Saturday, September 28, 2019

Bureaucracy Update- Part 2


We are back in Russia with new visas for the kids. As usual we met obstacles along the way.

Children's passports expire every 5 years, but you can't travel within 6 months of expiry. So 4.5 years maximum. Meanwhile, Americans can get a Russian visa for 3 years maximum. So it's a constant brainteaser trying to make things match up!

David and Sophia are 3 years into their passports, yet we applied for 3-year visas again as that was the best option for us with two years left on the passports. We were in touch with a visa agency and requested that they issue the visa for the maximum possible time period, within the terms of the passport. Visas cannot be transferred into a new passport.

It all seemed pretty clear and I worked hard to complete the visa application before arriving in the U.S., so we could submit it to the Russian Consulate as soon as possible and enjoy our summer break! A significant goal here was to submit early so we wouldn't have to pay for expedited processing, one of the few occasions this would be possible.

Within a week, we were hearing from the visa agency that we had a problem. The kids' visas were expiring in September since we arrived in Russia on those dates last time due to Sophia's birth. But we normally need to arrive in August due to the school year beginning. Turns out, the Russian Consulate will not accept applications more than a month BEFORE the old one expiring. So, we had to hit that window of submitting a month before for processing time, yet not more than a month before to be accepted. Since we were early, they had to put our application on hold.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

New low-key church


It's been about a year now since we merged with another church congregation.

An interesting thing about this new church is that I would describe the majority of the members as introverted. A few people have actually come out and said that they don't want/don't like new people. You might think that sounds funny coming from Christians, but you have to give some points for straightforwardness. Tight-knit church fellowships can be very inward-focused as we seek to strengthen relationships.

When we were in talks to join our churches, along with the anti-social comments were several declarations that the other church hated "projects."

So, I guess in general you could say that we are drama-free. And that's probably a good environment for healing from the trauma that we've experienced in separating from our former church family.

Andrei and the pastor share preaching responsibilities, and I think that's been a relief for both of them. Both of our families have experienced crises in the past year, and the church has been supportive. A few months ago the pastor's daughter was healing from an injury, and Andrei preached for several Sundays without a break. But nowadays he doesn't even mind preparing a sermon at the last minute, because he is no longer needing to make decisions left and right regarding the church's future. When I was in the hospital, the pastor stepped in and Andrei was not obligated to do anything during that time of need.

The other men in the church can lead according to the Order of Worship, appointing readers depending on who is present. One man leads us in prayer for specific nations, doing a mini-presentation while reading from his phone. When the format itself is not an issue, there is room to devote attention to other matters.

There is no "Coffee Hour" ministry, but tea and coffee are ALWAYS served. Sometimes people bring treats, and other times we have to run down the street 3 times for cups, bottled water, or a package of cookies. It could be more organized, but no one makes a fuss.

There is no music ministry, right now. More on that in another post.

The week that felt like a thousand years

Last Sunday, we went to church. I kind of figured it would be our last for awhile. By the way, we usually get around 15 people...but we do...