An Unexpected Return

Seth wrote this letter yesterday about the recent “goings-on.” Thank you for your prayers.

UNPLANNED “FURLOUGH”
Though unlooked for, we are nevertheless compelled to return again to the US as you may have already heard. A few weeks ago, I heard from an immigration lawyer who opened our eyes to a new law that just took effect in 2014. Owing to a legal technicality enmeshed with the dates of our December return to the US, we may now only reapply for new visas from our “country of origin.” Though I have contacted just under a dozen lawyers, this is the only way Providence has opened for us.

Regardless of these plans that we would not have chosen for ourselves, we rest confidently that God has good purposes for moving us this way. Hopefully, we will visit six of our nine supporting churches as well as see a number of families. Our flight arrives on 8 May and departs again on 29 June. Please send me an email if you’d like to get together during our two-month sojourn.

Those dates are blocked on either end by some major family news as well. Caleb’s broken arm will be freed from six pins and a cast next Monday, 20 April. He should be healing nicely by the time we get on the plane.

The other end of the trip is clamped in by the good news of Amy’s fifth time to unpack the maternity clothes. Since she is due in August, we have to come back by the end of June or face the dire consequences of paying American health care costs.

We fear that needy people can be exhausting, nevertheless, I must ask if anyone knows of a donkey cart with six seatbelts for rent or sale that we might use during May and June.

LEAVING OUR CHILD BEHIND
Owing to the expense of plane tickets we have decided to leave one of our children: Elim Baptist Church. One of the ways we anticipate God glorifying Himself is by using this trip like vitamins and a workout regimen for EBC. Already the members have divided up the ministries during those two months. God has given us a humble and competent man to serve as pastor-teacher during most of the weeks with another college student also helping one or two Sundays.

Recently, we have also seen two 26-year old men in our church take demonstrable steps of character. Both of these men are showing evidence that they are willing to follow Christ rather than culture in marriage and work. In the past, we have entered the first or even second levels of church discipline with both of these young men.

OTHER CHURCHES
On Easter Sunday three Tsonga churches met in Mbhokota at Trinity Baptist Church for a thrilling service. The highlights of the day included the public testimonies of three young people from EBC who were baptized as well as a unique confession from a member of Paul’s church. In 2013, this man fell away from the faith. Over the long intervening months and years, he had been hardened toward Paul, but in answer to the fasting and prayers of the church members God granted repentance. Two Sundays back, he surprised many of us by publicly humbling himself and submitting to the Lordship of Christ. May a deep longing be created within those poor churches in Africa or America who do not know the unusual pleasure of seeing church discipline work out like this.

You may recall that Justice Sebola, an LBI graduate, served at our church in December and January. He and his new wife have decided to plant a church in a rural village in Zimbabwe about 4 hours away. Helped by his brother, who also graduated from LBI, they have already gathered a small group of believers in a village much poorer than most of those in SA. Please pray that a Baptist church in Wunga would flourish.

About four hours from the Sebola’s village, the attached picture shows the Rock Baptist Church planted by Wastemore Sarireni. On Easter Sunday, a large gathering of people they have been evangelizing from different villages all met on the large rock that gave the church its name.

For the Church which He purchased,

Seth and Amy

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About Amy

I'm Amy, a missionary wife and mother of four children, blogging about our lives and perspectives on culture in South Africa.
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3 Responses to An Unexpected Return

  1. Anita Devore says:

    So sympathetic to the visa issue. We struggled with that, too. Actually, we had serious trouble with the FBI fingerprint issue that lasted a year. My prints were not acceptable until the FOURTH try. By then we were over the expiry date of our visas, but were granted a temporary extention that enabled us to stay. My best advice, get the FBI fingerprints done IN THE STATES, not in RSA. Do it while you are on your furlough. So excited to hear the good report on Caleb. Still praying for him. Praying also about the new baby. Make sure about the airline’s restrictions on flying which could cause a problem on returning before Amy’s due date. 🙂 Will pray for your church plant to survive and grow in spite of your necessary absence. God is in control.

  2. Deb Crawford says:

    Are you sure that is correct? Here is what I copied from Home Affairs website: Extending the validity of a temporary residence permit

    Applications for the extension of a temporary residence permit must be done at least 30 days prior to the expiry of the permit and can be made at any Department of Home Affairs office in South Africa. There is a fee payable when applying for an extension of a temporary residence permit. Please refer to the different types of temporary residence permits above. (The fee for an extension is the same as for the original application).
    Doug and I were being told that when we renewed but it wasnt true unless they changed it.

    • Amy says:

      It is correct for us. Our visas expired while we were in the States at Christmastime because of the attack on our family Dec. 2. We tried to renew in the States, but couldn’t because of police clearance issues. The consulate said we could just return here and apply during our 90-day stamp given at the airport upon entry. But in 2014, laws were changed to say that you can’t change the status of your visa from within SA. You have to do that from your country of origin. Apparently the 90-day stamp doesn’t count as the same thing as the visa we’d been on (visitor’s visa). If we had just renewed our visitor’s visas in SA in January as we’d originally planned, it should have worked out (except for the glitches with police clearance). But now, our visitor’s visa has expired, and we are only here on a 90-day stamp. We essentially have to re-apply as a “new” visa, not a renewal now. And we can’t change that status from within SA.

      Believe me, we’ve renewed several times by now, with several new difficulties each time. Each time, someone tells us to go back, but we work it out. At one point Seth had a Word document almost two pages long, single-spaced, of phone numbers of municipal workers to help us renew. But this time, we just can’t work it out. This time, we’ve contacted nine different immigration lawyers and gotten the same answer. We also contacted the company through whom all visa applications go through within SA. They said they wouldn’t even accept our applications.

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