Saturday, October 4, 2008

Visas, Buses, and Annalise

The many prayers said regarding our long-term missionary visas were answered! We went to Immigration Tuesday, signing in at 9:15 a.m. We encountered absolutely no lines. Our file was immediately pulled and we were escorted to a lawyer's office. He looked through our file. Once again, there were questions regarding Annalise's birth certificate but he seemed satisfied with our answers. He asked to see our passports, asked who was the oldest child and then asked Adriana "How old are you?" Then he looked at me and asked "Who are you?" When I answered that I was the mother there were no more questions. Thomas signed a paper and then the lawyer signed his name. We need to return in 3 months to see if our file has been released.

I felt it very important to take the time and stop to tell the head of the legal department "Salamat po." (Thank you) The girls were already starting down the stairs when she motioned them to come back. Once again I was amazed at how God worked through Annalise. This lady, who had seemed so grouchy before, held Annalise's hand and suddenly transformed into a loving grandmother.
We had asked the lawyer for a phone number that we could call to check if our files were released, but he insisted we must inquire in person. Three months from now puts us right in the Christmas season and we wondered when the government offices would be closed. No one seemed aware of the schedule, but downstairs one of the employees graciously gave us his personal number not wanting us to travel so far to find the offices closed.

Those close to me know I struggle with worrying. God has done a great work in my heart and slowly this burden is lessening. I had such a sweet peace about our hearing. I recognized we were asking for much but just trusted that God would take care of all the details. I prayed a simple prayer of faith and truly left it to Him. At 9:30 a.m. we were outside getting a cab! (9:30 a.m. was when they agreed we could see if a lawyer would be available for our hearing.)

We got on the bus and journeyed the 6 hours to Baguio to renew our tourist visas as they were scheduled to expire November 27. Our plan was to go Wednesday morning to renew the visas then continue to Bontoc. But we found that Wednesday was a holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. The number of Muslims is increasing in the Philippines and there is much said about keeping peace with our Muslim neighbors and so, in respect, all government offices were closed. So our return home was delayed. On Thursday morning we greeted the immigration officials in Baguio that we have gotten to know by name. (Ironically two of them have been waiting for years for their visas to go to the U.S.) Renewing in there is really easy as the office is much smaller than in Manila. We were able to leave in about 20 minutes with our stamped visas in hand. We are quite familiar with the process by now but we did not know there is a special fee if you stay more than 6 months. Renewing our tourist visas for two months this time cost more than our long term missionary visas but hopefully it will be the last time we need to.

"Back into the bus," seems to be a common phrase for our family as once again we were back in the bus on our way to Bontoc. The bus broke down a few times but still the trip took only six and a half hours. We arrived home to the news that Annalise's photo had been in the September 28 edition of the local newspaper, Mountain Province Exponent. Evidently we were not the only ones who noticed this friendship during the Am-Among Festival.

The caption reads, "This is a different perspective of Am-Among."

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