it's been slightly 2 months since we arrived in west africa. now we're back stateside. what is going on!
i have such mixed feelings. when my head hit the pillow that first night - after a straight 24hrs of travel - my mind was swirling.
on one hand: so thankful that God cleared the way for us to get back (too many stories to tell here). thankful to see our son and pablo, who have been uprooted from their universities. and thankful that God has shown us time and time again that it's his will for us to be here.
on the other hand: oddly enough, i miss africa already. we had gotten "over the hump" of some tough initial challenges. luci absolutely loved her school as well as her friend next door. we were growing and improving in our french classes, and making new friends too. we were making progress. our house had become our home. to be honest, we were starting to really like it there. all God!
when coronavirus hit, returning to the states wasn't even a thought. as time went on, the US was getting more and more cases while africa was seeming to avoid it all together.
but potential issues with our visa status were brought to our attention. the impact of coronavirus had closed offices and procedures that we needed to get done before our tourist visas expired. after digging into it and ultimately acquiring legal counsel, we were warned that even though coronavirus was the cause, local authorities are very stringent in this area and there was no sign that they would give a grace period to those who were caught in the middle. we were advised that a permanent stain on our visa status could be detrimental to our future initiatives over the long term.
after discussing with our board, and our missionary team across other locations, that's when we looked into flight options out. departing and re-entering would automatically re-set our tourist visa, and allow us to get back and help our son and pablo navigate things in the meantime. with help from family using skymiles, we booked tickets one week out.
but thats when panic in our country, not to mention around the world, began to ensue. the virus had reached africa, and our west african country was one of the hardest hit. the president eventually shut down all schools, public gatherings, international flights, etc. we were told that our flight, still almost one week away, would almost certainly be cancelled. the US embassy arranged emergency charter flight evacuations for US citizens in the country immediately.
as we prayed through all of this, God overwhelmed us with peace. we continued moving about our lives in africa, going out to shop and prepare. not knowing if we'd be able to fly out, or be in longterm lockdown in africa, we semi-prepared for both. we felt the Lord allowed us to view it in a simple way that provided us a lot of peace: if our flight holds, we'll go... and if its cancelled, we'll stay.
after several more twists and turns, our flight ultimately departed. a smooth travel day with minimal inconveniences... and just like that we're back in florida.
amazingly, i woke up to 2 emails from the embassy. the first saying that no more flights for US citizens are available. ours had been the last one. the second, that all visa/residency immigration services are cancelled indefinitely and US citizens are basically at the mercy of local government decisions regarding visa status.
such sweet confirmations! as we continue abiding in the Lord daily, enjoying his presence and his faithfulness, we look forward to His purposes in bringing us back during this time.
we're thankful that our french classes are moving to an online format so we can continue progressing with the language. thankful that luci's school in africa is doing the same.
here we are Lord, sanctify and renew us, and use us however you see fit. and please let us know when you are ready for us to return to africa. we remain excited to return to the purpose, and the life, that we left there.