The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Panama City and back in Record time!

We spoke with a new lawyer last week. Have you heard the story of the old lawyer? Well, he was a very nice, English speaking friend of the church in David. We were thrilled last year to find him, and he set out to help us get our ‘Pensionada Visa’. This will enable us to stay in the country indefinitely, as well as afford us discounts for our utility bills. Our main purpose is to be able to stay in the country without having to spend 3 days every month is Costa Rica, which we have had to do in the past. Well, Carlos, our very nice, and good-looking lawyer, told us what all we needed to do, what papers we had to have, etc. We called Heather, Lynn’s daughter, and she ran her tail off to get everything authenticated and sent down to us last September. It was all done but our health exam, which Carlos was setting up for us, He called to say there might be a problem because we were leaving the country so soon, but he had a friend in the government, and would let us know as soon as he talked with the friend. Then Carlos dropped out of sight. I mean, we could not find him anywhere. He did not answer his phone, he was not in his house (which served as his office as well), we spent the last two weeks of our time here unable to reach him, so left without the Visas, or our papers, or anything.

We returned, went to his house and he explained that we could not use an ‘Apostille’ document in Panama. Well, we knew several people who did use them just fine. He said that he talked with the woman who took the applications and she said it could not be done by Apostille. No excuses as to why he had not called, or where he had been, or why he did not answer our calls. Lynn stood tall (well as tall as he can at 5’6”) and fired that lawyer. He got our ‘power of attorney’ back, and all of our papers, but none of our money. Carlos later spoke to a friend in the church and asked him to tell us that he found out he was wrong about the Apostille, and would do the rest of our work for free if we would let him. Tempting, but we went to a new lawyer.

Okay, so the new lawyer actually knew what an Apostille was, and said he could help us. Several of the documents that we had we did not need (sorry, Heather!) One was not done correctly and needed to be redone. But all in all we were in pretty good shape except one thing. My passport will expire in December of this year. (on another note, that means that I have been coming to Latin America for ten years now!) The lawyer, who graduated with a doctorate from Tulane University, said that should the process be delayed for any reason, and my passport expire before the Visa is granted, we would have to start all over. So….we had to go to Panama City!

We left last Monday night on the last bus to David, then on the midnight bus to Panama. We arrived at 6:30 am, had to find a place that could take ‘carnet photos’ (for the passport). We got them and headed to the Embassy across town. Got through all the security, took a number, and waited for our turn. After some time we were called up and found that the photos were the wrong size. Well, let me tell you, if you think I looked bad before I spent the night on a bus, I looked a lot worse when we got the first photos taken. The second time around I did not even care. There was a tent – yes, a tent – set up outside the Embassy gates for all the stupid people who did not have the right size photos. God is always taking care of this fool, I know! Okay, so we get my picture taken again. We have now spent $8 on ugly pictures of me. We went back in, paid our $75, and completed the application process. We walked out, hailed a cab, went directly back to the bus terminal, bought tickets and got on a bus to come home. We arrived back in David at 5:30 and were here at the house by 8:00, totally exhausted, but feeling like we had accomplished something.

We have a choice of how to receive the passport – we can return to Panama City in two weeks, or we can take my current passport to DHL in David, ask them to get it to the Embassy, where they will mark it invalid and send it with my new one back in just a few days. Remember this is Panama, and the last time I ordered anything through DHL it was supposed to take 6 days and ended up taking 17. Needless to say, I am not terribly confident in DHL here. The trip cost about $85, and the DHL service will probably be close to the same, so the decision is really whether to avoid the discomfort of another trip or give up having a passport in a foreign country for several days to a very unreliable transport company. We are still deliberating. The Embassy will call when the passport with the ugly photo is ready. We will decide then.

On a more serious note, the situation with Ezequias continued to deteriorate until we asked him to leave. He has done some significant harm to the church here, and we are not sure the total extent yet. We were far too trusting, and are paying a great price for it now. One of the areas in which he was irresponsible was with the funds you sent for the children here. We beg the forgiveness of those of you who trusted us to be responsible stewards. The children at the school have faithfully been fed, but those who received assistance from many of you for school uniforms and materials have not received all you gave. Lynn and I will take care of that difference, we promise you. We are ashamed that we did not provide better safeguards to ensure the use of the funds, and promise to do all in our power to make sure it does not happen again.

We ask you to pray for Ezequias. While he had done grievous harm, he has many qualities that could at some point serve God well. We do love him dearly and pray that God will forgive him, and change his heart. At this point he says that he will never again work with the church. He does not see his errors, and blames both us and the church in general for his loss of a job.

While things will continue to be difficult here for some time, we are confident that God will continue His work here, and that this church will be stronger because of these trials. The church at David has offered to send us a preacher on Sundays, and we will try our best to have midweek classes on our own. We are still assessing what is still lacking for the Beka students, but will address those needs as they arise.

This is life in Panama. We remain grateful that God placed in our hearts a desire to work here, with these people, and God willing, we will continue to claim the name of Christ to all who will listen.

All because of Jesus!

Joy & Lynn

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