armenian classical architecture, built on the site of Virgins' Martyrdom for their faithfulness to Christianity. The tradition is that about forty Christian virgins fled from Byzantine to Armenia about the end of the 3rd century. Because they were Christians, King Tiridat III of Armenia ordered to have them imprisoned and then killed.After the adoption of Christianity, this site was considered to be a sacred place and later in the 7th century (618 A.D.), this church was built bearing the name of Hripsimeh, who was one of the virgins. The bell tower was constructed in the 18th century.

It was beautiful inside the chapel with paintings and ornate fixtures everywhere.
These two little Armenian "babushka's" were so sweet! We just had to take a picture of them when then asked me about my "detee" and "vanooke" in Russian!! I told them we had 6 and 20 in Russian!! They were so kind and helpful!! I gave them a big hug when we left!!
Our last stop was at the Mother Cathedral of Echmiatsin which is the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the most important religious center in Armenia. Originally it was constructed in 301 A.D.
This is the grave of one of the virgins that fled from Byzantine to Armenia and was killed. It is in the basement of the church.
Elder Welling in front of the Echmiatsin Cathedral. In the course of history the cathedral has been reconstructed and renovated several times. The interior of the church is covered with beautiful frescoes.
After the tour, the bus dropped us off at the Old Yerevan Restaurant where we were fed a wonderful meal of Armenian salads and barbequed beef, chicken, pork an lamb. It was so good! We loved it!! These guys were our waiters and they served us a delicious Armenian dessert of rice and squash with raisins, nuts and dried apricots! It was quite tasty!!

This is Elder and Sister Ireland who have been our Area Welfare Specialists and will be leaving on Monday to go home to South Dakota. What wonderful friends they have become!! We will surely miss them!!

What a great time we had in Yerevan meeting wonderful people and renewing our friendship with others! Serving this mission continues to bless us with so many wonderful experiences!

How blessed we are to be able to serve the Lord in our calling as humanitarian missionaries!


Elder and Sister Welling

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Closing Presentation, A Night at the Opera and Visitors from Almaty - 20 April 2009

We had a busy week this week and were able to get quite a bit done!

We went to the Children's Hospital #1 and visited with them about doing a project to help their handicapped children that they work with. A project was done for them a couple of years ago and they have used the equipment very effectively and so we want to help them again. Hopefully, they will get back with us.
That same day, we attend a closing presentation of a project we did for the Children's Charity Fund of Astana City. The Church was able to donate computers, chairs, desks, bookshelves and sewing machines for the orphans and foster children that the organization works with.
This young lady is using one of the seven computers. Behind her you can see the bookshelves along with the chairs and desks.
These are the three sewing machines that we donated to help the teens learn how to sew.After seeing all of the equipment that the Church donated, we had our pictures taken with the director and the former director of the organization.
Anne, Aiman Mausenbaeva (director), Kali Mukataevich, (former director) and Roy.

Then we went into Aiman's office where they served us a lovely meal of salads, kolbasa, cheese, bread and fried bread with cabbage inside, and monties (steamed dough with a meat mixture inside) which we love and torte for dessert. We ate way to much and it was so good!! Most of the people gave a little speech and thanked us for all we had done for them. They told us that they have just gotten to know us and become good friends and now we are leaving!! It will be hard to leave such wonderful people because we feel the same about them!!

When we were ready to leave, Aiman presented us with a picture that we had admired previously that was in the room where they were going to put the computers. It is a picture of a traditional Kazakh gentlemen playing the dombra and it's all inlaid wood!!! Roy was thrilled and Anne cried! Mira explained to everyone there that Roy does marquetry (inlaid wood). Roy told them all that this is his most prized possession from Kazakhstan!!

We were grateful to be able to help this organization and know that they will make good use of the equipment.

We also found out that the Shaws, our replacements, should be here the first weekend in June. That means that we will probably be home the second weekend in June!! So we have a lot to accomplish and we hope that we can get everything done because the time is going fast!

Friday night we attended the opera, Rigoletto, with our favorite Air Astana pilot, Frank Tetreault, who had just arrived back from the US. It was great and the set and costumes were beautiful. It was a bargain for $3.33 and we had great seats down in front!! (We read the synopsis beforehand so we knew what the story line was!)

Saturday morning, Chris and Evelyn Pieper and their baby, Sofie, arrived here from a visit to Sharbakti on there way back home to Almaty. Chris is President Piper's son and is in Almaty on a Fulbright Scholarship and will be finished in July. They wanted to see the sights in Astana and we told them that we would love to show them around.

We saw the President's Palace and then toured the government Mall. This is taken in the top of the Byterick. Roy, Anne, Evelyn and Sofie, and Chris Pieper.
We also visited the Mosque and the Pyramid of Peace. We had a great day seeing the sights! We enjoyed having them with us and getting to know them!

It was great having the Pieper's with us for Church this week! Zhanna loved it because Chris was able to translate for her when she gave her talk in Sacrament Meeting. It's always wonderful when we can have members here to meet with us for our church services! We are so grateful that the Piepers were able to visit us for the weekend.

Next week we will be attending a Humanitarian Conference in Yerevan, Armenia with all of the East Europe Area Humanitarian couples. Roy gets to speak about the NRT program. We are excited to be able to go and participate!

We are grateful to be able to serve here and do this great work of the Lord.


Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Case of "The Grip"--Hence, A Slow Week in Astana, Kazakhstan - 12 April 2009

Anne spent most of the week in bed with the flu, or what people call around her, "The Grip". It almost sounds worse than the flu, don't you think! But Mira and Zhanna both said that it definitely was "The Grip"! And it's pretty hard getting out doing things when one feels that lousy! We had to excuse ourselves from the English classes at the university and the English club on Wednesday. But with the help of the antibiotics and other medicine that we brought from home, Anne was able to start feeling better by the end of the week!!

The week wasn't a total loss, because we were able to get the letter from the Ministry of Health stating that we would be able to do another Neonatal Resuscitation Training here in Kazakhstan!! Yeah!! It has taken two weeks to get the letter signed; now Sveta, in Almaty, can began to get pre-custom clearance, which will allow humanitarian equipment through without additional charges. As soon as we get clearance, the Church will ship the equipment by DHL and it should be here in Almaty within 10 days. But the problem is getting it through customs, which takes two months even though we have pre-customs clearance and the training is the first week in July. We are a month behind, compared to last year, on this project so we are a little nervous!! We just keep praying that everything will work out!!

Friday, we visited another NGO about a possible project for some deaf young adults. They are remodeling a room, which we were able to look at, for this project to take place and we hope we will be able to help them with it. We will keep you informed of the progress.

Saturday, we went to the handicapped English Club. Afterwards, Elena Kolmogrova, the chairman of a handicapped children's group that we have done a project for, visited with us about doing another project for her. It is really a worthwhile project and we hope that we will be able to help her, also. We will keep you updated on this project as well.

On the way home, we realized we didn't have any pictures for the blog and we certainly CAN'T have a picture less blog!!!! So we walked to a park that we have been going to take pictures of, anyway, and shot these:
This is a new monument that was put up last year for Astana's Birthday.

At the top of the monument is the representation of the top of the yurta, which is a symbol of unity in Kazakhstan.
We liked the inscription on the raised stone on the floor of the monument. We hope and pray that Astana will become a spiritual capital, too!! Through the monument, you can see the Radisson Hotel, and to the right of it is our apartment building.

There were other statues in the park also; this one of a little boy looking at swallows building a nest...

and a monument of the "Kubuz", one of Kazakhstan's national instruments

It was such a cold windy day and as we walked home we decided to take a couple of pictures of the Esil River (or Ishim).

As you can see, the river is finally melting which is a month later that it did last year! Last week when we were out, there were still fisherman ice fishing! It looked a little scary then!!

We hope this week will be a little more productive than last week, but we continually count our blessing because we haven't had many health issues and that has been great!

We would like to wish everyone a "Happy Easter"!! That is the reason we are here doing what we are doing!

Love to all,

Elder and Sister Welling

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day Trip to Karaganda and Osakaravka, Kazakhstan - 4 April 2009

On Tuesday of last week, we left Astana early in the morning for a day trip. We traveled to Karaganda to visit a day care center for handicapped children. We met Tatyana Ivanovna Kravchenko who is the director of the center and a very caring person. She has received some wheelchairs from the Church in the past and we promised her that we would visit her again.

Tatyana gave us a tour of her facility that she and her husband are in the process of completely renovating. This is where the children get computer training. They also have a physical rehabilitation room where they work with the children to help them with their muscle development and motor skills. We were impressed with everything she and her staff are doing.

While we were there, we met Sally Kim, from San Francisco, who is with the Peace Corp and has been assigned to help Tatyana and her organization in writing grants to help procure money and to write and publish information to help the Kazakh people understand and accept the handicapped people in their society.

We told her that we were from Utah and were here for 18 months in Kazakhstan. She said that she had relatives that live in Salt Lake City!! She asked us what organization we represented, we told her that she had probably heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and she said she had!! She was delightful and wants us and Mira to come back again before we leave Kazakhstan. Sally Kim, Anne and Roy Welling, Tatyana and Mira, our translator. We felt like the meeting went very well and we hope we can do a project for them.

Afterwards, Tatyana took us to a Handicapped Children's Hospital where we met the director who we visted with about some rehabilitation equipment. They are funded by the government with medical equipment, but the government won't fund rehabilitation equipment. Director of the Handicapped Children's Hospital, Amangeldi Artekov, Roy and Anne Welling and Tatyana Ivanovana. We had visited this hospital once before and they remembered us and were appreciative that we came back to see if we could help them in any way. We hope to be able to do a project for them.

On the way back from Karaganda, we stopped in Osakaravka to see Svetlana and Ludmilla, two people who we have worked with before. We are hopeful that we can do another project for them, also.

We got back to Astana in the evening but felt that the day went well and we accomplished all we had set out to do. We were glad to be able to visit with these wonderful people again.

All last week we were trying to get a letter signed by the Minister of Health giving us permission to hold the NRT. Without this letter we cannot get pre-custom clearance to ship the equipment here. We will be working on that this week as well.

This little bus is called a "Marchuka" and they go all through the city streets. They cost a little more than the big buses but they go to more places.

This is our basic mode of transportation. We wait at the bus stop for a bus and then sometimes 4 or 5 show up at once!! There is no schedule; just show up and wait until the right one comes along!! But the buses come pretty regularly so we usually don't have to wait too long!!

We were able to stay up Saturday night late and listen to the first session of General Conference. We were also able to stay up on Sunday night to listen to the first session on Sunday. What wonderful counsel we have received this weekend!! We were able to download the first session and have Zhanna listen to it in Mongolian on Sunday morning. She was thrilled!!

We hope you were all uplifted by the messages of the General Authorities and that your testimonies have been strengthened as ours have been.


Elder and Sister Welling