Oh, the joy that visa time brings! (I hope you are catching the sarcasm here.) Time and time again, missionaries around the globe rank visas and work permits among their top stressors each year. Some of us live in places where we must renew our visas every 90 days (nightmare!). Some of us renew once a year. For some of us, it means that we must leave our country-of-service in order to re-enter under new visa paperwork (frustrating, time away from our lives and work, expensive, etc). For some of us, it means staying in country until the process is complete, which could mean months. And for others of us, it means holding our breath and praying that this won't be the year that we aren't non-renewed and told that we must pack up and leave.
I know and work with people in ALL of the above situations.
Some of our best friends are living the daily 'unknown' right now as their visa rejected due to some paperwork mistake. They are now fighting for that to change. Other friends have recently had to face the fact that they will never again enter their beloved country because of non-renewal... they have recently changed fields and now serve another country. And yet other friends have been waiting for approval since July, only to find out that they were rejected because the office never received their paperwork in the mail. They have just received word, last week, that all is back in order and they are 'legal' again.
Living in a state of feeling like you are an illegal immigrant is not easy.
One year, our Peru visa was only supossed to take 7-10 days for the renewal process. In reality, we waited in limbo for 7x10 days... a total of 70 days... before we heard that we could stay in country.
Last year, as many of you know, our visas to Spain were approved and granted and affixed to our passports, only to be revoked later the SAME DAY and our passports were confiscated and held for 2 weeks until it could be resolved. This entailed our being held out-of-country without passports, awaiting word as to whether or not we would be able to return to Spain.
You just can't imagine the stress. Completely out of your control. In limbo. Just waiting. Absolutely nothing you can do but wait and hope and pray. Stomach aches, head aches, worry... it's crazy!
So now we are in 'visa time' again. The countdown began 60 days prior to the date of expiration. Exactly 60 days out, you can begin the process of reapplication and renewal. Paperwork in hand, all the t's crossed and i's dotted, copies made, head cocked exactly right... we turned in the files. About a week or two later, we received the first of the gazillion notices requesting more. More proof of financial stability, more proof of insurance coverage, more proof of residence, more proof of educational attendance for Sarah, more proof of invitation to work for the church... more, more, more. Every notice comes as a certified letter. Every one requiring us to go to the post office, wait in lines, sign to receive the notice. Then the trying to read and decifer the legal Spanish. Then a trip to the lawyer to find out exactly what we need to do this time. Over and over again.
They actually sent a request to Sarah (she's 11 years old) asking for proof of financial stabiity and average income in a bank account! She's eleven! But we complied.
Our visas actually expired Tuesday. According to the lawyer, we are okay as long as we are still 'in process'. He looked us up in the computer system... looks like Sarah's is doing well and they don't need more paperwork for her. As for us, there is a document still outstanding. It has to come from the Ministry of Justice. It's is out of our hands, out of our control, which doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
So we wait.
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!