Ulan is home to 97 mostly healthy orphans between the ages of 3-17. There are 18 special needs children. Most of the children are "true" orphans and have no parents. The children here are all Kazakh.
When we arrived we were greeted by several children dressed in their beautiful Kazakh attire handing us bread and pastries. All of us were overwhelmed with emotion, it was truly beautiful. Our team was then interviewed by a journalist for the local Taraz newspaper. The journalist interviewed the team members that have children born in Kazakhstan and their siblings.
We then went to watch a "mini concert" that the children specially prepared for us. We saw singing, dancing, drama and more. Of course I cried through most of it because I could not shake the overwhelming feeling that these beautiful children had no parents to perform for.
In true Kaz mission trip style, we had a "go with the flow" moment when we arrived here and were told that all the beds had already been put together. Plans changed and so we visited every room to put new bed covers on and hang curtains. The children were so appreciative about the beds and covers and thanked us many times. The children are being taught English and loved practicing with us.
We were invited to a traditional Kazakh meal of Bishparmak that the children helped prepare. It was outstanding. The hospitality was wonderful. Over lunch the Director talked to us about how the orphanage runs. She teaches the children life skills, anything from doing their own laundry to cooking their own food. You can tell just by speaking to her how deeply she cares for her kids. She cried through about half of our conversation, especially when talking about the kids not having parents.
After lunch we handed out donations and went to play with the kids. We let each girl pick out her own doll and each boy pick a Beanie Baby and Hot Wheels toy. They also picked enough candy to rot their teeth for months! We painted faces and arms, played hopscotch, soccer and duck-duck goose. The children loved the one-on-one attention. One little girl even cried when Lance had to leave. It was sad but it did not feel hopeless there. We felt like there was a lot of hope for the kids with such a wonderful director.
We left Ulan and headed around town to see a few sites, including some beautiful parks. We then went to dinner (because we had hardly eaten, hahahahaha). Once again we were served like kings. We had Greek salad, Manti, bread, homemade jam and pickles, and tea. We ate a lot and all felt like penguins. Ayman played the guitar and sang to us. We laughed more tonight than I have in a long time.
It was a fantastic day of serving our God and bonding!
Tomorrow we have a volleyball tournament in the morning...the Americans verses the Kazakhs (children of Ulan). Wish us luck, they are one athletic bunch!
Thank you for your continued prayers!
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