|The Road goes ever on and on|
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Well, we made it out of Trinidad. All our paperwork is in order and a visa-stamped passport is in our hands. To be frank, the decision to take a time-out in the early days of January had since been backed up by so many little confirmations in the succeeding months that any other result would have seemed inconceivable.
But, my goodness, we're not half made to sweat these things out!
The UK's consulate in Bogotá (where South American applications are sent) have a three-week target time in which to process all applications. And this target is generally met -- we have enough experience to know! So it was pretty unnerving that on the morning of the 7th, exactly three weeks later, we'd heard barely a word. However, that afternoon, we finally received an email confirming that the application was now in the hands of an entry clearance officer. The following day, we were advised that the decision had been made and that the documents would be back with us in four working days.
And so it was that this past Tuesday -- one day short of four weeks since we'd submitted the papers, and one day before we were due to leave Trinidad for Santa Cruz -- we received word from our friend in La Paz that, yes, the visa had been granted. By this point we had very much 'packed in faith', with half of our luggage already on its way to Santa Cruz with one of the local bus companies (the best way to deliver large items in Bolivia is to use road or air travel operations). So, yes, exhalations all round.
And, yes, more to the point, that Canadian passport could not come sooner!
The visa's granting was the final piece in our paperwork jigsaw, with both our national ID cards and driving licences pending the last time we filed. Amanda's were due to expire on Sunday -- a day before we leave the country -- while I spent over a week, er, driving without a valid licence (in fairness, in doing so, I was perfectly in step with the vast majority of Trinidad's motorists; curiously enough, the local fuzz only tend to check for licences when big national and local
boozefests -- sorry, holidays -- are approaching).
Anyway, when the woman at the office confessed to us that she was still awaiting the outcome of applications submitted last year, our stress levels again took an upward trajectory. However, in this case, too, we made it by the skin of our teeth; on Monday, two days before we left Trinidad, we were handed our new five-year ID cards and driving licences. In truth, we could probably have just about managed without them before leaving the country; it was our re-entry later this year which would have become much more complicated.
|Sam, Amanda and Jessica, who has the good fortune of sharing her name with|
the classic Top Gear theme tune.
In hindsight, then, the calming influence in our midst over the past week or so was surely providence writ large. Amanda's old friend Jessica Morris arrived a week past on Thursday and proved an immense help, whether in the tedious practical chores required before such a big departure, or keeping an eye on His Lordship while we dashed from one government office to the next, or in simply helping us stay positive and distracted from these big concerns through stimulating conversation. Amanda had been commenting that, perhaps one reason we have come to this crossroads in our lives and ministry, is that there has always existed a temptation to prove to others -- and, by extension, to ourselves -- that we are 'doing stuff'. Certain platforms, if we're not careful, can encourage this mentality: this very blog, of course, is one; and visits from the outside world are often another.
With Jessica, mercifully, that was never going to be the case: firstly, because, of course, our tanks were pretty much empty anyway; and secondly, because, like any friend or family member who has taken the effort to come out and visit us, our value to Jessica was in no way based upon what we do.
What's more, Jessica also falls within that very small bracket of friends whom Amanda would describe as, "Those people you can hang out with for the first time in years and just pick up from where you left off." No targets to meet, no big shows to put on, no judgement, no big deal. But yes, lots of exquisite beniano steak and fish to sample with abandon, per our guest's explicit instructions.
* * *
That, friends, is probably it in terms of our weekly/fortnightly updates for the time being. We are under orders to ensure these coming months will be a time not only of restoration, but of rest, and removing the regular pressure of coming up with something to riff on every weekend is certainly part of that (I know what you're thinking: we make it look so easy, don't we!).
However, this impending season is likely to be crucial for us in terms of our future direction, and so we're hoping to keep regular readers appraised as to our progress, say, once a month or so. We'll see how that transpires.
We also intend to keep producing our usual quarterly email updates, so if you'd like to receive these regularly, please do send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, then, here are our prayer points:
- For our time in the UK, specifically...
- For Craig: That he would learn to rest properly and be enabled to make healthy decisions as to his ministry life.
- For Amanda: That she would be restored to a place where she is better able to serve others while taking better care of herself.
- For Sam: That he would have regular opportunities for play, learning and interaction with his contemporaries.
- For us all: That we would be built up and encouraged by our time with friends and family; that our treatment would enable us to be better equipped to return to Bolivia later this year; and that God would guide us as to the next steps we should be taking in our lives as a family.
- For smooth and safe travels over the coming week. Pray particularly for abundant reserves of patience and endurance, with a toddler in tow, an overnight transatlantic flight, and a seven-hour layover the next day in Frankfurt. A heady brew!
- Pray for the work in Trinidad, both of Fundación Totaí and the church (see our last entry) from which we are recusing ourselves in order to get a proper break, but which, of course, will continue in earnest in our absence.
- Perhaps the strongest confirmation of God's will for our return to the UK has been the way he has so emphatically met our needs. We will have a car and we are a pen to about to put pen to paper on a flat for the next few months. Give thanks.
- For the great encouragement and refreshment of Jessica's visit (you can find Jessica's own reflections here).
- For the various documents coming together in time for us to be able to travel with a great weight off our minds. We got there in the end.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
Craig & Amanda