Life in Kazakhstan is a road less traveled full of curves an obstacles!

Beth and I have been in Kazakhstan more than a month now and I still find myself wondering if I’m going to awake from a dream at any moment.

When we boarded the plane in Richmond on Oct. 2, 2012 it was with many emotions — excitement to be heading back to the land and people who have captured our hearts, and a bit of anxiety about launching such an enormous project.  But we were off.

Thankfully, we made all of our connections in the U.S and in Turkey and after a two-day journey, we concluded an uneventful trip even making it through customs in Almaty without even a second glance our way as we walked out the main gates with all six of our trunks.

Part of the decision-making on when to head back to Kazakhstan related to the wedding of a dear friend.  The wedding of Zarina and Damire on Oct 8th was beautiful.  It was a great joy and privilege to be able to share in their celebration last month and capture the special occasion digitally.

This time in Taraz we don’t have the benefits of a large, established organization.  That means no car, no support staff and no house with western conveniences.  But it has been great to see the support we do have and to learn to live daily life-like a typical Kazakh.  We are averaging 5 to 7 miles of walking each day as we go to and from our daily tasks. This is good exercise, but more importantly, it has helped us build relationships.  There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t run into someone we know during our walk.  It is touching to see the reactions of people as they realize we, as Americans, are walking and taking public transportation.  They also are getting some good laughs at our many misadventures as we try to learn our way around the city via bus.  Thankfully, complete strangers have shown us much kindness.  On a couple of occasions we have been totally surprised to find an English speaker in the most unusual places.

We thought we had found a house to rent but the family later changed its mind.  We aren’t worried about this and trust the exact house we are to use will become available at precisely the right time.  We have several Kazakhs helping us with this and are grateful for their help.

Arranging our visas has been its own adventure.  Our original visa was for 30 days.  One friend of ours who has an English language school was trying to invite us for another 60-day visa. As part of that, we would have volunteered at her school but a glitch in the law prevented that option.

Another friend that Beth and I have known since 2000 is very excited about J127 Ranch.  She was the director of Ulan Orphanage for many years before moving to the Youth House as its director. She has many great connections and a real heart for the children. She knows their histories and heartaches.  When she heard we were having trouble getting our next visa she offered to invite us on a 60-day personal visa.  This application was submitted.  Since there was going to be a two-week gap between the two visas, we decided to head to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to get a 30-day tourist visa and then we will switch it to the 60-day personal invitation visa when the tourist visa expires.

There is a bus that goes from Taraz to Bishkek.  A new law allows Americans to enter Kyrgyzstan without a visa but we weren’t sure the border crossing we would be using would accept us into Kyrgyzstan or would we need to fly into the country.  We took off on the afternoon bus for another of our many adventures on buses in Kazakhstan.  It was an older 15-passenger van (including the driver) with two seats on one side of the van, an isle and a single seat on the other side.  The passenger seat tilted forward for passengers to enter the back of the van.  The aisle had what looked like trim bundled and piled in it, making walking a bit difficult.  Beth and I were among the last people to get into the van and so we stumbled our way to the back of it.  The seats were each elevated a bit as you moved toward the back, kind of like theater seats.  This made for good viewing out the front window.  Driving here in Kazakhstan is unlike anything you would experience in the states.  Passing a vehicle in front of you can be done even if multiple vehicles are come towards you.  Add into the mix herds of sheep, cattle and horses, horse and donkey powered carts, pedestrians walking and it is like a video game gone bad or an action packed movie with one of those crazy car chase scenes except this is real.  Beth said “All I need is pop corn and a soda an it would be like sitting in a movie theater!”  There is nothing to be done but sit back and enjoy the ride trusting the drivers and God.  We knew the general plan but most of the details we weren’t sure of so off we went into the unknown.

John and Julie Wright who work in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan doing great work caring for orphans and widows had agreed to host us during our time in Kyrgyzstan for which we were grateful.

When we got to the border crossing, everyone exited the bus, taking their packages and personal belongings with them.  Upon entering the passport control Beth called John to let him know where we were.  (Our phone would not work once we crossed into Kyrgyzstan.)  Due to poor reception, Beth had to talk louder than normal, making everyone in the building aware that we were foreigners and Americans at that.  We could hear the guards say something about the tourists.  We hadn’t wanted to be in the back of all the other people on our bus but that is what ended up happening.  We weren’t sure if the bus would wait for us even though we had paid for the whole trip.  When it was my turn to present my passport I was pleasantly surprised by an English-speaking Kazakh.  He was very pleasant and within a few minutes we both had passed through Kazakhstan’s side of the border.  We exited a door and then went to a window on the Kyrgyzstan side.  Again, we were surprised to hear a Kyrgyz saying, “Good Evening,” in perfect English.  And as easy as that we were across the border with all of our required stamps.  Then, we were off to find our bus.

It was dark by then and there were lots of people, cars, buses, trucks, and taxi drivers offering a ride on the left side of the path and vendors selling various things lining the right side.  I needed a bathroom and something to drink since, by then, it was past   7 p.m. and we had left our house at 3 p.m to begin our travels.  Wondering if we had missed the bus, we wandered down the path a bit.  One of the other women on the van saw us looking lost and spoke to us, thankfully.  She then pointed down a side alley where we spied a sign for toilet.  Beth graciously let me go first and as I headed down this alley way a small boy on a bike greeted me, talking a mile a minute oblivious to the fact I had no clue what he was saying.  He rode his bike in circles around me as I walked.  In Kazakhstan it is common to pay a small price to use a toilet.  This includes a bit of toilet paper that you pick up when you pay.  I paid my money to use the toilet to a young girl and, at this young boy’s insistence, I followed him down a path past some parked cars, a very large dog on a very large chain, then down a narrow path around a faucet and trough of water that had spilled over making the path very muddy,  Through some trees then a turn to the right to what was obviously an area being renovated.  The young boy showed me which bathroom was for women and explained – in detail – not to step on the wet cement but to walk on the board.  Even though I didn’t understand a word of his language I knew what he was saying and from the small footprint already in the cement, it looked like my young friend had already learned from experience what happens when you step in wet cement.

While I was traveling to the “restroom” – in reality, a fancy outhouse – Beth chatted with one of the three other women on the bus.  When I got back, Beth took off about the time the two other women showed up.  They were also traveling to Tokmok so we decided we would get a taxi together for the journey between Bishkek and Tokmok – about an hour’s drive.  It turned out these two women were Dungan.  It was a great blessing to have them join us as we negotiated the city of Bishkek and secured a taxi.  The ride was uneventful but my heart sighed in relief as we pulled up to the “bus station” to see John Wright sitting on the back of his car with the hatch open (he had told us he would do this to help us find him in the dark).

Our time in Bishkek was above and beyond any expectation I could have had.  John and Julie and their two grown daughters welcomed us with open arms.  We were able to participate with two different delegations from Canada, see a small bit of the great work being done there and gleaned a bit of their wisdom in the process.  Be sure to check out their website to see the great work they are doing –

Beth outside apartment being renovated for a single mom and her two children. These were children outside who were curious about all the activity.







This is the daughter of the mom who was getting all the assistance. She was such a sweet shy girl trying to take in all the kindness being shown her family after many years of great hardships.
Children around the world like to play games. Hokie Pokie is one that is always popular as well as an old camp song with hand motions “I’m a little piece of tin” and good old fashion game of tag.
Isalu and her friend outside the apartment where the renovations were going on. These children were so curious about all the foreigners at their apartment complex.









Check out more pictures of our time in Kyrgyzstan on!

Beth and Helen (from Canada) with the mom and her two children where the team was working to renovate her apartment.



Dinner with the Canadian team at John and Julie’s apartment in Tokmok



Red River Orphanage kids got treated to a movie “Wreck-it Ralph”. This is Beth, John & Julie along with Tilik and Emir. Emir has been trapped for 4 years as governments have delayed. His family has paid twice to complete his adoption and still he sits in an orphanage.

I could go on and on sharing about the many different happenings here in Central Asia.  The central theme is the children.  Life is hard for the average person and family.   Without the stable foundation of a family to help the children navigate life, the ones without stable families or any family at all have little hope.

The mountains before us on the great adventure that is J127 Ranch are high and the path before us is full of unknowns.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Perseverance, patience and persistence are what we need to continue forward.  My heart aches for the children.  When we were visiting Ulan Orphanage this past Friday, the staff had just found out the orphanage would close December 1.  Some of the children will transfer to Saramoldaeva Orphanage.  There are so many unknowns.  One worker at Ulan said 10 caregivers will keep their jobs and move to Saramoldaeva but another worker said only three were transferring.  A few workers we spoke with said they didn’t know what would happen or that they weren’t transferring.  It was obvious the director had been crying and we saw tears on several other staff members’ faces.  What a sad day for them. But then I looked at all of the children.  Their already unstable lives were being turned upside down once again.

Saule didn’t know I had come till she entered the room. When she saw me she ran and jumped into my arms squeezing for all she was worth.

There isn’t one comfort I’ve left or one discomfort I now live with that I wouldn’t endure to keep moving forward – to keep persevering and patiently hoping and believing a door will open so J127 Ranch can open doors for these precious children.

Thank you all who have joined the community of people who are committed to ENGAGE with one another and the children in ways that ENRICH each of our lives so we are all EMPOWERED to be who we were uniquely created to be.

Trying on a new sweater I brought for her.

Making new friends and sharing about J127 Ranch in Texas

I have to laugh at how my life has turned upside down in so many ways.  This Epic Journey is beyond any dreams I  had, and  yet incorporates so many  deep desires built into my heart by my Creator.

It is hard to believe now,  but I am a home body by nature.  I like to be “home”.  Yet, I find myself being a nomad.   I stepped out of the boat a while ago.  I  continue to live outside my comfort zone and have to daily  lean not on my own strength and understanding but live by faith.   Last week I again stepped out on faith and boarded a United flight to Austin, Texas.   The  Paul and Sue Barber family so graciously opened their home and family to me.    I had “met” them on the internet through our common bond of the orphans of Taraz.   They adopted a precious boy from Taraz in 2006 (a couple of years before I moved over full-time).  Their hearts remember  those children left behind and long to be part of J127 Ranch to give these children an opportunity to build productive lives as part of their community.

The morning I woke to start my Texas adventure I began to feel those familiar stabs of anxiety I used to feel long ago.  Fear used to be my constant companion.  Most days that seems several life times ago.  But every now and then, those familiar feelings can creep back.   My thoughts began to wonder down the old rabbit trails.  Thoughts like: “I don’t even know “these” people! ” ; “What if they don’t like me?” ; “What if I don’t like or feel comfortable with them?”; “How will I make all the connections I need to make down there and get back to the airport?” . This trip was very loosely arranged with many details up in the air.  Kit and Cindy (my ex-husband and his wife) had donated frequent flyer miles for this trip. With the Barbers opening their home it seemed silly to be worrying about those other issues , when it was clearly evident that I was supposed to go.   I had to let go of my control and turn my focus on what I knew was the call on my life.  I started thinking about all those children I knew by name in Kazakhstan who desperately needed a place to call home.  A place where they could learn life skills and heal in order to build their futures.  They needed someone who was willing to advocate for them.  No, actually they need a community of people dedicated and committed to pouring into their lives.  A community of people who realize their lives are not whole either and together we will all learn to ENGAGE with one another in ways that ENRICH each of our lives to EMPOWER all of us to be who we.   In order to spread the word I have to step way out of my comfort zone.  That morning my “assignment” was boarding a plane to Texas.  I needed to choose to look at the opportunities ahead of me for that very day.  I am only promised one day at a time.
A peace settled in my heart and off I went for the next chapter in my story.    Sue, Josh and Caleb picked me up at the airport in their black Kia they affectionately call “the Skunk”.  Sue smile put me to ease at once.  Josh and Caleb, though 6 and 5 years old respectively, charmed me right away with their smiles, questions and calling me by name right from the start.  This family has 6 precious children.  One of the Barber kids was in Ecuador on a mission trip but between stories and pictures I felt like I got to know her too.  Their family is rounded off with two sweet pups – Pepper and Sasha.  If you know me or have followed me for long you know I love children and love animals so this home was a perfect fit for me.  Paul and Sue had 4 children the old fashioned way then the last 2 children came through the gift of adoption.   They are great resources for other families thinking or who have adopted.  You can follow their blog – Half Dozen Scrambled .   Paul and Sue have many gifts and talents which they freely gave to help build J127 Ranch from tech support to word smithing. They are such a blessing.   I loved each moment with this family, from hanging out at their home while little boys played in an appliance box from the stove that was delivered, jumping on the trampoline, swimming, to visiting the Zoo.  I saw parents who love and are committed to all of their children.  Who comfort, laugh with, push, and are consistent so each of them can reach their fullest potential.  Josh and Caleb had lives of trauma before joining the family, which have required some extra work, patience and love.  Yet when the family talks you not only hear some of the hard things you hear what great gifts and blessings these two boys are and how they have greatly enriched all of their lives.

I love to share about the children in Kazakhstan.  I also love to see how lives are being woven together in order to accomplish this vision.  Two different nights they invited friends and family over to hear about J127 Ranch.   My heart was touched by the questions and interest in the children and J127 Ranch.  Then my heart was totally blown away when the Barber’s 16-year-old daughter shared she wanted to regularly support from her earnings from her part-time job.  WOW.  There is no gift to small or to large but my heart was deeply touched by her gift.    We now have a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old giving a percentage of what they make to J127 Ranch- to children half way around the world.  With each gift I am humbled to be part of something so much bigger than me.   This is a community but it takes individuals to step forth and join for the community to work.

On Monday Sue, two of her children and I drove to Austin to meet Katherine K, her three children – one from Kazakhstan and a friend of Katherine and her two children.  Katherine and her family had recently moved to Texas.  It was great to see her children especially her son from Kazakhstan.  I love seeing former orphans thriving in their families.  He and Josh are about the same age.  The food at the cafe was good but the connections were the dessert.  Our shared hearts for orphan children and how to help them over come their difficult beginnings, enabling them to have bright futures, wove our hearts together.


Then, to top the whole trip off, I got to spend time with my sweet step-sister Elizabeth and her family.  It had been quite a long time since I had seen them.  I was not expecting to be so blessed by Todd, Elizabeth and their sweet family.  The time was way to short but ever so sweet with an aroma I will not soon forget.

On Tuesday, Elizabeth took me to the airport and as I woke that morning I remembered back to the previous Thursday.  I had woken with fear trying to grip my heart and now my heart bubbled over with great joy and so many blessings from my time in Texas.  J127 Ranch had new supporters but more important the community, who feel the call to be part of caring for the precious children in Kazakhstan, had grown and my heart had been deeply touched.

The community of those who are called to care for orphan children in Kazakhstan is growing and I’m blessed to be a part of it.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance dear friends.


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Exciting News and a way you can help launch us to Kazakhstan!

I can’t believe how quickly the days are passing.  I am also amazed some days at the amount of work yet to be done for the J127 Ranch vision to become a reality.I am pleased to announce with, much thanks to the dedicated work from Kim Floyde at Aspenglow Services and Cindy LaJoy the J127 Ranch websiteis live.  Be sure to visit!Beth and I are humbled and thankful for all those who are stepping forward to be part of J127 Ranch.   The Ranch will not be just a place for orphan children to live, but also a place where we Engage in one another’s lives, be Enriched by the fellowship and community and be Empowered to be who we each were created to be.  

One couple has step forward and offered a generous Matching Grant of $5000.00 each for Beth and me toward the $14,000.00 we each need to apply for permanent residency.  We are amazed and humbled by their hearts to care for the orphans in this world.

There are several reasons why permanent residency is so important.  One of the major obstacles of staying long term in Kazakhstan is the visa requirements.  With permanent residency we will not be constantly struggling to renew our visas.

The other advantage permanent residency offers us is the ability to purchase and own property.   That’s what makes this generous donation such a big deal.

Many of you have expressed a desire to help.  So for those who feel called to be part of this vision, here is a great opportunity to jump start the J127 Ranch!  You can help by being part of doubling this $10,000.00 grant and making it $20,000 towards the $28,000.00 we need for permanent residency.

J127 Ranch is a Department of A.C.T. Intl a 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

When you donate towards this Matching Grant,  make sure to add a note that your donation is for the J127 Ranch – Beth & Victoria’s Permanent Residency

Mail a check or money order directly or use your Bank Online Bill Pay system.  Checks should be payable to   J127 Ranch / A.C.T. Intl and should include your name and address in order to receive a receipt. 

Send To: A.C.T. Intl
PO Box 1966
Brentwood, TN  37024-1966

Donate Online using your credit card by going to  This website is linked to a PayPal account and a 2.9% processing fee will be deducted from the donation.  You will receive a receipt from ChipIn, Paypal and a tax-deductible receipt will also be provided by A.C.T. Intl. 

We are excited to see how all the ranch hands and wranglers are being brought together from so many different parts.  

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Victoria for the J127 Ranch Team










Kazapalooza – “Kazakh Party”

Kazapalooza (“Kazakh Party”)!  Palooza means “party!

This past weekend Beth Turnock and I had the honor and privilege to be part of a great annual event held this year at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.  It was a gathering of over a hundred families who have adopted at least once from Kazakhstan.  Many of the families have made the trip to Kazakhstan several times in order to complete their family.  Adopting from Kazakhstan is a long drawn out process and a testimony to the dedication these parents have for their children. It was a delight to see children glowing and thriving in their adoptive families. 

The women bringing Kazapalooza together are adoptive mothers themselves.  (Gretchen, from TN, mom of 3, Muriel, from IL, Mom of 2, Lori, from Ohio, Mom of 6, Kristan, from FL, Mom of 3, Karen, from KY, Mom of 1, Michelle, from WI, Mom of 2)  They dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours organizing and preparing for this event.   It was fabulous!!  (to see more pictures from this event

The experience of traveling half way around the world to bring home their precious children united them with a common experience.  Their desire for their children to feel a connection to their birth families and to their birth country, as well as to see other children just like themselves, is the driving force for this event. 

Friday night was a family cook-out with games for the children.  A pie eating contest topped off the evening.  My heart loved seeing all these precious children running around having so much fun.  I kept looking into their faces wondering if any had siblings I knew back in Taraz.  As much as my heart loved seeing these happy children, it also ached for all those children left behind.   Their futures do not look as bright as these at Kazapalooza.   Those left behind have no one to advocate for them when they struggle in school.   They have no one to comfort them when they are hurt or to hold them in their arms when they are overwhelmed with life. 

 A luncheon and raffle was held Saturday.   The families not only wanted to celebrate and enjoy one another, they also desired to give back to those children left behind.   Each year the event planning committee chooses a non-profit working with orphans in Kazakhstan to donate funds raised during this event.   This year Ark Village, a wonderful private orphanage outside Almaty run by an Italian man, was chosen. Papa Guido has been running Ark Village for 12 years.   Each family brought an item to be raffled off.   There were some wonderful gifts which raised monies for Ark Village. 

What amazed me is that these families not only adopted their child but are staying actively involved and giving back to children that remain in the orphanage system in Kazakhstan.   These adoptive parents’ hearts have been touched and transformed. 

I heard many stories of treasured memories the families have.   Their desire is to expose their children to the rich heritage of Kazakhstan.  Many talked of wanting to return with their children when they are older so they can see Kazakhstan and learn about their birth country.   The desire for their children to be healthy, well-rounded and joyful was abundantly evident in all. 

There were also stories of their child’s struggles to overcome past traumas and the surprise they had when learning about issues they had no clue about previously.  I was encouraged to hear each parent’s determination to find the resources needed to help their children be the best they can be no matter what.    They could laugh at the struggles, at themselves and at things they had never thought funny before.  There was a comfort each family felt being surrounded by people who didn’t react or look strangely when a child had a melt down because they were in a new place, out of routine and over stimulated.  It was accepted that these precious children fight a battle against terrors and traumas most could never imagine.  The lack of a loving parent during those first critical years of life has left scars that may not be seen by the eye but are present nevertheless.  Only in a loving, caring environment will these children learn to overcome what they weren’t given at the beginning of their lives.  Each of the children at Kazapalooza now have parents who are dedicated to loving and nurturing them.  What joy that was to see!  Families came from as far away as Texas, Virginia, and Canada. 

The desire of my heart is see the children on the J127 ranch thriving and learning to overcome the traumas in their lives as they build a future and become contributing members of the society they will live in.  J127 Ranch will be a place for each child to engage with others and in that process be enriched and empowered to become all he or she was created to be. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey.
Victoria on behalf J127 Ranch Team


I can’t believe how fast the days are passing!.  I’m also amazed some days at the amount of work needed to make the vision a J127 Ranch reality.   But I am pleased to announce that thanks to much hard work from Cindy Lajoy and Kim Floyde at Aspenglow Services  the J127 Ranch website – is now live. 

Beth and I are humbled and thankful for all of you who are stepping forward to be part of the vision to engage, enrich and empower orphan children in the Taraz area of Kazakhstan.

One amazing couple has stepped forward and offered a Matching Grant.  They are offering $5000.00 each for Beth and me toward the $14,000.00 we each need to apply for permanent residency.  We are amazed and overwhelmed by this donor’s support and generosity.

There are several reasons why permanent residency is so important.  One of the major obstacles of staying long term in Kazakhstan is the Visa.  With permanent residency we will not need to continually re-apply for a new Visa.

In addition to the benefit of not needing to frequently leave the country to apply for a new visa, permanent residency offers us the ability to purchase and own property. Without property our J127 project is on hold.  With this gracious matching gift, we have the possibility of applying for permanent residency and of soon owning property. 
So, for all of you who feel called to be part of this vision, here is a great opportunity to jump start the whole project. Come help us to double this $10,000.00 grant. With your help, the $10,000 will become $20,000 towards the $28,000.00 we need for permanent residency. Your donation, in whatever amount, will be matched up to $10,000.

Please make sure to add a note that your donation is for the J127 Ranch – Matching Grant for Permanent Residency

You may mail a check or money order directly or use your Bank Online Bill Pay system.  Checks should be payable to   J127 Ranch / A.C.T. Intl and should include your name and address in order to receive a receipt. 

Send To: A.C.T. Intl
PO Box 1966
Brentwood, TN  37024-1966

Donate Online using your credit card by going to  A.C.T. Intl provide this option for your convenience, but please be advised that there is a 5% processing fee charged the J127 Ranch to cover the cost charged by the credit card companies.  

We are excited to see how all the ranch hands and wranglers are being brought together.   

Blessings and Joys to you each..
Victoria for the J127 Ranch Team

Be part of J127 Ranch to
  Engage, Enrich, Empower

the orphan children in the Taraz area of Kazakhstan