April 25, 2010

Our Visa Story

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
James 1:2-8

James has always been one of my favorite books. When I first gave my life to Christ, I had trouble knowing where to "start." A mentor of mine had said to read James. I fell in love with the practicality, the bluntness, and yet the incredible promises and grace strewn throughout the short 5 chapters of this book. I am all about practicality. I was in a bit of a highlighting craze and if you'd look at the book of James in my first study Bible, you'd see the entire book highlighted and underlined with red... Let's just say it's stayed with me.

Alan and I have been on this journey to parenthood for the last 8 months and pretty early on we'd made the decision together that I would have the babies in the states (especially after my stay in the Dominican hospital). We knew that I would receive higher quality medical care for our twins should complications arise and the paperwork to make them American Citizens is automatic if they are born in the states (just need to wait for birth certs and passports) as opposed to the months and months of paperwork, lawyer fees, and trips to Santo Domingo (the Capital) to get the right paperwork approved for our girls to travel to the states with us... There were so many positives to me going to Las Vegas to have the babies... except one...

Alan would not be going.

This broke my heart and for a long time I wouldn't even admit that I was considering going to the states because that would mean somehow I didn't think he was important enough, eventhough he had made peace with the decision. I still struggled on. Finally, we came to the mutual decision that ultimately the health of our little ones that God has entrusted to us must take precedence and there are times where we have to make sacrifices. This certainly felt like one of them. I had no idea how I was going to do it without Alan for the first 2 months of the babies lives.

Our new mantra was "it's only 4 months... then we'll have the rest of our lives to be together as family." We truly believed this, prayed for peace with it, accepted it, and claimed it! In the last months and weeks leading up to me leaving for the states believing that was what helped me stay focused on doing what we had to do for our girls.

Several weeks before I left for the states a friend and lawyer emailed me and asked if we had planned on applying for a visa. We hadn't planned on it. Everyone we knew who had applied (Americans married to Dominicans) had been denied. She said if ever we had a case to win, this would be it. We prayed and thought why not, let's give it a shot, knowing the liklihood that we'd be denied. We gathered all the letters needed, filled out the paperwork, and applied for an appointment. Alan's date was set, but it was after I had booked my ticket to the states... so I had to leave and we said we'd see each other in 4 months.

My first week in the states I was in shock still. I couldn't believe that I was going to be here for 4 months alone without Alan. His appointment was scheduled for March 31 at 9am. I don't think I slept at all the night before. Alan was armed with all of his paperwork and letters along with letters I had had written by Senator Harry Reid, Congressman John Ensign and Congresswoman Shelly Berkley. We felt confident that we'd done all we could. We were surrounded by a ton of people praying for us. Alan's appt. lasted a record breaking 50 minutes, but ultimately he was denied in the end due to a "lack of ties" to the DR. Simply put, they did not believe we had intentions to return to the DR after our babies were born.

We were crushed, but not detroyed. We both cried and mourned and decided that the Lord had answered our prayers, though not how we had wanted, He had heard them and answered. We knew there was reason for this (though we didn't know the exact reason). We knew He would teach us (though we didn't know exactly what He wanted to teach us). We knew that we had to be open and committed to trusting HIS ways and HIS timing and to not doubt it like the waves of the sea tossing and turning about.

We turned our prayer focus towards having super healthy little girls so I could go home with them and they could meet their daddy as soon as possible.

I have to admit it was hard retelling the story to all of our prayer warriors when all I wanted to do was cry and ask God why, but I knew He would, in time, provide the answer. I so desperately wanted to see what God was doing in this situation, and I wanted others to see it too.

That's when the phone call came.

April 12th Alan called me and wanted to know if I had called the US Embassy and asked them to reconsider the case. I was a little stunned by his questioning, but told him "no," and reminded him that we had decided together that we weren't going to do that... there was a long pause and then he said

"because they called me."

He went on to tell me that they'd been attempting to contact him because they wanted to reconsider his case as soon as possible. He had a new scheduled appointment on April 15th at 2pm.

The praying began again. I kept wondering what in the world was God trying to teach us. The scripture from James kept rolling around in my head... Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. We so wanted to persevere through this, we really had no other option. It was as if God was taking us on this crazy ride and all we had to do was buckle up and believe... and we did. We believed without doubt.

Several hours later Alan called me to tell me the news "So??????" I asked him... (long pause)... and then he began... "They said no, I couldn't stay in the Dominican and had to go be with my wife and babies in the states."

I couldn't believe it. His appointment didn't last long. He was interviewed by the same woman who denied him the first time and after asking for the supervisor and speaking with him for a few minutes he was granted a visa. There are so many speculations as to why this happened...

Was it because the letters from the Senators and Congressman hadn't made it in time for his first appointment? Maybe.

Was it because I was in process to become a Dominican Citizen and Alan had the papers with him to prove it (which the Supervisor did take to verify before granting a Visa). Probably.

But I think this might be one of those magical moments that not even a non-believer could explain away. We have a mighty God who works in mysterious ways, and we are eternally grateful for what He has done for us, for our girls, for our family, and for all the people surrounding us who can also witness this beautiful miracle.

A week later Alan recieved his Dominican passport back with a 3 month Visa to the states.

Alan flys April 28th, this Wednesday to be with his girls!

Thanks be to God!

April 2, 2010

Restoration for Haiti

For over 20 years G.O. Ministries has been working in the Dominican Republic and Haiti and we are committed to bringing change and restoration to the Haitian people in the wake of the January earthquake.

How will YOU respond?

We are committed to long term work in Haiti and would like to offer this opportunity for you to partner in our plans. Currently, we are starting with a plan to meet the most basic of needs in the communities that we serve. What we are asking is for you to partner with us in one of these areas. Today, I am specifically asking individuals to commit one of the following options: supporting nutritional needs, funding water purification or funding sanitary systems. As little as $50 could pay a cook for one month. $500 could feed 50 kids every month. All aid will be initiated by the local pastor who also needs support. $500 a month would provide his salary and the operating expenses for his ministry plus a contribution to an emergency fund. We see this as the first step in a larger vision for Haiti. Future opportunities will exist in education but we wish to start with feeding the people.

At G.O. Ministries, we support the work of Nationals and seek to develop Partnerships of Ministry to provide much needed encouragement and support through spiritual, physical and financial needs. In order to create a blueprint for future work, we have put together an outline for development in these communities. We do not see G.O. Ministries as the agency for the entire plan but wish to communicate to your our vision for increased opportunities in Haiti. This plan was developed to serve 250 people in a sustainable community and foster the local economy. We plan to implement this in stages, building upon the previous step. We are ready to begin, but want to communicate how this work fits into the bigger vision of partnership with the people of Haiti.

This is only the beginning of meeting the needs in Haiti. Please contact me, Josanne Johnson or any of the office staff at 502-493-9846 to make your pledge of support. Please accept this challenge to meet these most basic of needs.

G.O. plan for Restoration in Haiti

Phase I
Initially, basic needs must be met. In order to do this, our plan is to build a multi-purpose building whose function will change over the life of this plan. This building will allow for development of a feeding program for the community as well as being a focus for the development of water purification and sewage systems. These systems will most likely be developed through our partner agencies. Our aim to assist the Haitian community in the most efficient manor. Housing for extended families will be developed in league with community leaders. In order to lessen dependence upon transported/donated food, an agricultural program will begin to encourage people to work to feed themselves. Agricultural land will need to be obtained and reclamation may also be necessary due to the problem of deforestation and erosion in the country. Animal husbandry will also be developed for feeding community members. The hope is that these efforts will expand into a business opportunity for the members of the community. Community health will be developed through clinic services and the education of individuals in basic first aid and disease prevention. These members of the community will be employed to care for basic needs between doctor’s visits and triage more serious illness to the closest appropriate medical facility. Educational needs will be met through the establish of a school or support and/or improvement of an already existing school.

Phase II
Phase II will consist of the support of education and economic development. Local business will be given the opportunity to grow into regional or national endeavors. Opportunities for adult education and advanced vocational training will be provided. Higher education opportunities will be encouraged. This could be in the form of scholarships to existing schools or partnering to develop institutions such as a teacher training school, nursing school, or physical and occupational therapy school. A medical school is already in the planning stages. Pursuit of the arts will be encouraged by supporting instruction in music, visual and performing arts and language arts.

This is a long term plan and we are committed to working in these areas. We cannot say how long accomplishing these goals will take, but we are dedicated to making progress. But we cannot proceed partners. Only those projects with definite support can proceed. Would you please continue to support Haiti by stepping up in this way?
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