Dear friends and partners,
Finding our DR Footing Again
The humidity punched back as we left the air-conditioned airport, arriving home to the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago. Power outages, mosquito nets, old car troubles, and motorcycles with rear ending habits have tugged us backward since our arrival, but our own bed, the embrace of Spanish praise songs and church folks, and neighborhood boys who still remember the way to our door propel us forward.
We are still in the throes of newborn baby rhythms, all familiar yet unique this second time around. “Barnacle” is one of 3 month old Mateo’s nicknames during this happy-when-held phase of snuggly coexistence. We are grateful to be home, and blessed with the returning wherewithal to write you an update again. We apologize- it’s been too long.
If your memory needs jarring, Zika arrived in the DR in the middle of our first trimester of pregnancy, and our Nazarene missionary board whisked us back to the states within 2 weeks. It took another 2 months to hear results that we were clear of Zika (!). Thank you for your prayers, understanding and support during that weird and vulnerable time. Nick’s parents opened their home in Omaha, NE, followed by a stay with Laurie’s family in CA, where Mateo was born in August. After some struggle with Mateo’s visa, we made it back to the DR in October. What would have been about 3 months of already anticipated US “home” assignment, Zika and parental leave turned into 7.
And Catch Up: US Highlights
In Omaha we enjoyed reconnecting and collaborating with our friends and colleagues at Creighton University, who also work in the DR. In May, we did a poster presentation at a medical mission’s conference on research we completed early in our time in the DR, and finally finished a research paper on the same. We offer you the runners up prize in the “Research and Innovation” category as a hopeful sign that this work you partner in receives some quality reviewing, for which we’re grateful. Nick’s sister also married in May! We then spent time fulfilling our own professional continuing education requirements, giving talks and reconnecting with you, the many church, friend and family cohorts who make our Dominican health development ministry possible. We were happy to be able to see many of you!
“[God] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut. 10: 18-19)
We spent many hours working through immigration issues these last months. As you US readers navigate post-election decisions on immigration, and as we ponder with you how to love foreigners together, we offer you some details from our experiences as food for thought.
We have felt the effects of our relationship with a less developed country, in addition to experiencing basic human vulnerabilities this year. Zika may not have provoked a sudden move for this pregnant woman had we been in a more developed country, where window screens are the norm and public policies educate and fumigate against the spread of disease. We were very privileged to afford to leave suddenly. We knew when we left that our temporary residency status would expire while we were gone, but the immigration department had no advice for preventing what we knew could be a problem upon returning.
While in the US, Dominican elections occurred, which always results in comprehensive new appointments in government jobs (even more extensively than what occurs in the US). This caused a doubling of the processing time for Mateo’s first-time visa (applicants must apply from their home country), during which the rest of our visas expired (can only be renewed from within the DR)(Ugh!!). The unofficial (government employee) advice was to go ahead and return to the DR with a tourist visa, and seek an exemption given the circumstances, or leave the country shortly again to obtain the required passport stamp for residency.
After this season of relocation, our family with young-uns was not excited about this prospect. Last week we traveled to Santo Domingo and renewed the rest of our visas but were denied the exemption. However, we were advised to just go ahead and remain in the country without Mateo’s visa until our next natural departure, on the premise that the Dominican government would not split up a family, and would understand the circumstances. To be honest, if we were not of privileged, desirable US origin, (if for example, we held Haitian passports), we would have not felt as relatively safe as we do to follow this advice, knowing we will not be racially profiled as others are in deportation raids.
Beyond thanking you for your prayers for this (somewhat) resolved visa crisis, we relay the details in an effort to raise awareness of the complexity that is many an immigrant’s context. We are confident that our story drastically pales in comparison to the complexity and difficulty of most immigrants today, though it does reflect the influence of public health, economy, race and politics on individuals and migration patterns. We ask your prayers for continued government graces with our visa status, and that all immigrants would receive a welcome, respectful of the challenges often causing their flight.
Thank you for sticking with us in our many transitions this year. A special thanks to Pasadena Mennonite Church (below), for their extensive hospitality to us visitors surrounding Mateo’s birth. Please pray for discernment as we refocus our ministry plans with fresh eyes after some time away. Also, please consider joining us in this work in prayer or financial support. Stay tuned next week for our annual appeal, and for an encouraging story to counter the consumerism pulls that tend to hit hard heading into Christmas. Happy Advent to all!
Nick, Laurie, Daniel & Mateo