There isn't a whole lot to tell at this point, but a quick update seemed to be in order:
We arrived. I was jetlagged, but much less violently than previous trips for which I am extremely grateful!
On Thursday I submitted my visa application with the help of a super visa/adoption paperwork courier whom I have known virtually for over 20 years. (www.theresalwayshope.com) The name of her business, There's Always Hope, is prophetic I hope. She has been a great help and encouragement.
So now we wait to pick up the visa on Tuesday. As of nearly midnight on Friday the consulate has not contacted her to say there is a problem, so I am taking that as a good sign. Prayers for a smooth process continue to be a high priority.
Otherwise life is pretty low key. I can't go anywhere that I cannot walk or train since my DL is in China, so that does limit my options. I miss the kids in China a lot, but my three adorable grandchildren are...adorable...so that's a big plus. Ice cream is plentiful.
Please consider donating to the work I do with older orphans. It is my only source of income, and while I have many financial needs at this time, really the best reason to donate is because providing a dedicated resource for youth and young adults who are orphaned and disabled is worth it. Thank you.
This is an update that was definitely not on my radar last week. Definitely.
Last Sunday I was leading worship for our little expat team, getting the guest flat ready for a family coming to visit for a few days at the end of the week, and making sure I had all the paperwork ready to submit my visa application in Hong Kong. (At the end of 2017 my work visa had expired and Kristen and I had applied for new visas in Hong Kong. While she got a 10 year visa, I only got a 3 month one because my passport was expiring in August. I applied for a new passport, which was now ready to pick up in Hong Kong.) So on Tuesday we took the fast train to the border and then the subway into Hong Kong. New passport, new visa and we would be back in Hengyang on Friday.
I picked up my passport at the US consulate Tuesday afternoon. All shiny and new.
I dropped off my visa application at the Chinese visa office on Wednesday morning. Except:
On Friday at about 1:30pm Kristen and I returned to the visa office, all packed and ready to race to the border for our train home. I received a number and we waited for the number to be called. Then we went to Window 6 where the lady there proceeded to tell me that my visa application had been rejected. You know that feeling when you are pretty sure you heard what you heard but there was no way that that was what you heard so you say, "What??" Because this was really, really not acceptable.
I asked the reason, with what I am sure was a look of utter disbelief mixed with despair. She was apologetic but of course there is "nothing we can do." Of course.
So that's the long part of this story. The short part is that after a day of seeking advice from some long time China expats, checking with three visa agents, one in Hong Kong and two in the US, to determine any options, lots and lots of prayer by people all over the world, and gradually getting my shell-shocked brain cells to work, Kristen and I are flying to Chicago so I can resubmit my application in the US. I will now and forever have to check yes to question 13.2: Have you ever been denied a visa to China? I feel like I have done something wrong, but I absolutely have not.
Do I feel bitter? angry? resentful? There is plenty of reason to feel all of those things, but I don't. I am sad that it will be weeks before I can get back to my co-workers and the young people I work with. I am disappointed that I am missing an important conference for people who work with children and youth with traumatic backgrounds. I am thankful for all the people who have been willing to help however they can here in Hong Kong and also in Hengyang. I appreciate so much the prayers and encouragement from my support network: knowing I have a place to go to share the hard is a big deal. I am confident that though I have NO IDEA why this has happened, or if there is a reason at all, that the hand that calms the storm is in control of this situation and keeps me calm in the middle of uncertainty.
This blogging is not for the faint of heart! Trust me when I say that the lack of posts does not mean a lack of things to say...far from it. It's really hard to know where to start most days.
So here's the short version:
Life is good.
Life is hard.
Would I change it? No.
For those who like a bit more detail:
I have spent lots and lots of time getting to know the young people and the local staff who work with them. Lots of time. And most of that time looks like doing arts and crafts side by side with the youth, playing with Legos, cutting paper, holding hands, giving and getting hugs and high 5s, and huddling together with legs and arms under a table with a heater under it. Happily the weather has turned warmer and we do less huddling to stay warm.
The biggest change so far has been the start of a sign language class (Chinese Sign Language!) to give the young people who cannot speak due to their disability a voice. It's a slow process but so far very well received. You can read more about it HERE.
Some other odds and ends:
I had a bout of the flu which kept me home for two weeks, recovering and making sure my lingering cough wouldn't put any vulnerable kids at risk.
We made two trips to Hong Kong this winter as required by our visas. It takes about 6 hours to get there by bus, train, and 3 subways. I can't complain; we eat familiar food and enjoy the change of scenery. I am thankful to be able to go to church while we are there whcih is the highlight for me. Kristen probably likes the fast internet best. On our last two trips we brought wheelchairs back into China for two of our kids. That was an adventure!
Our 60 day stay is nearly up so we will be heading to Hong Kong again in another week. This time I will be picking up a new passport and applying for a new visa...that's always a bit stressful so I appreciate your prayers.
Also...I have updated a lot of pages on this site, especially the section "About Older Orphans." I will warn you that there are several pages and each is more like an article than a pithy blog post, but if you are interested in learning more about the issues around older orphans with disabilities, there is a lot there. I have added a page, "Work in Progress" to tell more about what is happening with the work I am doing. If you have any questions, please Contact me. And if you are inspired or encouraged or even just informed by what I am doing, please Donate so I can keep doing it.
About This Blog
Part documentary, part family chronicle and part personal reflection as I try to sort through the ups and downs, the joys, heartaches and surprises of our life and work as we follow the path that God has set for us here in China!
Kristen to continue to adjust to college life and find good friends.
Donna to have wisdom in planning and implementing new programs for the youth and for financial provision to cover our expenses.