Thursday, October 17, 2013

Leaving Colombia

As most of you know by now, Jorge and I are taking a sabbatical year during 2014.  We actually left a bit early so that we could participate in our nieces' Quinceañera (15th birthday) Party which is a very big deal, especially for most Mexican families.  But I'll share about our sabbatical and the party in a later post.

Leaving Colombia wasn't more ways than one. 

First of all it was just a lot of work in the physical and practical sense of packing up our house and trying to tie up loose ends with personal and ministry belongings and responsibilities.  Second of all, dealing on an emotional level with knowing we were going to be leaving our friends, staff and the new baby.   Add to that equation the fact that we unwisely (in retrospect) got our dog spayed just a few days before we left.  If she would have healed normally everything would have been fine.  But she didn't!  Let's just say that I was a real cry baby for the last 2 weeks before we left!!  My emotions were all over the map! was heart wrenching!

Our last group photo together...first one with Moises!
Our trip leaving Colombia went great!  Until it didn't!  But really, it did! 

On October 12, the beginning of our trip was sweet... saying our airport goodbyes with our closest friends and getting in those last few squeezes with baby Moises, while sad, were also comforting and helped us to say goodbye to Cartagena on a high note.  Arriving to Bogota we had the joy of meeting up with Alexandra (former staff member/dear friend) who came to the airport with her mom and niece to see us off!  That was also a sweet time that we really appreciated!
Alexandra with her mom and niece at the Bogota airport.
Everything went great checking into our problems with luggage or anything!  We had plenty of time and were browsing through one of the airport gift shops before we headed towards immigration and security.  As I was looking around a funny thing happened to me. 

A video came to my mind that some friends had posted on Facebook.  It was a cute little video of their almost 3 year old little girl belting out a worship song at the top of her lungs.  She was singing with all her heart and soul, "Tu eres Todo Poderoso, Eres Grande y Majestuoso! Eres Fuerte! Invencible!  Y no hay Nadie como TUUUUUUUU!!!!"  The song declares how our God is All Powerful, Grand, Majestic, Strong and Invincible and there is NO ONE LIKE HIM!!!  Well, this video and the song were just totally stuck in my head and I could not resist the urge to sing... out loud!!  I don't normally do that in public, especially in the tight quarters of an airport gift shop but I really did not care one bit if anyone looked at me strangely... I just sang!!  And smiled!!

We mosied through the airport making our way to the international departure area and into the Immigration line.  I just kept singing the whole way.  I remember when I walked through the doors to Immigration I was struck at that moment at how tangible I felt God's Presence with me.  It was one of those special, goose bump moments where out-of-the-blue, I just became very aware of His Presence!  As I waited in line I pondered this in my heart and just enjoyed the moment.

Seconds later it was our turn to get our passports checked.  Jorge and I didn't have a care in the world.  The officer stamped Jorge's passport and then looked and looked through mine.  He kept flipping the pages and going back and forth.  I wasn't even really paying attention...I was still singing (in my head, anyway).  The officer asked me if I had another passport.  I explained that I had some expired passports at home but I didn't have any of them with me.  I was clueless.  Then he asked me if I had a more recent passport.  I was still without a clue and just looked at him strangely and said no.  Then he finally spelled it out for me... "Ma'am, your passport expired 5 1/2 months ago.  I can't let you leave the country."

My mind went totally blank!  I couldn't think straight.  I couldn't, wouldn't believe him until I saw it with my own eyes!  How did this happen????  I was frozen and just couldn't believe this was happening to me.  They passed us to another immigration officer and he tried to help.  "Do you have a Mexican passport?"  "No."  "How about a Colombian passport?"  "No."  "Well if you were traveling to the USA I'd let you leave because they won't deny entry to their own citizen, but you are going to Mexico.  They won't let you in.  I'm sorry ma'am but I can't let you leave the country."

So literally in a matter of minutes we had to make some major decisions.  What were we going to do?  Would Jorge stay with me and we'd find a place to stay until I could get a new passport?  Should I just buy a ticket to the USA so I could leave then and there...but that would be crazy expensive!  Or should Jorge just leave as scheduled and I would stay behind by myself in Bogota?  The last option was the one that made the most sense.  There was no point in loosing two tickets.  My mind was swirling and I was feeling overwhelmed and emotional, choking back tears, trying to stay calm but feeling very anxious. 

And then as I stood there crying out to God to help me, He reminded me of something.  "Weren't you, just seconds ago, singing about how great and powerful and majestic and invincible I AM?!  Didn't you just FEEL My Presence WITH YOU?!"  In an instant I was able to take a very deep breath and let it all go!  "Yes, Lord, I KNOW You are with me and YOU will help me!!  I am not alone and I have nothing to fear!!" "None of this is a surprise to you."  "Thank you, Jesus!!"  "Everything is going to be just fine!!!"  And His Peace just flooded over me and all my anxiety was gone!!!  I even felt a sense of expectation to see what He was going to do... how He was going to work this all out.

So from there Jorge and I went back to the airline counter and explained the problem.  Jorge went off to try to make some phone calls.  We no longer had our cell phones or any of our phone numbers with us because we had left all of that in Bocachica.  So we had to play an interesting game of phone tag... he called so & so and asked her to call so & so, so that he could call so & so, our friends in Bogota, to ask them if they could pick me up at the airport and give me refuge for a few days. Everything was up in the air but Jorge had to leave so he gave me all the coins he had left in his pocket so I could use the pay phone and I urged him to leave so he wouldn't miss his flight.  Then I was there all "alone" but with God by my side!! 

In order to cancel my flight I had to re-book my departure before my original flight left so basically I had about one hour to decide what day I wanted to travel.  It was a Saturday and Monday was a holiday so the offices wouldn't be open again until Tuesday.  I had no idea how long it took to get issued a passport at the local embassy. But I had to make a guess.  I booked my flight for Wednesday and paid around $200 dollars for the fine and the difference in the tickets.  Once I had that settled I headed to look for the pay phones and was able to get in touch with Samy in Bocachica who told me he had already spoken to our friend Pedro in Bogota and he was on his way to the airport to pick me up! 

It took a couple of hours to get my luggage back (which we had already checked on the plane) and for Pedro to come but as I waited I felt God's presence with me and I was very grateful to Him for the way He was taking care of me! 

Our friends Pedro & Elsa welcomed me into their home!
In the end it turned out that I had a great weekend in Bogota.  I got to go to church with my friends and visit some other good friends who just happen to live a few blocks away.  I felt totally welcome and at home and couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable and  refreshing time. It turned out to be a blessing to be able to transition from the hectic and emotional time of leaving Colombia so that I could arrive to Mexico a with my batteries recharged and ready to start out the next chapter.  See photos here.

Our friends, Jairo and Vilma, spoiled me for a day and totally blessed me!
I was within walking distance (a good long walk but walking distance nevertheless!)  of the U.S. Embassy so I was able to go back and forth really easily which is a huge blessing when you are in a city of 7 million!  I was able to get an emergency passport issued all in the same day so I was ready to travel again by Wednesday morning!  Perfect timing to get my flight to Mexico.  Thank you, Jesus!


1 comment:

Shirley Carrell said...

Oh wow. I love how the Lord was preparing before the event took place. It's so true when our eyes are on the King He will and does take care of us.