A Complicated Problem
To our many dear friends, our partners in ministry,
We first want to say, as we keep saying, THANK YOU for all your prayers for us in the last few weeks. We’ve had some interesting happenings, to say the least, but in every detail we have been aware of your prayers… even when (and sometimes especially when
) things didn't go the way we’d expected.
Here’s the short version: Because of the complexity of visa laws and unfortunate timing, we missed our visa deadline and have been "deported." This means we must leave the country for a short time while our paperwork is processed.
How did this happen?
The story is long and complicated, but we’ll try to make sense of it without giving you too many details. As you can probably guess from the prayer requests we’ve sent, most of this story has to do with paperwork and “red tape.” To obtain a long-term visa here, we have to:
have a number of official documents (notarized, translated, etc.),
that must be no more than 90 days old,
and must be submitted within a certain time period of entering the country.
We had nearly all these documents together when we arrived. But when we tried to submit them a few days after our arrival, our FBI background check was one day too old. From that point we were scrambling to get new background checks before our other documents also became too old.
Because we miscalculated our deadline date, and because the immigration police are very busy this time of year with international college students, we showed up at their office to submit our paperwork… only to learn that we had missed our deadline by one day. This made us “illegal immigrants” here in Slovakia. We were at the police office that Monday from 7am until 2am while the police figured out what to do with us. The end result was “administrative deportation” with a fine of about 200 euros (roughly $250).
Since then, we’ve been working to make sense out of our next steps.
Were you mistreated or did you feel threatened?
No, not at all. In fact, many of the immigration police seemed genuinely sorry that this was happening… partly out of sympathy for us, but mainly because it meant they had to stay at work until 2:00am!
(on the right: through a cracked door, Abigail snapped this picture of some of the police officers working on our deportation) =====>>
When do you have to leave the country?
We must leave by November 1, but haven’t yet booked our flights.
How long will you be gone?
We’re trying to minimalize our time away – we want the girls to miss as little school as possible. We hope we’ll only be away 2-3 weeks, but it could take as long as two months. We can return as soon as our paperwork is processed and our visas are granted.
What will you do while you're in the U.S.?
We will stay in Louisville, Kentucky. We will do the things we've been doing the last few weeks - learning language and continuing the girls' education. We plan to have regular lessons with our language teacher via Skype, and the girls' teachers will send them work electronically. Otherwise we will spend time with family. Because we want to return as soon as our paperwork is processed, we do not plan to do any other traveling.
How could this have been worse?
OK, you didn’t ask this, but we wanted to throw it in because it’s important to give a proper perspective on what’s happened.
Because we broke the law, we could have been banned from returning to Slovakia for as many as 10 years!!
The police could have required us to leave almost immediately – in fact, at one point in that long Monday we booked plane tickets for the following day. That would have been a very difficult and emotional departure!
The police could also have required that we complete this paperwork at the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C. That would have taken much more time and money, and would have kept the girls out of school for much longer.
We could have had the girls with at the police station for 19 hours. This, as you can imagine, would have been very hard for them. Instead, a dear friend offered to keep them for us while we waited.
What about all our prayers??
We have been amazed by the outpouring of prayer and encouragement we received from all of you in these past three months. You prayed that the girls would find joy in their school here, and they have! You prayed that we would develop fruitful relationships and partnerships, and we have! You prayed that documents would arrive quickly, and they did!
So in regards to these unfortunate happenings, remember:
Every single part of our move and ministry here has been better than we could ever have hoped - this is the only exception.
All of the circumstances leading up to this have been beyond our control – timing, crowds, regulations.
We did everything we could, as quickly and as well as we could.
So when we add these things up, we can only come to one conclusion: God has allowed this to happen for some reason. Knowing this gave us a very strong sense of peace, and the knowledge that whatever happened must be in God’s control.
So we are confident that God heard every single prayer. And even though the outcome wasn’t what we hoped or expected, God translated those prayers into a spirit of peace and faith that continues to sustain us. For that, we can only say that we are incredibly amazed that GOD could use all our prayers in such an unexpected way, and could work such good from a situation that might have been much, much worse!
(above: Tanya tells a story in English class at the Roma school)
How can we pray now?
Glad you asked! Here's how:
Pray that we would have safe travel back to the US.
Pray that we would quickly receive the paperwork we are still waiting for.
Pray that our learning would continue while we're gone.
Pray that we would have peace and patience while we wait on God's time for us to return.