Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Post - 07/01/2017

As many of you might know from following us on Facebook, and from some personal messages, we now have Sam's UK visa. We are exceedingly grateful to be able to go home and are maybe not taking the trip as much for granted as we may have been doing before. Hopefully, this will allow us to enjoy time with friends and family even more once we arrive. Thank you so much to everyone for their prayers and support to us during the last three weeks. We very much felt uplifted.

If at first you don't succeed, stick him in a giraffe jumper.
I (Amanda) have to admit that I did not cope overly well during the last three weeks. My inner angry Amanda was not so easily contained and I spent a lot of time with the strong desire to shake my finger in someone's face. I was not a person filled with grace, and if the embassy had not been in Bogotá, the people there might have found that out for themselves. Obviously, now that we have Sam's passport back with a UK visa stuck inside I feel ashamed at how graceless I've been recently, not just to the imagined meanies in the UK embassy, but to the people around me as well. 

I've been so on edge for a while now with trying to jam so many different things into our lives before we left, that upon receiving a parking ticket (not there was an official ticket issued) on Christmas Eve and having my car clamped (I didn't even know they did that in Trinidad), I had a complete sobbing cry in the police station in front of the police officer. He, however, did not take pity on me and my life circumstances, and refused to reconsider extorting money out of me for his holiday party. The cry just kind of crept up on me until I was suddenly making quite the scene in the police station. As he refused to meet my eyes during the entire exchange, I can only imagine he was as embarrassed as I was. 

I think our biggest problem with the first visa application was that we were extremely naïve and really had no idea what we were doing. We wrongly assumed that because Craig is British they couldn't really deny us the right to travel home. Looking back at the difference in our first and second submission, I realise that our first attempt was really weak and I can kind of understand why they denied it, knowing now what they are actually looking for. While it was a very difficult, expensive and stressful mistake to learn from, we also recognise that it is an important one to have learnt, as we can only imagine how visa applications are going to be a large part of our futures. We definitely feel a bit more confident now, and hopefully will be able to make strong Canadian and US submissions in the coming months, and receive the visas first time around. 

One of my biggest struggles during this time was trying to figure out what God wanted from us. I believe, though sometimes don't always feel, that God's way is the best way. I believe, though don't always feel, that trusting God's plan is the right thing to do. But when the plan is not clear and we have to take one step at a time and wait to see what the next step is, I have felt very confused. I believe that we can't presume to know what God's plan is in any specific situation until he reveals it, and I can't presume that what I want is necessarily what God wants. When Sam's visa didn't come through the first time, we had to consider that God might not want us to go home just now. After prayer and consulting with a friend with embassy experience, we decided to make the second submission and wait and see, but we had to acknowledge that it might be denied again and that God might be closing the door on our plans. It hurt and I was angry, but we tried to work through things as a couple to accept this possibility. However, almost all our Bolivian friends and church family assured us that we would get the visa. And hence, my struggle developed. Were their assurances trite comments that people give to each other, or did they truly have faith that this was what God wanted? The answer to that question probably depends on the specific individual, but I know that for some they genuinely believed that the visa would arrive and that we shouldn't worry. 

Is it theologically sound to assume a specific outcome and presume to know the mind of God? Or should we pray more generally so that we are always praying for the will of God? I have to admit that I have always in the past leant, and probably still lean, towards the second option, because I know from experience that we don't always get what we want and God is still good. However, lately I wonder if I find the second option a safer one. Because to have unshakeable faith in one position over another in any situation sets one up for failure and disappointment. If I had held to the position that God was absolutely going to supply Sam's visa and He would do absolutely everything possible to get us home, I would have been even more devastated with a second rejection. So I wonder if I cling to one theological position over another out of fear, which doesn't sound like a good thing either. Maybe I am cheating myself out of seeing God do big things because it hurts too much when He doesn't always do big things. There has to be a balance, right? Thoughts welcome.

Despite my inner theological turmoil, we decided to pack up the house assuming that we would be away for 6 months, mainly because it made the most sense logistically. However, I like to think we were acting in faith as well. We left Trinidad on the 29th and arrived one day before the annual Latin Link Bolivia conference was due to start. As many people will know, we officially became Latin Link Bolivia members in September (though our sending mission remains LAM Canada) and have been encouraged by visits from our team leader Louis Woodley and Short-term Coordinator Brigitte Borner de Fernández. However, now we had the opportunity to meet the entire team. And the five days we had with everyone was such an encouragement. 

Sam's looking over at his new favourite friend Lisa (green t-shirt). They went
everywhere together and he stared at the gate longingly when her
family left. He couldn't understand why she would leave him.
The annual conference is an opportunity to catch up with one another (and meet people for the first time in our case), learn about everyone's individual ministries, be refreshed and spiritually encouraged and deal with business matters that affect how Latin Link Bolivia operates as a team. Everyone was so welcoming and it all felt very inclusive, and by the end of the five days we honestly didn't feel like the newbies. It feels really good to part of a group again, as we have definitely felt more isolated being the only missionaries at FT these days. LAM Canada has been such a supportive missions agency as well, but we're the only missionaries with them in Bolivia, so we have been missing fellowship. And now we're part of a group that just gets what we go through; they face the same challenges, deal with the same culture differences, and have the same goal. It's wonderfully encouraging. 

During the conference we studied the book of Ruth. Four different people each took a chapter and led us through it, Craig having been asked to lead Ruth 3. Then we went away in small groups and worked on discussion questions that allowed us to be open and honest with each other. We had two sessions in particular as well, one being self-care and the other being mentoring. I have to say that the session on self-care hit me very hard. Essentially, I haven't been doing it and have allowed guilt and insecurities from letting me take care of myself. But the best part of the session was realising that I wasn't alone. Things I had been feeling were laid out in black-and-white as being very typical for missionaries. Craig and I definitely have been challenged about being more intentional in taking care of ourselves. 

Being new members, we were not allowed to vote in the business sessions, but were allowed to contribute. It was interesting to learn more about the structure of the group and how things worked, and we were really encouraged when the annual retreat (this year in La Paz) was scheduled for September, as we will be back in Bolivia by then and able to attend. 

Since the end of the conference, we have been hanging out in Santa Cruz, Craig travelled to La Paz on Thursday to pick up Sam's passport and documents, and now we're slowly starting to get organised for travelling. We leave Santa Cruz on Monday morning for Sao Paolo, where we're spend two nights. We didn't want to make the trip too heavy on Sam, so we decided to break it up a bit, but I know that Craig and I are wanting to just get there now. On Wednesday we take an overnight flight from Sao Paulo to London and arrive on Thursday morning, where we have a two hour layover, and then we head up to Glasgow. So, we're five days away from being home. We are very much looking forward to seeing some of you soon!

  • Journeying mercies at all stages of the travels, especially for Sam during the eleven-hour trans-Atlantic flight. He is quite an active child who doesn't always like to sit still. 
  • For our transition back into life in the UK.
  • For our visa applications to Canada and the US.
  • For such a good time at the Latin Link Bolivia Conference.
  • For a restful time as a family after such a hectic last few months in Trinidad.
  • For how well Sam has handled so many changes already.
Craig speaking. Home assignment is as much a part of missionary life as the field work, and will doubtless make for some great blog material some day. However, as in 2014, we've opted to lay the Saturday posts to rest until we return to Bolivia in June. We may post occasional updates, but no promises.

Thanks again to everyone out there who reads these missives, from London, to Larkhall, to Lusaka. Most of all, thanks for sharing our burdens of prayer with us. Hope to see you in the coming months.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda